“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
― Henry James
The Boy was riding his scooter, I was pulling the wagon. For nearly a mile the Girl had been screaming. One thing after another, just screaming because life is unfair. The world is totally unfair if you’re six. Or thirty-six. We waited at that terrible light, the one where the roads are shaped like a T, and we need to go from the top of the T across one of the arms to the base. And a man in a rattling POS went to run the red and then thought better of it, stopping with his back wheels on the crosswalk. A woman with her baby and I shared a knowing look from across the street.
Being in the box doesn’t matter to HIM, because all the cars need to turn.
But my son, who just starts going, my Boy needs to go around him, in front of the car like I’ve taught him–so that the car can see him–and is riding his scooter into traffic. STRAIGHT into the oncoming headlights.
I scream, and he hears me, my Boy stops, SOOO close to being a smear in the intersection.
MOVE BACK! You’re blocking the crosswalk.
I yell at the driver. He gives me a little wave and starts backing up without turning around.
The woman (with the baby stroller) yells, two inches from going behind him.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TELLING HIM TO BACK UP?
“I’m sorry,” I say, “I didn’t see you, I thought everyone went in front.” I didn’t mean it the way I can see NOW that it appears. I really was just terrified and could only see those headlights coming right for us. They are still there, my son a shadow between them. I am still waiting for the sirens.
“You would have killed us!” She was so angry at me, never looked at the car again. I don’t understand how I would have, since my foot was not on the gas.
I thought maybe now she was talking to the driver, but she was staring at me. I sputtered. I was still in shock. And the driver met my gaze. “You still need to back up,” I said. He sneered at me. It’s the sneer I’ve seen everywhere. On the news, in the paper. It’s the sneer that all men lately seem to be making at every woman. It is the sneer that says, you are worth shit, and at least that other woman knows it. (You can pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. But before the election old men kept telling me “you’re what is wrong with this country,” with that same expression.)
And so I pulled us onto the sidewalk, near my favorite part of our walk, the part where we can look over the bridge into the water and throw leaves to watch them drift down stream, over the little waterfalls.
And I cried.
And my little Boy was scared, and my little Girl was eating her lunch which she is too slow to eat at school, and I couldn’t stop crying. And then I did. Because as I tried to think of my Boy, who kept holding my hand and trying to rub my back, I tried to think of how to explain what was going on, and somehow it made it better.
“I thought you were going to die,” I said. “And I was so afraid.
“That woman was afraid, too. And so she was very mean. We are all so very afraid right now. Every one of us is just terrified.
“Being afraid is not an excuse to be mean to each other. Having someone be mean to me does not mean I should be mean to someone else.
“Right now, especially now, when we are all afraid, we need to be as nice to each other as we can.”
And it was the first time I’ve ever meant one of those crappy Hallmark-card things I’ve said to the kids. And I am trying SO HARD not to be a bitch (which another mom called me last week, for asking her to turn down her music at the park) or an asshole. And I am trying SO HARD to make sure that I was not awful in these situations. But, honestly, I’m so socially challenged that I have no idea. But two moms, calling me these names, in front of their own young children and mine… Please, let’s be nicer to each other.
The Boy just looked at me and said, “are you okay now?” I didn’t have the heart to tell him no.