We had a snack at Starbuck's after school, then a wellness visit that dear Dr. Olson makes as fun as always. He is such a sweetheart, asking the girls questions about school and what they do for fun and he listens to their long rambling answers and laughs at their jokes and always eases my mind with his wait and see advice. Afterwards, since I had told Mia "no" yesterday when she asked if she could play at the park on the way home, and since the sky was still holding some afternoon light, I pulled off into Lovelace and I let them jump out of the car while I checked my latest chess move.
The screams sounded like a child had just met some terrible accident - I jerked my head up and saw two women across the parking lot with a toddler screaming on her tricycle. A pile of gear and a baby car seat on the pavement told me the story. The older one didn't want to go home, she was having too much fun. But oh those screams, like she had broken a limb, like she was being tortured.
They didn't subside and at the next look I saw one woman crouching down to rock and talk to the baby in its car seat while the other woman took the tantrumming child to the grass to chill. The child refused to stay put, ran toward the parking lot, toward the park. The mother picked her up and carried the thrashing child back to the grass and then again as her bloody screaming continued.
Next time I looked up the other woman had gone and most of the gear was packed in the car. Now the mother was texting as the wails continued. I remembered bad days I had had when my ears hurt with the piercing reminders of what a bad mother, what an awful person I was. I remembered the times strangers helped me. I jumped out of the car and ran across the parking lot. Both kids were in the car now but she remained outside, phone in hand, perhaps not ready to face the drive home yet.
"You're doing a great job," I launched without introducing myself. She didn't need my name or niceties.
"I can remember how hard it was when mine were little, I was tearing my hair out. Now they're seven and nine..."
I was babbling. She said nothing but her face started to crumble as my eyes filled and my tight throat caught on my next words.
"You're a super mom! Can I give you a hug!" Her white cardigan was soft.
"You're doing great! Hang in there!" And I dashed off to find my two, my easy girls who pushed me to the limit and beyond but forgave me (at least for today) for my own screams and tantrums that matched and surpassed their own.
"Mia! Nora!" and they came to me just like that, with beautiful smiles. I gave each one a hug and a kiss and we went to dinner.