I don’t trust spring. It’s slow and indecisive. It comes in waves of warmth, then turns a shoulder and you’re cranking the heat again.
Like most lifelong New Englanders, the sweaters and jeans and long sleeve shirts stay in my drawers, ready at a moment’s notice, until at least the end of May. Because, you never know when it might turn cold in a snap, when it could snow just days after you laid in bed, wishing you’d already installed the air conditioner.
Spring feels particularly reckless this year – haphazard, rushed and confused. My cousin’s and I sat on our deck, in the 80 degree heat of Easter as the kids sprayed one another with the hose in the yard, and we talked about how even Easter didn’t feel quite right.
This spring, in particular, has been off. The weather, and otherwise.
I got my car stuck on a boulder last week on a 70 degree day. Two nights later, on an unseasonably warm full moon hike, we had a dramatic run-in with a remorseless drunk driver. Police lights, in place of moonlight. By the next day, the weather had shifted to drizzle, then rain. It was in the 50’s and I was all goosebumps and soggy shoes, with a van stuck in the mud and eight kids in various forms of undress (from their outfits being peed in or soaked through) or shoelessness (because, mud), and a best friend.
This week is somewhere in between, temperature-wise. And today, I went for a walk with a sweatshirt, to the grocery store, getting back into my warmer-weather routine, where I can run on the treadmill, then finish with some time outside.
I had four encounters with cars.
The first was a younger man with a broad smile who slowed down and offered me a ride. No, thank you.
As I do, while walking, I have conversations in my head, and I made a note – make sure to remind your kids to never take rides, even when the people seem nice.
The second instance was a loud AGGGGHHHHHHH! shouted from the window of a sedan as a group of teens drove past. I jumped, but then laughed. Harmless fun on a beautiful April afternoon. They waved from the window as they passed.
Walking home, with two shopping bags of cereal and vegetables slung over my shoulders, a car slowed down beside me, only for a teenager to hurl a Miller Light bottle down at the ground before my feet. I was so busy dodging chunks of glass, I didn’t catch their plate as they sped off.
My response was complete and utter, confusion, much like how I react when any of my kids does something completely bone-headed or insane. Why? What on earth possessed you to potentially hurt a mother of four, walking home from a grocery store? Why is that fun for you?
I threw my arms up in the air as they disappeared down the road, the boy who chucked it, ducked down into the backseat.
As I do, while walking, I have conversations in my head – Make sure you raise children who would never, ever, hurl a bottle at anyone, let alone a stranger, lugging groceries.
I texted my husband and some friends, and the general consensus was: people are jerks.
But, these weren’t full-grown people, yet, these were the dependents of people. These are children who should have been raised to know better. And, yes, I’m drawing a hard line here, especially in a world where human nature is inclined to just be awful…but, I am begging every mother, father, grandparent, out there. Can we please do a better job?
Parenting is hard. It’s annoyingly hard. It’s interrupt-your-personal-life HARD. I am with you. It’s not always fun, it’s not always rewarding, it’s often just a giant inconvenience, a calendar filled with places to be, and times kids need to be picked up.
It’s saying NO, when saying YES would just be so much easier. It’s watching them be hurt and then talking about that hurt and having them understand both why it happened and how they can make sure to remember, to empathize with others in pain, in the future. It’s teaching them basic, simple things, like holding open doors for people, or waiting until everyone is served to eat.
But, at the heart of it, it’s teaching children that they are not the center of anyone’s universe, even yours. They are loved, wildly, wholeheartedly and unconditionally, but they are a part of a community. They are a PART of something bigger than themselves. And being a good, caring, and mindful member of that community is important.
And, I get it, pranks are fun and have been going on forever, for decades and decades. But, a car full of teens, chucking beer bottles at unsuspecting women on a Tuesday afternoon, in a nice, suburban neighborhood, that’s not a prank, and it’s not okay, and, parents, we can do better.
We all can.
Talk about empathy. Talk about caring. Talk about what kindness looks like. Talk about character, about true strength.
Better yet, live that out, as an example.
And I’m talking to myself here, as much as I am anyone reading this.
I fail at motherhood, daily, hourly.
I just now, in typing this post, sent my six year old away, because I just needed to focus on writing and couldn’t give her the attention she wanted.
But, today reminded me that very soon, it will be MY kids choosing who to ride in cars with. They will be the ones facing peer pressure to do dumb things that could hurt someone else. My children, just as well as yours, will be the ones who can either be the change they want to see, in this crazy off-kilter world, or they can be numb and just become part of the problem.
The last encounter I had with a car, was an older gentleman who had witnessed the bottle being thrown at me and pulled over to make sure I was okay. His eyes went between the car of teenagers and myself, eyeing their escape. He asked several times, and I assured him, I was fine. Flabbergasted, but fine.
But, still, my voice broke as I thanked him for checking, and I kept walking as quickly as I could, to not cry over something as silly as a car of teenagers on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon.
It wasn’t the bottle. It wasn’t just that I was startled.
It was the reminder that this sort of numbness to others exists, and it was the reminder that if I want to see any sort of change, I need to be an even more active part of this community, that we’re all in, too.
And that, that change, starts at home, and it starts in my own heart.
Off to talk to my six-year-old now.
And probably hug her, too.