I’ve heard the phrase, “If Mama aint happy, aint nobody happy.” It’s hard to put on a happy face for your kids when you’re not feeling it. But when something freaks you out you can’t just start screaming, “Oh my gosh, we’re all gonna die!” with your toddlers present. Neither can you say, “you are really annoying me right now with your constant yammering, will you please, for the love of all that is holy, shut the heck up?!” But you want to. No, instead you put on a sweet, smiling face to spare them the harshness of reality that they won’t experience until they start school and their “friends” the boys that they wear “panties” because they wear briefs instead of boxers. I am a definite proponent of putting on a happy face for the sake of our kids. I’m not talking about avoiding constructive criticism or trying to protect them from every possible hurt. I just mean that there are things they would be happier not knowing. I was traumatized growing up from getting waaaaay too much information from my parents (“I do not want to know what you and dad are arguing about, it’s none of my dang business so leave me out of it.” is one of the mild examples of TMI in my family).
Yesterday, however, really tested my usually superhuman ability to hide my feelings (ha!). The day started out pretty well, but after the boys got home from school I ventured “down the hill” to go to Target. If you have ever lived in the mountains or have read my post, “The top 10 ways you know you live in the mountains.” you understand what this could entail. Today it involved a 23 degree weather change (at least it was warmer down there) and more than an hour and a half of driving. I consider myself extremely daring to have endeavored such a feat. I mean, I brought my four kids, ages 10, 9, 4 & 3 shopping all by myself. My everlasting patience however, began wearing thin as the girls were running to and fro pulling everything off the shelves (of course). What didn’t help was that big brothers kept running off too (I guess they’re still too young to stand still for an hour doing nothing while mommy shops). We made it out of Target largely unscathed, stopped by one more store, and were on our way to get dinner when I saw the flashing lights of emergency vehicles down the road. I needed to head in that direction, so I did, thinking that there would be cones or an officer directing us around whatever was going on so we could get through. I couldn’t see where I was going because the bright spotlights of a cop car were shining right in my face. It was parked right in the middle of the road on the double yellow line, so I figured I’d go to the right of it, but it didn’t look like there would be room up ahead, so I went to the left of it where there was a really wide shoulder. As I was passing the scene of an accident, I thought how strange it was that there were no cones or police officers to direct traffic. I slowed down, realizing that there was a car parked right in my way and I couldn’t see how I was going to get around it. Just as I was contemplating what to do, there was a loud banging on the passenger side door. Startled, I looked out the window and a dude shining a flashlight right in my face was yelling, “Roll down your window!!!” I fumbled with the button to roll it down as fast as I could.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” He said.
I replied sheepishly, “Umm… I was trying to go through…”
“Are you blind?!” he interrupted, “there’s a patrol car blocking the WHOLE ROAD!”
I was thinking, no there’s not, there’s plenty of room to go around it. But thankfully all I did was stutter, “uh… uh… uh….”
Another guy piped in, “Use some common sense, MA’AM!”
And the first guy shouted, “Just turn AROUND!!!”
So I did.
I was shocked by their abrupt and harsh demeanor. I was embarrassed by my lack of “common sense”. I was also feeling wronged because I thought I WAS using common sense (where were the cones and the traffic controllers?) I started to mutter, “Jerk, JERK!” and then the tears welled up and I started sniffling. Trying to put on my happy face so the kids wouldn’t worry, I attempted to hide my anxiety over the situation. But then the kids started up with things like, “Are you crying?” “Are you sad, mama?” “I don’t want you to be sad.” “I’m scared.” “Are we in trouble?” “Is he mean, mommy?” Not wanting them to think that I was as shook up as I was, and not wanting them to think that police officers are the bad guys (in case they ever need help from one), I bolstered any courage I had left and said, “no, I’m not crying. Yes, I’m a little sad. No, we’re not in trouble. Yes, he was being kinda mean, but that’s because mommy made a mistake and I understand why he was upset because he deals with criminals all day long and then has to go to an accident where people might be hurt. So he was probably thinking, ‘What the heck is this person doing here?! They need to get out NOW!'” I said all this despite the fact that I wanted to pull over, burst into tears and call Hubby for comfort. That would have been the more natural thing for me to do, but this way I was able to calm my kids down (eventually), and make them feel safe while letting them know that police officers are not our enemies. It was the hardest time I’ve ever had putting on a happy face for anyone. But I ‘m glad I bit my tongue (for once) in spite of the fact that I wanted to yell, “Shut up, all of you and leave me the heck alone!” because, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.