An Open Letter To The Mum With The Red Coat

Artwork: Charlotte Peach

Dear Mum-with-the-red-coat,

You probably won’t remember me.

I saw you at the park on a rainy afternoon last week. I felt inclined to keep looking over and smiling at you because I sensed you were having a shit day. Actually I more than sensed it … you looked bloody miserable. Your kids were kicking off and you had a When Did This Become My Life face on. I recognised the face because I wear it interchangeably with my Somebody Make It Stop face.

It was for this reason that I made a passing, ‘Nightmare aren’t they?!’ comment, to which you responded with a very small smile.

You were probably distracted by your toddler (who had taken off both shoes, lobbed them from the climbing frame, and was refusing to come down) and also by your baby, who for the love of god you could not get to stop crying. Of course, there’s a chance you might just have chosen not to engage in conversation with me because you heard my son declare, ‘farty pants knickers bum-bum head!’ in close proximity to all the other children. He does that a lot.

But I had a sneaky suspicion that you were, in fact, more troubled by the behaviour of your ownchildren. Your face was red and you looked kind of sheepish.

I just wanted to say something.

I wanted to let you know that you really didn’t need to be embarrassed that day. Granted your children were being total sods. I mean they were. But that isn’t a reflection on your parenting and it isn’t a reflection on you. By all means rage at them, swear under your breath, cry, get the emergency Bear Snacks out as bribery – hell, do whatever you need to. But please don’t check over your shoulder as if you are anticipating a judgmental glare.

We are in this together. 

I get it. I do. When my eldest goes uncooperatively stiff from the neck down and I resort to dragging his dead weight out of the play-area and across half a football pitch, it is difficult not to clock the stares. And your son shouting, ‘I’M NOT COMING DOWN! I HATE YOU!’ was really quite loud – so naturally people had a gander.

But you then also felt the need to whisper (at a volume much louder than a true whisper), ‘It’s not time for your milk yet sweetheart, you’ve just been fed,’ which though directed at your screaming baby appeared very much to be for our benefit (me and the other parent bystanders). As if you were worried we would think she should feed her baby.

We didn’t think that.

I’m sure you had already fed her, winded her, and tried to soothe her like anyone would, singing softly about the little fishies on the little dishies and the boats coming in. She just wasn’t having any of it.

We have all been there.

Jeez Louise, I’m no parenting expert but I’m pretty confident in my assertion that sometimes kids have shitty days. Granted, I never read this exact piece of advice in any Gina Ford or Jo Frost parenting manual but I imagine it’s a footnote somewhere, or it should be (If you can’t get the child to do any of this shit it’s likely to be because today is his total knobhead day,’ or similar).

You are doing your best at an often impossible job, and that afternoon in question was a bit of a howler. Get angry about it, laugh about it (I’m sorry but his dramatic shout of ‘I WANT A NEW MUM!’ across the roundabout was hilarious), and then draw a line under it.

Trip to the park – failed. So what?

File it in the Absolute Bloody Disaster drawer and start again. There’s a Tesco Express within sight of that roundabout where you can grab a bottle of grown-up grape juice (and further Bear Snack bribes) on the way home.

Stick your fingers up and say SCREW YOU RAINY WEDNESDAY. Tomorrow  is a new day. Of course the kids might be shitty again tomorrow. But they might not.

Because here’s the thing. Somebody’s children have to be the worst behaved in the park. They just do. The law of averages suggests sometimes those kids will belong to you.

So, the next time another mum pipes up with, ‘Nightmare aren’t they?!’ please know that she is not slagging off you, or your children. She is simply offering you the space to have a moan. She gets it. Because she too owns a teething baby and a toddler who likes to ‘play dead’ on the pavement.

Lovely coat by the way.

Best wishes,

The Unmumsy Mum
Forever living in hope that other mums will return the understanding nod of sympathy. 

Image: Sarah Turner

This letter was written by Sunday Times No. 1 Bestselling Author and Freelance Writer Sarah Turner or as she’s widely known ‘The Unmumsy Mum’.You can buy her latest book The Unmumsy Mum Diary here.

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