This is Mr. Mopman.
I don't know his name, but I sure know his face. Spencer and Brian do too. He's become a non-speaking, late-night, familiar-faced friend.
Some days, as a family, we have late nights. You see, with the age difference between my 13-year-olds and my 4-year-old, they have differing schedules with the multitude of differing activities each are involved in. So, when Spencer gets home from "Afternoon School" at 3:00 p.m., I sometimes make him take a late nap knowing that we are going to be out late. We are usually picking up the girls from their soccer practice or church group or volleyball practice or from the movies with their friends.
Most of the time, Spencer and I are rushing out the door at a time too early to be carrying around hot dinners for everyone, so we grab turkey and cheese and crackers and fruit and when things finally settle down for the night, we go to the Army Base Food Court (kind of like a mall food court) where there is a Taco Bell, Subway, Burger King, Anthony's Pizza, Baskin-Robbins and Popeye's Chicken (ya, not the most healthy of foods, but come on. We all have THOSE nights). We usually arrive about 30 minutes before closing time which means Mr. Mopman is already starting on Section 1 of putting up chairs to then mop the entire thing.
I've never heard Mr. Mopman say a single word. I think he's a bit shy. He just smiles and laughs while Spencer runs around the area he is trying to mop. Spencer is a silly boy, "acting" like he's going to step on the newly mopped area (after already learning from a previous experience that he can't run on the clean part so we know he's just playing). Mr. Mopman just laughs, which only encourages Spencer. When I ask if it's all right, Mr. Mopman just nods and laughs.
It becomes a "game" that goes on while we're trying to order our food.
Spencer's entertained. We're fine with it.
One night we came in and Mr. Mopman was close to being finished with Section 1 (I think Section 2 happens after closing time, cuz we've never seen it cleaned). It had been an unusually warm Spring day and we all know Spencer becomes Sweaty Boy if he has his shoes on on a warm day. So I figured no harm in letting him take his shoes off, especially since the floor had just been mopped and there were only two other families in the entire place.
I definitely recognized one of the families sitting down, but thought nothing of it. I didn't especially like the mom, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I'm not trying to be unfairly judgmental or mean, I just try to stay away from people who have already shown their true character is mean and toxic. One meeting with this woman, Toxic Lady, you know she's a bitter, mean woman. Her entire face shows it. I just stay away.
The first time I met her was at X&X's first volleyball game. There were a lot of girls (45) on the team, including her daughter, so there were a lot of parents I didn't know. Much to my surprise as it was Xanthe's next turn to serve and I was feeling a surge of pride for her doing so well, I hear this scratchy, nasty voice behind me yelling very loud and absurdly mean things directly TO and ABOUT Xanthe. "We don't want HER to serve!!! She missed it last time!!! Get her off the court!!!"
I about lost it. Xanthe was only doing an extra serve because one of the other players had chickened out and Xanthe was the Co-Captain on the court, thus in charge of keeping the game going (since there were four other games going on at the time... the main Coach couldn't be at every game at once, so the Captains and Co-Captains helped in this area). And Xanthe had served 5 great serves, but the rules of that specific game (we were playing a German team with different rules) after 5 good serves, it automatically goes to the other team.
But Toxic Lady didn't care. She just continued to yell where Xanthe could hear. I could tell it was starting to fluster Xanthe and Xanthe was close to tears (even though trying not to show it). After the game, she confirmed that it had really hurt her feelings and tripped her up for the rest of the day. Especially being her first game, it made her lose a lot of self-confidence that she had tried hard to build since it was only her first year of playing volleyball.
But it wasn't just Xanthe that this lady was yelling at. Toxic Lady continued to yell at every player on the court.
I was livid. I didn't know her name so I snuck (sneaked?) pictures of her. But never fear, I went to complain right away. I found out, though, that before I even got there, 4 other parents had already beat me to it. Toxic Lady was soon given some pretty strong restrictions on how close she could sit from the court before being banned from the games completely.
It didn't end though. I heard her at other games too. Complaining about this, complaining about that. "Why do we have to stay here so long? You're not even playing (to her daughter). That girl needs to get OFF the court. That one should be kicked off the team. " etc., etc. Her own daughter proceeded to yell at her to "just leave! I didn't want you here anyway."
