One Sunday, I mustered the energy to drive almost an hour out of suburban boredom to The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. We were quickly growing weary of the long, hot days, and it was time to inject some culture and structured activities into our carefree summer. There was a special interactive exhibit I knew the kids would love, and every Sunday the museum has family zone, which is always a great.

First we visited the interactive room. The curators actually instructed my kids to touch (but not pull) the dangling icicle like lights hanging from the vaulted ceiling. We weaved through the dense streams of lights as they emitted a rainbow of colors. Next we lounged on the cushions, casually strewn across the floor, like one expansive living room at a psychedelic sleepover. The kids looked up at the movie theater-sized screens and guessed what magnified image they saw. A finger. A brain. A lava-filled ocean. My son told me he was inspired. But when I asked about what—he couldn’t say. Their imaginations were running wild, and my heart filled with joy and pride. Like the 20-something-year-old hipsters, I captured the moment with my phone, panning around to highlight the glittering lights and my kids’ beaming smiles.

Eventually, we rolled off our cushions and trekked through the museum’s underground tunnel to the Egyptian exhibit for the family zone. It’s a designated kid-friendly area among the fragile and valuable art, designed to inspire and educate the children about what they see. This month’s theme was ancient Egypt. My 3, 5 and 7-year-old were immediately engrossed. Writing messages in hieroglyphics, building Egyptian pyramids out of blocks, and scavenging for real relics. I happily eternalized the moments with my phone, excitedly snapping pics and recording videos to share on Instagram and Facebook. I felt like a great mom, like a competent mom able to enrich my kids’ lives by exposing them to the arts. I felt proud of their ability to act appropriately in such a demanding atmosphere. An atmosphere that requires them to speak softly, not touch anything and move with grace and awareness—all behaviors they don’t do at home.

By 4 p.m. it was time to go. Family zone was closing, and I knew it was getting close to meltdown time, especially for my three-year-old who’d skipped her nap. My eldest begged to stay and explore the museum more. Although I knew we should go, I couldn’t resist her plea to stay. I decided we’d go to the museum cafe for a snack and then continue exploring the museum. And this is where my blissful momming moment ended.

I ordered tiny, delectable cakes to share. We sat outside near the fountain, and there were two other sets of ladies dining at the other end of the outdoor patio. Things turned sour quickly. My three-year-old refused to use a spoon to eat her lemon tart. Opting to use her unreliable, sticky fingers, she quickly dropped the tart on the floor and sobbed. Not a deep, low, sob, but a shrill sob. Even over the gush of the fountain, her crying pierced the other patrons’ ears. I had a choice at this point: with another half a lemon tart on my plate, I could’ve appeased her and given it to her. But I chose to stand my ground. After all, I’d repeatedly warned her it would fall. The tantrum escalated.

My seven-year-old told me people were staring at us. I dismissed her and continued to beg my youngest to stop crying. After a few more minutes of attempted reasoning with an overly tired, hungry three-year-old, I gave up. I briskly stacked the plates, squashing the remaining desserts and scooped up my screaming child. My five- and seven-year-olds trailed behind as we walked almost into an older lady standing between the stairs to exit and us. She looked me in the eye and said, “Oh, thank God you’re leaving.” I moved past her and then paused. I doubled back, looked into her cold eyes, then at her friend as she shook her head. I looked quavered with rage, “Are you kidding me?!” She simply replied, “No, I’m glad you’re leaving.” We stormed off, rushed into the car and drove home in eerie silence as my littlest slept soundly.

This is what I didn’t post on Facebook. There’s no Instagram story with purple-horned, brow-furrowing emoticons. There are no photos with black and white filters capturing this dramatic turn of events. The whole ride back I debated whether or not to erase my posts. I grappled with whether our blissful afternoon was real or not. I couldn’t reconcile the two experiences. It felt like my posts of our joyful time where a lie now that we’d experienced such upset.

I went to bed Sunday night feeling guilty. Feeling like maybe the unkind lady was right. Who was I to think we could infiltrate the pristine museum environment. My unruly kids belonged back home where they were safe to throw tantrums without fear of judgment from strangers—back home where I could avoid the harsh gaze of people who think they know better than me. But, luckily I woke up with a fresh perspective. The good part of the day was real. And if we’d never piled into the car for the long haul downtown, then we’d never have experienced the unique exhibit. We wouldn’t have interacted with art and explored ancient Egypt.

The hostility from one stranger won’t stop me from trying to parent. They say doctors “practice” medicine—well I practice parenting. I’m not perfect, and that’s how I learn. I don’t regret addressing the lady because I do think she was out of line. I also think we probably should have left when my mom meltdown radar told me we should leave. I regretted the way the day ended, and now I’m grateful to be able to reflect, share and learn. I may have only shared the good moments in photos and videos, and that’s because they were valuable moments that I want to remember. The disapproving stranger will not take that away from me.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Molly England

Molly England perpetually attempts to simplify her life. She aspires to be a decent mother, wife, daughter, and friend. Meanwhile, she processes the daily chaos and beauty by jotting down her thoughts. Molly’s writing is featured on The Washington Post, HuffPost, Scary Mommy, Salon, Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine, Sammiches & Psych Meds, and more.

I Had to Learn to Say “I’m Sorry” to My Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Mom hugs tween daughter

My two oldest kiddos are at the front end of their teen years. I remember that time in my own life. I was loud, somewhat dramatic, I let my hormones control me, and I never—ever—apologized. This last part was because no one ever really taught me the value of apology or relationship repair. Now, I could do some parent blaming here but let’s be real, if you were a kid whose formative years were scattered between the late ’80s and early ’90s, did you get apologies from your parents? If so, count that blessing! Most parents were still living with...

Keep Reading

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading

Sometimes a Kid Just Needs a Sick Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy outside, color photo

My middle son stayed home from school today. He said he was sick. I’m not sure that is the truth. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was an amazing caretaker, especially when you were sick. She pulled out all the stops. A cozy clean space to be, a thermos with ice cold juice by your side, Mrs. Grass’s soup, and Days of Our Lives on the screen while she tidied up the house. It was the best feeling in the world to be home and cozy with my mom when I was sick. It felt cozy and...

Keep Reading

Sometimes We Need Someone to Just Sit With Us in Our Struggle

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sad woman sits on floor, black and white image

Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down,...

Keep Reading

Daughter of Mine, Do Not Let the World Extinguish Your Fire

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter, color photo

Daughter of mine, I see the fire behind your eyes. Do not let it die. Daughter of mine who runs wildly and loves freely and whose anger is always whipping silently just under the surface like a pilot light, ready to ignite with one tiny spark. Do not let it die. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine Daughter of mine, one day you will become a woman, and the world will try to steal you and mold you and tell you who to become. Do not let it. It will try to fit you in...

Keep Reading