A couple of weeks ago while in the middle of packing up what I thought was my dream house in the country to move back to the city a very changed woman, a small white car nearly crashed into my compact SUV as it pulled out of the shopping complex without seeing me directly in the lane she was driving into. My twins were in the backseat -- they are 3 1/2. It wasn't just any near miss to me. It was an almost accident where I envisioned far too much blood and destruction in the 3.5 seconds in which it nearly happened. She would have hit me on the driver's side -- head on to my door and the passenger door right where my daughter was strapped in and rear-facing. I have Radian car seats and know their side impact car seat safety was excellent, but it's not something I ever wanted to truly put to the test.
And the girl who almost hit me was me ... 17 years ago me.
She was young and look sweet and innocent and was probably a college student who had just went into the grocery store to stock up on noodles and butter -- my staples when I was a college student in the very same town this all happened in. And I know exactly what she looked like because I got out of my car to yell at her. She had really pretty long blonde hair that shined in the noontime sun.
It's a moment I am not particularly proud of. But certainly not the worst thing I've done in this town. It was my college town, after all.
However, my stress was at an all time high. I was (and am) going through a lot of personal stuff that no amount of online self-help or professional therapy could cure quickly enough. So my reaction wasn't the best, nor do I recommend it to anyone. Yes, she was in the wrong for bolting out of the parking lot she was in right into my lane, but I was wrong for being a raging lunatic screaming at her right there at the intersection while the light was still red. Yes, I had to swerve crazy hard to the right to avoid smashed glass and dented doors and heaven forbid hurt children. And thank goodness there was no one in that right lane. But I was wrong. Embarrassingly wrong. My son asked, "Mommy why did you yell at that lady?" after it all went down. I think he knew I was wrong, too. And here's how it went down.
The near miss. Me yelling at her with my window down as she was in front of me at the stop light. Me beeping my horn at her wanting her to wave or something to acknowledge that she almost hit me and scared the bettlejuice out of me because MY KIDS WERE IN THE CAR. And because she did nothing, I did something. I got out of my car (I know it was wrong, you don't have to remind me though I know you will) and went to her. She was alone and her window was down but she wouldn't look at me. The other cars around us all began rolling down their windows to see what this insane woman was yelling. The insane woman was me. I was yelling loud, no doubt the Queens, Nu Yawk, accent coming out that you only hear when I'm yelling this intensely, telling her that "I have kids in the car!" as my arms waved frantically pointing back at my car behind hers, driver's side door open, kids in the back no doubt wondering where their crazy mother had gone. "YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION!! YOU NEED TO BE MORE CAREFUL!!"
Okay, crazy lady, she probably thought. I don't blame her. I was her. I was once a not so careful driver who probably once worried more about what music I was listening to as I sped around town over making sure I didn't crash into anything. I was a young person once with no real fear of terrible consequences. But that person is long gone. I am a mother now and part of my existence is to protect my kids from harm. This girl was the "enemy", putting their lives in danger and the full roar of my mama bear was out, claws and all, right there in the intersection with an audience.
I scared her. She muttered she was sorry, barely looking directly at me. It was only a few seconds of berating. I marched back to my car and as I mentioned, my son asked "Mommy why did you yell at that lady?" Putting on a calm voice, I told him she wasn't a very good driver and she almost hit our car and I got worried we would get hurt. I may have scared her for that moment, but I was scared. Motherhood is terrifying -- you have your heart existing outside your body and you have to protect it.
"We're not hurt, Mommy," my daughter reminded me.
And we weren't. But I was. I was hurt and wounded and going through a whole lot. It was one of those moments that if it happened in a happier time perhaps I wouldn't have reacted so strongly. But no one should ever get in the way of a mother going through some stuff and feeling as if the safety of her kids was in danger. The adrenaline started taking over and I began shaking and crying. The light turned green and I pulled into the grocery store parking lot to calm down. We're not hurt, Mommy rang in my head. We were okay. We will be okay.
To the pretty blonde girl in the little white car: I am sorry, too.
Have you ever experienced something like this where something or someone nearly hurt your kids (accidentally) and you flew into a rage?
Image via Cameron Parkins/Flickr