A few weeks ago, I was standing in line at the MVA. My plan, like everyone elses, was to get there right before they closed, and hope for speedy service. Amd like every one else, I miscalculated getting there in time, and ended up running through the door with seconds to spare.
Anyway, I’m in line with my three sons, and we’re waiting our turn to get a number. On a scale of 1-Crunk, my kids were around a 3, which is pretty good considering we had to wait in a pretty long line with a toddler and no stroller. So, I’m in line. The folks behind me are admiring my boys, and I’m pretending as if I didn’t hear them. One of them says “She has three boys, umph, I know her hands are full.”
And for the first time in all of my years of parenting, I was offended.
Granted, I know my hands are full raising three super duper active boys. Add to that the responsibility and pressure of raising loving, caring, kind, respectable, successful, God-fearing, law-abiding gentleman .. BLACK men at that. 3 times. But that’s what I signed up for when I chose to have a family. All of that out the way, UNLESS I tell you that my hands are full, who the hell are you to judge me.
Maybe I was being super sensitive. Okay, I probably was being super sensitive, but I was insulted. Maybe it was the sound of the “umph” or it could have been the “I know she…” part or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood to overhear bullshit. It implied that I was in over my head and gonna be for an unspecified amount of time.
But what if ..
What if I actually did have my hands full and was overwhelmed at that moment? Imagine if you’re in a bad space, a random comment like that could really send you over the edge.
I thought about the whole encounter for awhile, and then a light bulb flicked on inside my head. I decided, at that moment, every time a person (stranger, family, whomever) asked how I was doing, I would reply “I’m overwhelmed.” I mean random strangers wanted to assume it, so it’s a fair response, right? I was curious to see what people had to say.
For a whole weekend, I tried this experiment out. Whoever greeted me and asked, on at least 7 different occasions, I responded that I was overwhelmed. What shocked me the most was that no one, not one, followed up to my response. I got a few wide eyes from surprise, but that was pretty much it.
What also bothered me about these situations was that no one asked if I was okay or what was going on. It seemed as if no one knew how to respond to my candid answer. Which again, is bothersome, because you see a person with kids, they tell you they’re overwhelmed, and yet you go on your way. What if they were on the verge of endangering the kids or themselves?
Did these people I had encountered do their due diligence to prevent that?
This whole thing was something I conjured up quickly with no real plan in mind. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from each interaction. Actually, let me backtrack, I did expect someone to bring faith or prayer up, but I didn’t even get that. This whole study really gave me some valuable insight and made me do some reflecting.
It made me reflect and recall if I had ever judged a situation from afar instead of inquiring?
Had I ever missed subtle signs from family or friends that needed help?
Would I have been able to help them, at that moment, if they said they were overwhelmed or struggling with something?
Would I be able to offer them anything tangible aside from a a blanket “everything will be okay?”
“Hey, is everything OK?”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Do you need help locating resources that could assist you?”
“Do you want to sit down and talk about it?”
“Have you thought about talking to a professional?”
The real life application of all this is that we see people on social media spazzing out in posts day after day, we read stories of people “snapping” and then saying no one ever listened to them. We read stories with heartbreaking messages left by someone who felt like life wasn’t worth living because no one understood them.
And I ask, at times, are we purposely overlooking the signs? Because it’s easier to skim over without getting involved, right?
But, can’t we still due our part just by asking if everything is OK?
You’re not expected to walk around life with an “S” on your chest saving the world, but should the situation arise, follow up the response, and be thorough.
Most importantly be mindful of the things we say about others. ‘Tis better to ask than assume. The MVA convo could have been so different if the people had simply asked “Are your hands full?”
To which I would have replied “Oh, both hands and both feet.” We would have laughed and then I would have said “I love my boys and they give me so much life!” then I would have strutted off like the bad ass mom I am, shoulder shimming and hair flipping in the wind.