Today, to celebrate Bee’s very successful first day of nursery school, I took my girls to her favourite lunch spot, the deli counter at our local health food store.
We loaded up our plates with savoury goodness, and sat down at one of the long tables to talk about school and gobble up our lunch. Miracle of miracles, Dove remained asleep in the stroller so Bee and I were able to really enjoy our date.
That is, until another mom with a toddler of her own showed up and joined us.
Normally I would welcome anyone who asked to join our table with open arms, and then, after the perfunctory small talk (I live in a very friendly neighbourhood), go about the business of eating with my girl because my neighbourhood is actually friendlier than I am.
But this lunch would be different. Not only was my new neighbour another mother with another toddler, which would always open up the chatting, but it was clear from her opening that she was one of THEM.
The competition had begun.
‘How old is your daughter?’
See, it wasn’t what she asked, but how she asked it. Bee sits nicely, uses grown-up cutlery like a pro, and says please. But she is also tiny, which throws people off.
‘I’m two and a half!’ Bee happily answered. I glanced at her own cute little daughter, stomping up and down on her chair while her mother fed her with a spoon and told her that it was ok not to sit down because these weren’t very good chairs.
‘How old is your daughter?’ I asked in return.
The woman glanced upwards and made a face like she was trying to figure out a very complicated problem.
‘Well, ok, so, yes, well, she’s 28 months.’
‘So, she’s two and half as well,’ I confirm.
The woman shoves a piece of okra in her daughter’s mouth. ‘She just loooooves this potato and okra curry,’ she purrs, ‘ I could bribe her to go to sleep using it.’
I look at the plate that Bee and I are sharing. Quinoa, squash and Greek salad. It’s not exactly MacDonald’s on our side of the table. We are at the deli in a health food store. Every toddler’s eating habits will be impressive here.
‘Saoirse, honey, have some more okra.’ CompetiMommy coos. Saoirse jumps and shoves her mother’s hand away.
I try not to laugh, and head to the high road. ‘Oh, Saoirse – that’s a great name,’ I say honestly. Saoirse is a fabulous name.
CM clucks. ‘Oh, we think so too! What’s your daughter’s name?’
I touch the top of Bee’s head, and tell her Bee’s name. It is also quite fabulous. Then I point to the back of our stroller where Dove hides out and tell her that I have another one back there, and tell her what Dove’s equally fabulous name is.
‘Isn’t she bored back there?’ CM asks.
‘Excuse me?’ I am not at all sure what she means.
‘With the view,’ CM explains like I’m slow, ‘in the stroller. She’s looking at the back of the other seat the entire time she’s in there.’
Wtf? Is she dissing my stroller?
‘Well, she’s 7 weeks old and sleeping, so I think she’s pretty content. When she’s a bit bigger we change the configuration and it’s more like stadium seating’
‘Yes, well, doesn’t she sit right on the ground when you do that?’
Saoirse's mommy is pretty close to being bitch-slapped, but I channel Sandra and grit my teeth.
‘We think it will be fine.’ I answer.
Now, I’ll admit, we kind of thought the same thing about the stroller, but in the end it was the best double option for us. But seriously, back off the baby gear, beeotch.
Bee reaches for a sip of mango juice.
‘Straw!’ Saoirse shrieks.
‘We have a water bottle here, sweetheart, we don’t need a straw,’ answers her mother.
I am still trying to play nice. ‘Oh, all kids love straws, don’t they?’
Saoirse's mother goes for the jugular:
‘Well, straws are about the most environmentally unsound product out there. Just devastating.’
Really? Really, Saoirse's mother? More devastating than, say, nuclear runoff? More devastating than lead in our chidren’s toys or oil spills in our oceans?
I seethe. Anybody who knows me knows that I do not make choices of consumption lightly. I also do not let toddlers handle a large glass bottle of juice without a straw.
I get Bee ready to go because we are done, and I am DONE. This is the stupid shit I hate about other women, other moms. Why do we do this? Not every mother is a stellar mother all the time, and sometimes great children act like monsters. Your stroller may offer a better view, but mine is blue camo, so fuck off. I can’t handle this kind of drama. We all win. We all lose.
Saoirse runs to the water cooler and lets a stream of water out all over the floor around her. Saoirse's mother jumps up to stop her.
Saoirse’s mother is wearing leather pants.