This is a guest post from my sister Mary. Not ever living in a city or ever being pregnant I never had to deal with city violence breaking out on my kid’s playground while I was 39 1/2 weeks pregnant. But I am familiar with how becoming a parent makes you re-evaluate everything about your life. Here she is:
“I’m a City Girl!” – these are lyrics that my brother Matt sings to me all the time to annoy me. I did a show years ago called “City Girl.” And I guess that is what I call myself. Except now it’s a City Mom. But today I questioned if that is in fact who I still am.
Here is what happened. I am on Maternity leave. I am 4 days from my due date and 100% out of patience for the show to begin. But each day now, I wake up with baby in belly so I continue with my days being the #1 Fan of my awesome 2 year old son. Today was special because he woke up at 4am. I assure you this is not a regular occurrence. My husband jumped up to get him which if you see how long it takes me to get out of bed you would see why. I tried to inform him NOT to pick him up because it’s 4am. But my husband while being a wonderful guy has never been and never will be a morning person did not hear nor process what I said..
So about 2 minutes later I hear “Mommy” and a little face climbing onto my bed. I only recently discovered that when you let them in bed with you that YOUR sleep has ended for the evening. But he would not even lie down. He saw the Kindle and asked to watch Thomas & Friends. And I said “Yep!” Cut me some slack it’s 4am and it takes a crane to get me out of bed.
So the day proceeded pretty well with an exhausted toddler passing out on the floor at 9:20am. A good nap would set him straight. I went off to an afternoon meeting and then met up up with my husband and son in the city. Hubbie had to go to an audition and I figured I would take my son to a park nearby to wait. All was great. The park was reasonably empty for afterschool on a weekday and much to my surprise clean and reasonably new. And even through my fatigue of being up since 4am and a huge belly we were having a great time running around, going down slides and jumping on the shaky bridge when I started to hear a commotion.
Living in New York City I think I am pretty immune to chaotic noise. But this was different. There was cheering, screaming and the cacophony of sound that comes with a fight. A real fight.
I looked over to the other side of the park, the basketball courts, and realized about 20 8th or 9th graders were now in the center of it kicking, punching, hitting and more friends around them holding their cell phones taping it and tweeting I’m sure.
Now when I have encountered city craziness before I do my best “put on a show” to keep my son from seeing it. And as I started today’s “show” I realized more and more 8th and 9th graders were running into the park so the number had swelled to about 40. I guided my son to play as far away as possible. Mothers who kids were older and were riding scooters nearby were being shuffled to benches on the sidelines.
And then it hit me – I don’t know how this is going to end. I have lived in cities since graduating college. I love it. I love walking everywhere, the subway, the ability to experience and see new things everyday. I think this is part of why we have stayed in the city so far with our son.
But today, for the first time ever I got scared. I realized these kids might have guns, knives or it could easily move over to the playground where my 2 year old son is asking me to swing on the monkey bars with him. And I am 39 and a half weeks pregnant. If this would escalate what would I do? Fall on top of my child to protect him and try to protect my unborn child? Of course. I would in a heartbeat. But I can’t run or really pick up my son and run out if things got crazier.
What I did was simpler. I left. Quickly and immediately. There must have been something in my tone telling my son we were leaving because my son got right into the stroller with an “OK Mommy”. I assure you this is not the normal reaction I get when I say we are leaving the park.
As we quickly walked away I encountered a nanny calling 911. She was having a hard time explaining the address and asked me to talk to the police. I gave the operator the address and she said Police were en route. I gave the woman back her cell phone and told her to be careful walking home. She wished the same to us. As I looked back there were still several mothers who were there sitting on benches with their children waiting for the police. I wasn’t going to be one of them. I didn’t want my son to see this. I am not foolish or naïve enough to believe that he won’t know what violence and anger look like but I know that at 2 all he needs to know is that Mommy will protect him no matter what.
When we got one block away we heard the sirens. “Wat dat?” my son asked. I said “It’s the police coming to help some kids” He said “The kids fight?” I was stunned. I didn’t even know he knew the word fight. And in that moment I learned that he will see bad things. Bad people. Feel scared. No matter how much of a show I put on to distract him. And I learned that maybe where we live is not what I want for him.
And that was when I realized Motherhood has changed me. Maybe the “city girl” was my life before him. Where it will go with him? I’m not sure but it won’t ever be that park again.