We find a few seats in the last row of the how-to-finish-your-basement workshop and plop down half the toy box worth of stuff we brought to keep Mister busy. Of course, he works through the bag in about ten minutes and starts looking for other things to do.
Mister peels the “Hello My Name Is” tag off his dad’s shirt. “D-A-D,” he spells.
He pulls off my tag, too. “M-O-M,” he spells.
I don’t even mind that he isn’t looking at the actual letters. Hearing him spell that way is pretty amazing. And cute. But he does have to be quiet. “That’s very good spelling, Bud, but we have to use our quiet voices here,” I whisper.
Mister peels off his own tag. “M-I-S-T-E-R,” he spells. He forgets to whisper again.
“Shh,” says a woman across the aisle. Using “dirty” to describe the look she gives me would be an understatement.
“Mister, the woman across the aisle would like you to be quiet,” I explain. “You have to whisper.”
A few minutes later a man organizing the workshop comes over to point us to an area Mister can play. He and Husband are off, leaving me to listen to the rest of the speakers.
“Now feel free to circulate and ask the professionals your own basement questions,” an organizer announces.I repack the half-toy box and prepare my questions.
“I’m sorry I had to shush him,” the nasty woman says, appearing over my shoulder. “I have kids and grandkids and I actually like children, but I also have a hearing issue.”
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I was trying to keep him as quiet as I could.”
“Well, like I said, I do like children, but there is a time and a place for kids.”
My jaw hits the floor the same time the tears start welling up in my eyes.
I don’t know why this woman got to me so much. I get A LOT of unsolicited parenting advice and most times I can shake it off. I think it upset me so much because I wish there was a time and a place for my kid. He goes everywhere with me: the grocery store, the hardware store, to do the laundry, even to the bathroom. He is my time and place. And this woman being unhappy with his presence was just like her saying I shouldn’t be there. She insulted my identity as a mother. And since that is most of my identity these days, she made me feel like a failure.
Sometimes, though it probably isn’t meant to, critique can also be hurtful. Sometimes it can insult your identity as a writer. It might help in situations like this to think of your other identities, think of things you do well, so people like this can’t cut you down. So, this week the discussion is more of a prompt that a question:
I am a ______________. Fill in the blank with as many (positive) things that apply.