Today is El Dia de Las Madres here in Mexico. Currently, I am sitting at a marina restaurant in the gated resort community where my children go to school, passing time between two of their Mother’s Day programs. Directly to my right is an overpriced gift shop, to my left, a Caribbean-style Omni, and in front of me is a “dolphin discovery” center where you can pay shit tons of money to
swim with dolphins pose for really expensive photos in close proximity to super intelligent mammals in captivity.
What? You mean I’ve never quite explained this element of the girls’ current school experience? The fact that they attend a rich kid school in a guarded neighborhood gilded with condos and mansions?
Yeah, well that’s because until today, I wasn’t too excited about sharing this minor detail. In fact, before today, I felt the need to justify this choice to anyone who knew:
“It truly is the only good school within 45 minutes of our house.”
“We’re really not rich — three kids can go to school here for the price of one private school tuition, stateside.”
“It’s the only place here my kids can receive a quality education in both Spanish and English.”
“We live in a mixed-income neighborhood in Tulum intentionally, and make a point to expose our kids to people from all economic walks.”
But something happened this morning that makes such explanations seem unnecessary, even ridiculous.
First, I should explain that this month — as a part of an ongoing collective project here on my blog — our Home Work, if you will, was to let something go, whether a thought, a behavior, a vice or a judgement that no longer serves us. Had I not already been thinking along these lines, I’m not sure my day would have proven half as impactful.
As I approached the school in my usual knit tank, sky-blue secondhand skirt, well-worn Chacos and makeup-less, neutral expression I was, as always, struck by the…slightly different attire of the majority of the mothers:
- Three inch pumps with skin-tight dresses,
- High-waisted mini skirts and with wide sequin belts
- Sheer tops “hiding” patterned push-up bras
- and more makeup than I’ve ever worn in costume.
Equally notable were the mothers’ mannerisms:
- Loud, sing song voices,
- Expressions of dramatic exasperation,
- Forced laughter over nothing I would deem funny
- and dramatic story telling rivaling telenovelas.
Now, I’m an open-minded person, truly I am. I have a general love for the whole of humanity, friends in every income bracket and no problem with rich folk, per se. But surround me with chicas ricas who can barely walk because of the height of their heals and who must have chronic sore throats from all that squealing, and I automatically start scanning the crowd for someone unshaven or draped in linen or sporting seed beads to save me from certain and impending…smalltalk.
Anyway, uncomfortable enough in my own skin to recognize the presence of unevaluated thoughts, I breathed deeply, identified the unwanted emotion as judgement, then slowly released it with a giant exhale and silent affirmation…
“I let go of all judgement toward each woman in this school because holding onto that story no longer serves me.”
And not even kidding, in an instant, all the fresas became real people with real lives…
- I imagined the lady in the silver dress not being botoxed, but coaxing her kid to eat his morning oatmeal.
- I envisioned the postpartum mom in the push up bra trying on four outfits before finally feeling cute in the one she chose.
- I saw the woman in three-inch pumps blushing before her senior prom as a man she adored proclaimed her “beautiful in heals,” then hold tight to her father’s rare complement like life itself.
Then I asked myself why I cared how they were acting and imagined them as a tribe of indigenous women washing clothes in a stream. Suddenly, their loud sing song voices were sweet, soulful music, their exasperation comical and invigorating, their laughter over nothing a true gift of the light-hearted and their drama a dying art of passing stories.
By the time all the moms had congregated and our kindergarteners began singing, I was fighting back tears. First gushing over my own baby, then scanning the faces of each of these women, wearing nothing half as gorgeous as absolute adoration on their own beaming faces, it hit me that not only do we have much in common, but that what we share is all that actually matters:
- We all adore our children beyond measure.
- We all want the very best for our families.
- We all wonder whether everything we give of ourselves will be the right combination of enough.
- We are each aging and struggle to feel beautiful, even presentable some days.
- We each react to the weight of the world based on our unique stories, and many of our chapters were written for us well before we were born.
And suddenly, when I looked beyond the wall of cameras and iphones, I saw something strangely familiar in these women’s faces:
I saw pride.
I saw joy.
I saw exhaustion.
I saw depth.
I saw sadness for the fleeting sweetness of childhood.
I saw real women.
Once I dropped the judgement, they each looked a whole lot like…me.
The most profound moment of the morning, however, came when we were all dispersed to our children’s classrooms for a final surprise. As “fate” would have it, I took a seat across the table from the one woman in the school I had previously pegged as the queen bee-otch.
As each child ran to her cubby, returned beaming with pride and unveiled an oversized, hand-print palm tree t-shirt, this particular mother — the very same woman I’ve seen yell rudely across a classroom when her needs weren’t quickly met, chew out a security guard for challenging her parking place and push the teachers around as if her son were all that mattered — cupped her baby boy’s face in her hands, gazed deeply into his eyes, then buried her tear-soaked face into his hair as if…he were the only thing that mattered.
How dare I judge her story? How dare I pretend to know the weight she carries? How dare I assign a label to this mother — to any mother — who clearly loves just as deeply as I do and gives everything she has.
None of the women I saw today know that I’ve judged them, nor does it matter whether they’ve judged the quiet wallflower of a mother who apparently only owns one skirt.
What matters is what I’m called to say to you in retrospect — to all women; all mothers everywhere:
I’m sorry for every judgmental thought I’ve ever entertained against you.
I’m sorry for my shallow depth of field that has prevented me from seeing beyond appearances.
I’m sorry for the times when you were dying inside and I pegged you as rude or uncaring.
I’m sorry for reducing you to an economic bracket or assuming you anything like another woman I once
I’m sorry for failing to see that my heart for impoverished women had been discriminating based on something so irrelevant as money.
And I’m sorry for letting preconceived notions get in the way of relationship.
Mostly though, I want thank you for being your child’s everything. You’re irreplaceable, you know? We have this in common, at the very least.