In many ways we all make assumptions as we carry on throughout the day. We assume many things about the people around us as we go through life. We assume that the beat up truck in front of us must be owned by a poor person. Or we think to ourselves that the clerk at the checkout is rude and doesn’t like her job because she snapped at the customer in front . The child in the grocery store is throwing a wild tantrum in aisle three and the mother does nothing. She must be a terrible mother.
We have all been there, whether we voice these assumptions or not.
Some assumptions can sting a little, I have recently discovered. It was a sunny day and finally I was able to take the little toddler I care for out for a morning stroll and window shopping. We really were having a lovely time in the clothing department, checking out some clearance items and making animal noises of many cute animal t shirts. I didn’t notice her at first, being so entranced by a kitty t-shirt priced at only $7.99. The lady was also mesmerized, by the sweet boy I held in hand. She eyed me, then gazed at the blue eyed charmer, then glanced back at me. “Well hello”, she said. My eager “hello” in return, must have given her permission to press me further in order to confirm her assumption. Her gaze caught the eye of the busy boy at my feet, “Are you out for some shopping time with Grandma?”
In visiting an Early Years Centre with J, I enjoy the romp and play of all the other “littles” as they embark on their first discoveries of playgroup. I get to rub shoulders with Mom’s and their infants and toddlers. It is a wonderful atmosphere. It’s also a place where many assume that I was “Mommy” of this adorable toddler. I felt a secret feeling of being part of the “Mommy Clan”. I now realize how ‘left’out I’d felt for 30 years. I now belonged, even in omission of the truth. Someone once said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” (author unknown)
As an early childhood educator, there is much I can contribute to a conversation regarding young children and enjoy doing so. I didn’t see it coming this time. Suddenly without warning I was asked the question that only other mothers ask mothers, “how long were you in labour?” The room went from warm loving candour to the hot rushing heat of embarrassment. “Actually I’m the Nanny, little J is my work. We were never able to have children.” The conversation stilled into a too long pause and calmly shifted to the unimportant facts and details of life reserved for those outside the club. “What strange weather, we are having…” I was no longer part of them.
That beat up truck in the lane in front of you. It was purchased by an affluent mechanic, with a set determination to fix it for his next door neighbor, a single mother who walks across town to get to her hotel cleaning job after the kids get picked up from school. It is to be a surprise gift after it is cleaned and repaired.
That clerk at the checkout who snapped at a customer, just discovered this morning that her husband was having an affair. She just couldn’t take one more moment to hide her broken heart.
That mother of the child throwing a tantrum? She is not a bad mother, she has just buried her husband of seven years due to a car accident and she is still numb. It’s only been a month.
So, those that love children are not all Mommies. A simple solution for inquiring minds is to merely ask, “How are you connected to this beautiful child?” It is the type of question anyone can answer without any awkward moments or incorrect supposition. Or so I assume…