What can happen when women aren’t self-aggrandizing, comparing, competing and frenemy’ing? They become a genuine tribe for as long — or as little — as needed.
“Something extraordinary at LAX today… (writing this on the plane). I was at the gate, waiting to get on my plane to Portland. Flights to two different cities were boarding on either side of the Portland fight. A toddler who looked to be eighteen or so months old was having a total meltdown, running between the seats, kicking and screaming, then lying on the ground, refusing to board the plane (which was not going to Portland). His young mom, who was clearly pregnant and traveling alone with her son, became completely overwhelmed… she couldn’t pick him up because he was so upset, he kept running away from her, then lying down on the ground, kicking and screaming again. The mother finally sat down on the floor and put her head in her hands, with her kid next to her still having a meltdown, and started crying. Then, this gorgeous thing (I’m crying just writing this)… the women in the terminal, there must have been six or seven of us, not women who knew each other, approached and surrounded her and the little boy and we knelt down and formed a circle around them. I sang “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” to the little boy… one woman had an orange that she peeled, one woman had a little toy in her bag that she let the toddler play with, another woman gave the mom a bottle of water. Someone else helped the mom get the kid’s sippy cup out of her bag and give it to him. It was so gorgeous, there was no discussion and no one knew anyone else, but we were able to calm them both down, and she got her child on the plane. Only women approached. After they went through the door we all went back to our separate seats and didn’t talk about it… we were strangers, gathering to solve something. It occurred to me that a circle of women, with a mission, can save the world. I will never forget that moment.”
Since February 2, 2018, Beth Bornstein Dunnington’s Facebook post has been liked by more than 60,000 Facebook users and shared over 18,000 times. It has gone viral across the interwebs, from the top parenting blogs — All the Moms, Babble, Little Things, Mom.Me, Reality Moms, Romper, Scary Mommy — to various media outlets — ABC News, Business Insider and Insider, iHeartRadio, La Gran Época, Liftable, Parents, Sunny Skyz, Woman’s World — and as far away as Le Bebe Blog in France, the Mirror in the United Kingdom, and 9Honey in Australia.
Because what parent hasn’t experienced a dark, raw, lonely episode that began and ended under the glaring lights of public judgment and ridicule? I am still getting what I deserve for all of the parenting judgments I possessed long before I became an actual parent. With each new developmental stage that transpires as my toddler becomes less baby and more (conscious, yet still far from conscientious) human, my judgments continue returning to haunt me while simultaneously making it necessary for me to suppress my desire to vehemently reverse-shame the mom-shamers.
My eyes welled with tears as I read Beth’s post and that’s why it went viral — because all of the mom blogs and media outlets knew it would make our eyes well with tears. The only thing more poignant than empathy is experience.
I was going to break into my own op-ed of Beth’s experience, waxing poetic with violin strings and all, but Heather LeRoss, via her platform on Reality Moms, said everything I had hoped to articulate faster than I could — and maybe even better:
Not judgment because another mother is doing things differently, she’s doing her best. Not anger because another mom has a differing opinion on breastfeeding, vaccinations, food, sleep options, daycares, or any of the other myriad of things that we make decisions on for our children each day, each hour.
There is tremendous power in love, mountain moving power. There is power in acceptance, life-changing power. There is power in kindness and connection, soul-saving power. There is power in this experience called motherhood.
We OWN that power, each and every woman who has cared for a child, whether their own or someone else’s, to the point of exhaustion. To the point where they sit down on the floor of an airport, exhausted, their hearts open for display, their souls screaming for help. There is power in witnessing, showing up, kneeling down and embracing their brokenness, providing a safe place for another mother to cry, to feel the overwhelm, and to heal. We women have the power to change another woman’s life, simply by connecting and accepting.
Imagine a world where our islands come together, we form whole continents that are connected by shared hopes for our children, shared desires to consistently do better, be better. Where we can reach out to a woman in need, hold her softly while she rests, knowing that when it is our turn to need, someone will be there. With a simple song, a soft shoulder and a bottle of water.
Mother Power, we have it and may we each resolve to share our power each day, without expectation, but simply with Love.
Seriously. It was like Heather was in my head. Or I had somehow already poked around in hers. The entirety of womanhood is the tribe. Look at #TimesUp; look at #MeToo. When will motherhood get there, too?
(To be explored in future blog post: reasons why it hasn’t.)
As the viral tidal wave of a mere and modest social media post receded into the vast ocean of the internet, submerging in the tide of Trump tweets and Kardashian selfies, Beth reflected on a moment that might have otherwise drifted into obscurity like countless other minutes and seconds buried in the recesses of human memory. So many of those undocumented moments become the ones that truly matter most, but I’m happy that she took the time to digitally file this one where we can all go back and smile at it from time to time — if for no other purpose than to be reminded of why it’s important to do the good deeds anyway, especially when no one is watching, snapping or posting.
“I’m realizing that THIS is the story… the fact that this simple thing went this viral. What that says. I almost didn’t write it; I just happened to have internet over the ocean. I almost didn’t make it public, except that my friend Karen Ann Rose asked me to. A person who pays attention to numbers told me that this has been liked and shared and commented on millions of times. Millions (I don’t even know what that means.) I was told that on Sunny Skyz, 750,000 people shared it. On just that one site. Looking for the deeper meaning in this and realizing that human kindness – the instinctive kindness of a handful of women at an airport – with no phone numbers exchanged, no selfies, no celebration, not even any discussion beyond all this sharing, is the story. Thank you, world, for embracing a small act of kindness.”
– Beth Bornstein Dunnington, February 22, 2018