So that's the backstory.
Back to Mr. Mopman.
While Spencer was running around, I was talking to my friend, Jenni, who had met up with Brian and me after delivering cupcakes to a mutual friend. We then ran into another acquaintance who was about ready to pop (have her baby. No seriously, she was walking to get labor started). I was watching Spencer out of the corner of my eye, as was Brian. He was nearby, chasing and running away from Mr. Mopman who, Brian assured me (from previous late nights there too), loves to play this game with Spencer.
Jenni went and sat down while I continued to talk to Pregnant Friend, order food and wait. While waiting, I said goodbye to Pregnant Friend and saw that Spencer was looking down at the bucket of mop water. He was clearly intrigued. So, I proceeded to walk over and show him how it worked--- what the different compartments were for, why they put water on both sides, what the handle was for, etc., after, of course, asking Mr. Mopman if it was okay.
He just nodded. And laughed. And stopped his work to watch.
I said, "This is the clean water where the second mophead is soaking so when "he" (clearly not knowing Mr. Mopman's name and not about to call him Mr. Mopman in front of him) is finished with the dirty mopping he can do a clean mop."
"What's that yucky water?" asked Spencer.
"That's the dirty water he squeezes out after he's done mopping the dirt off the floor. See! He puts it in here and pushes the handle down to squeeze the water out." (I proceeded to show him without there being any mophead in the mop-bucket-squeezer-ma-bob).
Mr. Mopman then got involved. He took off the mophead from the one he was using and dipped it in the dirty water, then put it in the mop-bucket-squeezer-ma-bob. He showed Spencer (without words, remember) how to push the handle down really hard to squeeze all the water out. I then helped Spencer push it down by himself, something Spencer was clearly happy he had done, AND learned how to use.
When I came to sit down next to Jenni, my back was toward "Toxic Lady" and Jenni was directly facing her only about two tables away, clearly within earshot. Jenni had this funny look on her face, but I had no idea why so I pointed out that I knew her, "Oh boy. Do you see this lady behind us with her entire family? She's the one that was being so mean to Xanthe at her first volleyball game." Jenni's look then changed to a "WHAT JUST HAPPENED" on her face.
"Christy, that lady just sat for 10 minutes ripping you apart. "What kind of mother would let her child run around like that AND without shoes on. I feel so sorry for that kid. At least put some dang shoes on the kid even if you're not watching him! That's just so gross! Oh my gosh she is going to let him touch that mop water (clearly narrating every move of Spencer's)! Seriously! Someone needs to say something! That mom is letting her child bother a man while he's just trying to do his work! Let the man work, people! I can't believe this!!! I swear. The people who are even allowed to have kids... " And on and on and on." (obviously I'm paraphrasing. I wasn't there so I don't remember the exact words, but this was close to what Jenni reenacted for me.)
"She didn't know I knew you so I just sat and listened not knowing what to do at that point. Give myself away and stick up for you? or just let it pass? Then all of a sudden Spencer comes running up to me saying, 'Hi Jenni!' Mine and that lady's eyes both met and she looked like a deer in headlights. I looked at her and said, (and I'm paraphrasing) 'That's my good friend you're ripping on. I'd appreciate it if you'd stop.' Christy, what just happened?!"
I just laughed. Not even offended in the least bit. My side of the story was a bit more positive.
"Jenn, such a difference in ways to parent. When I was over showing Spencer the mop bucket, there was a mother of a cute family sitting a little ways away. They were close enough for me to hear them. I was so happy when I heard the mom say, 'Wow, what a great mom to actually show him how that thing works. Most parents would probably yell at their kid to 'get away from that, don't touch that, stop bugging him.' But she didn't. She just patiently showed him. That's super impressive.' "
Yes, I believe after hearing that compliment, nothing anyone could say, especially it being their own silly negative judgments of my parenting, could kill my happiness, at least not for awhile. There are moments where you question whether you're doing the right thing as a parent. But then there are moments that give you that small pat on the back that you're doing just fine.
This was the latter, and I was a little bit proud of myself.