She was talking so loudly on her cell phone that I couldn’t hear what Sadie’s art teacher was saying. None of the kids could hear either, because they were all craning their necks away from the teacher at the front of the room trying to see why Ari’s nanny was talking so loudly in the middle of the lesson.
I scanned the faces of the eight other moms and nannies who were standing protectively by their budding Picassos. I wondered if any of them were as annoyed as I was that Ari’s nanny was so rudely interrupting class. I couldn’t catch anyone’s eye, so I silently hoped that she would wrap up her terribly important conversation so the rest of us could get our money’s worth for this not-cheap class at our neighborhood art studio.
Her conversation continued.
After a few minutes, I met eyes with Tessa, the jubilant and always-smiling nanny to sweet Zoe. Tessa rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “this sucks but I can’t do anything about it.” Damn, I thought, Tessa wasn’t going to step up and ask her to be quiet. I looked at the two moms nearest me and Sadie. Both of them were bobbing maniacally in an effort to lull to sleep the little babies they were wearing in Bjorns so that their older children could enjoy art class. Sh*t. More dead ends. Those mothers, bridled with toddlers and newborn babies, didn’t give a potter’s ass what the nanny in the corner was doing. They literally had their hands full.
It was clear that the teacher, a substitute, was too timid to speak to Ari’s nanny. She had pasted on her face a jocular grin and ignored the disruption.
I tried to ignore her too, but my happy place was all booked for the season. I wanted her to shut up and respect the children and the teacher. This was not her personal phone booth.
But, when Sadie looked up at me and appeared to be frustrated that she couldn’t hear the teacher, something made me give her a look that communicated, “I’ve got this, kiddo.”
I hesitated for one more second. I was still hoping one of the other adults would decide to step up. (Most days, I can’t believe I am actually the parent and that little people depend on me.) Nobody moved. If I wanted to enjoy this class, it was clearly up to me.
I walked over to the bench where Phonebooth Nanny was huddled over her cell phone. We made eye contact, and I did my best stage whisper: “The children can’t hear the teacher.” She nodded her head vigorously and snapped her phone shut instantly. I turned back and gave my attention to the rest of the instructions for the art project. My heart was beating so loudly I thought it was more disruptive than the stupid phone conversation. No one seemed to notice, and the rest of the class went on like it does every Friday morning.
Except something was different. Me. I have never been that parent—the one who speaks up or makes so much as a ripple, much less a wave. I always wait for someone else to speak up– like the woman in gymnastics class who mentioned to the teacher that the room was too hot. Or the dad at cooking class who told the teacher that the mini-choppers were too sharp for the two year olds.
I took my turn this morning. I think all parent/caregivers have to share the burden of speaking up or taking a stand. Next time maybe Tessa will say something. Or maybe those mothers with the newborns will get some sleep and have the wherewithal to speak up. Or maybe it will be me again.
Have you ever had to be that parent? Were you scared to speak up? Did you feel victorious afterwards or did you feel like you hope you never have to do that again?