To the man in the carpark,
To the man who looked away when I made eye contact, this letter is to you. We didn’t talk, we didn’t lock eyes for more than a split-second, but I know you saw me. I also know you saw my children. My baby, covered in vomit and screaming, you saw her. My toddler, distressed by his sister’s cries, you saw him. Me, tired of all of this, you saw me. And you looked away.
On that day, my children had refused to nap. It was hot, and my son refused to wear his shoes – they were too tight – toddlers grow fast, you see. And so I bundled them into the car and ‘nipped out to the shops’. Without a full change bag, without muslins and without spare clothes. Jasmin was sick a few minutes before we arrived. It wasn’t a little bit of sick. I opened the back door to a bucket-full of it. All over her seat, all over the back seat, all over her clothes, in her hair, in her screaming wide-open mouth. I lifted her up and I too was covered.
And as I negotiated peeling her vomit-soaked clothes off her, Jasmin clung to me. I balanced her on one hip while also trying to wipe down her car seat. It was already starting to smell. This was when you looked away. Maybe you were really busy and distracted, waiting for someone in the carpark outside the shops.
Jasmin was naked apart from a nappy when I finally managed to buckle her into her buggy. Milin, my darling, sensitive toddler, had calmed down and managed to walk across the carpark with me into the shop to find him some shoes. And that was how we walked around. Jasmin, naked. Milin, barefoot. Me, covered in vomit.
Of course, once we were inside, two-year-old Milin wanted to push his ten-month-old sister round in the buggy. Of course she was still upset. We walked out of that shop with jelly shoes for Milin. I know they’re not practical, but they made us all smile. I bought Jasmin one of the prettiest dresses I had ever seen, and one she certainly didn’t need. It smelt of sick as soon as I put it on her. It got even more covered in sick once I put her in her car seat, but that dress was still lovely.
You had driven away your big car by the time we got back to the carpark. You didn’t see us emerge from the shops, looking almost respectable.
This letter isn’t to tell you that I wish you had helped us. This letter isn’t to tell you that I’m not usually so frazzled.
It’s a letter to tell you that on that day I was tired. I was so tired. I wasn’t sure if I was going to lose my temper, I wasn’t sure if I was going to hold it all together or shout at my innocent children who had done nothing wrong. I wasn’t sure if I could cope with cleaning up any more sick or diffusing any more tantrums. I wasn’t sure if I could keep answering the ‘why’ questions. I wasn’t sure if I could resist just curling up on the floor and closing my eyes and hoping the world would go away.
I hope you were comfortable in your air-conditioned car and I hope you had some decent tunes to listen to. But this letter isn’t about that.
It is about me realising that for a very short time last week, I felt like everything was turning to shit. I felt like the world was falling apart a little at the seams. For a split second when you looked away from my disastrous life, I hated you.
And then I realised, we all go through crap. We all have rubbish days. We all have our battles. I have no idea why you were sitting in your car. I have no idea of your struggles. You looked away, and that’s ok.
My baby was sick everywhere. My toddler had a tantrum. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole and ignore the world. Instead I had to walk into a shop and buy clothes and shoes for my children. I had to hold them and soothe them and click into that familiar autopilot that is parenting. My life wasn’t that bad though in the scheme of things. The sun was shining, Milin got jelly shoes, Jasmin got a pretty dress. I washed my hair later.
It took me an hour to clean the car seat and it still smells of sick. But worse things could have happened.
To the man in the carpark, thank you for looking away. You made me think about my day a little differently. It wasn’t up there with the best of them, but we all have the bad ones. And while you looked away, I pulled myself up.