Charlotte’s school was closed for parent teacher conferences yesterday, so after my 9:30 a.m. meeting with her teacher, I took her to the play area at an outdoor mall. While she played, I sat with my cross stitch, occasionally glancing up at the giant climbing structure to make sure my kid was making good choices. (Making good choices. Sitting with my cross stitch. Those are the sorts of things I say now… I barely recognize myself anymore.)

After a bit, another mom sat down to my right with a little girl who appeared to be the same age as Charlotte. A few minutes later, I was joined on the left by another little girl and her mom. She proceeded to answer a work-related call while I stitched on. She was only two feet away from me, so I swear it wasn’t really eavesdropping when I heard her say to her colleague, “School is closed for parent teacher conferences today, so I’m basically working from my phone.”

Interesting. But maybe this parent teacher conference closure was a thing that affected more than just Charlotte’s preschool. They often time their closures to coincide with LAUSD’s schedule, so maybe it was a LAUSD thing?

A few minutes later, our daughters started playing together. We smiled at them and asked each other how old our kids are.

She’s 5 and her preschool is closed today.

Mine’s 3.5 and hers is, too. What school does she go to?

And that was when we discovered that our kids go to school together.

We were chatting about the school, and discovered that our daughters both had the same teachers their first year there. From there, we went on worshiping those teachers for a while because they are truly just the most amazing people. Especially Teacher J, whose virtues we extolled extensively. That’s when the previously silent third mother leaned over to us…

I hate to interrupt, but I couldn’t help overhearing. Teacher J is my best friend. She’s my daughter’s godmother.

/end scene

I’ve replayed all of this in my mind several times since yesterday. I mean, this is one of the largest cities in the world. What are the chances that I’d end up sitting next to these two women whose lives are so connected to my own? There are a million playgrounds all over. We weren’t close to school. We weren’t even at one of the most popular spots.

Imagine if the conversation had been different. Imagine if we’d been complaining about the school, or gossiping about Teacher J, who also happens to be the mother of one of my daughter’s best friends. Imagine the bridges that might have been burned and the community connection we might have missed out on.

I mention this because it seems like the digital world is overflowing with that sort of nastiness, lately. Online, it’s almost impossible to avoid “those” people who seem to exist solely to criticize other mothers and try to discredit their feelings and experiences. The virtual cloak of a social media account and a keyboard seems to add a tremendous amount of fuel to the bonfire of these so-called mommy wars that the media loves to exploit.

Someone is feeding their child solids before 6 months of age? Oh my gosh. Better pounce on that mom to tell her about how her uneducated feeding choices are going to negatively impact that child for the rest of its life.

Formula feeding? Blasphemy! Let’s publicly shame that mom for her refusal to put her child’s welfare before her own comfort.

That child is always staring at a screen! Does she ever pay attention to him/her?

Frankly, the negativity and divisiveness in the mom world is no better than the harsh polarization of the political world. I can’t help but wonder what motherhood would look like if we invested half of the energy we spend tearing each other down in building each other up.

The world is a small place. We are all connected to one another somehow. If not through shared schools or mutual acquaintances, then certainly through this next generation of humans we’re busy raising the best we know how.

I see you out there doing your best. I hope you see me doing mine. We don’t have to be lifelong besties, but can we at least extend the sort of compassion to one another that we’d like to see extended to our children on the playground?