I shuffled my tired feet onto the train and settled into an empty seat. Thankful for it to be Friday, I couldn't wait to get home. Two middle aged women with a very loud group of five kids enter and sit a few feet in front of me. I've never been a fan of the railroad seats that face one another. They encourage communication when most people know and treat the train as a moving library and place of solitude. I considered changing cars but felt a twinge of betrayal. These are two moms with a brood of kids. How can I scoff at them when I too am a mother who needs to go places and has a child unaware of volume? I decided to stay put hoping the moving train would lull them to sleep and powered up my Kindle.
Moments later I was pulled out of my reading haze by one of the mothers screaming at someone behind me. I looked up to see that maternal craziness in her eyes as she peered over the seat and yelled, "Move to another car if you don't like it, they are kids!" Like a mother bear protecting her cubs, she made eye contact with everyone in the car. We all stood silent. As she slid back down to her seat I felt empowered.
This woman stood up for her kids to a total stranger! She let everyone know that yes, when there should be quiet sometimes there can't be. That these are indeed kids and should be able to laugh and giggle and have fun on what seems like their first train ride. That despite how hard my day at work was, The American Girl Place was magical and those euphoric feelings should last until this train pulls into their stop. I felt taller sitting in my seat, envisioning a "Team Mom" emblem across my chest, showing my loyalty to this group. I wanted to scoot closer to them, pat the woman on the back and get into a conversation about how no one understands us.
Then I took a closer look. The kids were older than I thought, maybe between eight and thirteen. Clearly old enough to go to school and know a certain set of social rules. No matter. They are still kids, this isn't school and its okay that they are screaming. I'll read my book later.
The kids started getting louder and throwing themselves onto each other across the seats. The mother that yelled threw her hands up and said, "Go ahead kids make all the noise you want!" Her daughter leaned over and asked what just happened with the man in the back of the train. "Someone didn't like that there are a bunch of kids on this train," the mother said in a rather snarky tone. "Then tell them to sit somewhere else!" the daugther replied, her snotty little voice reminding me of my 6th grade lunchroom.
That's when "Team Mom" lost me. This little girl's response was pure evidence that this mom passes down the values of being inconsiderate and entitled. I should have went with my first instinct. No parent who goes to the city during rush hour would subject other people to this behavior. No matter how tired, cranky, or ready to go my child is, I'm always cleaning up something if we're not home or apologizing to someone for her making too much noise. I teach her to keep her voice down in the hallways of our apartment and to turn around when she peers into the other booth at restaurants.
I looked at this mother with her arms crossed, continuing her conversation with her friend and felt ashamed. How could I have turned on my fellow travelers, desperate for a nap or to finish the sports section of their paper? This mother isn't empowering or a role model, she only cares about herself and has a crappy kid.
The tension in the car remained palpable my whole ride home. Many eye-rolling glances were exchanged between passengers as the kids continued to throw themselves around, falling into the aisles. Yet I was amused that, for some reason, the moms kept their voices low the remainder of the ride.