When Parenting Starts to Feel like Junior High

Dear Mom in Music Class,

For a brief second last week, I wanted to punch you in the face. True story.

Sure, I'm an overtired and overworked mom of four kids. I'll concede that maybe I was a little closer to the tipping point than a normal, well-rested human being would be.

But when I came into the room and said "Hi!" to you, and you slowly and deliberately looked me up and down and then turned back to your friend, not saying hi, there was A Moment.

It was the kind of moment in which crimes are committed: a blinding flash of red rage that makes ears hot and blood boil. It was brief, and then it passed.

But in that moment, I swear: I wanted to put down my toddler, walk over to you and Punch. You. In. The Face. In my mind, I ran through a scenario that made that scene with Lucy Liu and Uma Thurman in Kill Bill look…well, like toddler music class.

In my brain, I Quentin Tarantinoed your ass.

Note: I have never punched a human being in the face in my entire life. And in all likelihood, I never will.

But here was my inner monologue during that moment:

"What. The. F$CK!! Who the hell are YOU, Miss Too Good For Me, to not say hi back like ANY NORMAL FREAKING HUMAN BEING WOULD? [Insert approximately seven random expressions of profanity.]"

Let's back up. Maybe I'm taking all this way too personally. Maybe you didn't hear me, though all signs point to the contrary. Maybe you are a shy person, the utter opposite of me. The fact is, I really don't know you well enough. All I know is that our kids are in class together, which for me, gives free license to say a simple "Hi" and be acknowledged.

Maybe you judged me. Maybe you judged me "unworthy" because I was wearing a ratty old fleece of my husband's, pants that can't decide if they're exercise pants or pajamas, and sneakers that were purchased a few children ago. Maybe I am too unkempt to talk to–you always look extremely put-together. You, in contrast to my sometimes-matching get-ups, show up to class wearing designer ensembles and awesome boots. Or maybe I'm too fat for you to talk to–your body is one I'd have aspired to before having kids, let alone after.

Maybe my inferiority complex is talking louder than my sense of reason at this point.

I'm a week removed from the situation, and I'm still wondering: why did I, a rational and semi-smart woman, react so strongly to what you did–or at least, what I thought you did?

Being a mom–even to my fourth kid, it turns out–sometimes strongly resembles a flashback to junior high school. It becomes clear quite readily that there are the "cool moms" and the "not so cool" moms, and that at least in some circles, appearance is everything. As an adult, you'd never think of shunning someone in the workplace based on what kinds of shoes they wear (okay, maybe you would if you work for Vogue), but now that you're a mom? Any child-oriented "Mommy and Me" activity suddenly brings out the child in us, and not in a good way–more in a "Am I cool enough to sit at the right lunch table?" kind of way.

Maybe every mom of every kid every age has this internal monologue going. It's a toxic cauldron of insecurities and sleeplessness and stress. Maybe even the moms who look put-together have some crap going on in their lives that you wouldn't want to touch with a 10-foot pole. Maybe everyone's insecurities could be taken down a peg if we just acknowledged that each one of us is a parent–by definition, a tough long haul no matter how good your kid is–and that we're on the same team, no matter what we're wearing. And maybe we need to remember those lessons we learned way back in junior high–that we need to try to see who people really are, beyond the superficialities of the surface. Maybe we need to give each other–and I'm talking to myself here, not just you–the benefit of the doubt a little more often.

And maybe the only remedy for all of this is to just remember we're not moody pre-teens, but we're adults, and adults say hi to each other.

There's music class again this week. And lady, I'm going to say hi, like it or not. And I'm going to smile. And I'm going to be friendly.

And if you don't say hi back, I'm not going to think about punching you in the face and it's all going to be okay.

But I hope you will. Say hi back, that is. Not punch me in the face.

This post originally appeared on Kveller. Republished with permission.

Image by Ron Leishman/Shutterstock.