Like most moms, I've been with my kids as they've navigated life's milestone moments. I have their first smiles, first teeth, first words, and first steps lovingly recorded in their baby books.
As they've grown, I've chronicled some of their more poignant milestones, such as pet deaths, first girlfriends, and broken hearts. Through them all, I've been there, ready to either celebrate or soothe.
Recently, my oldest son Ryan and I stopped at a local convenience store for a couple of sandwiches. While Ryan waited at the deli counter for the sandwiches to be made, I decided to move the car to one of the gas pumps and get some gas.
I'd just finished parking the car next to the gas pump when I saw Ryan come out of the store with our lunch. I also saw a young couple, probably in their twenties, shouting at each other in the middle of the parking lot in front of the store.
It appeared to be a pretty intense breakup. She was shoving clothing at him and he responded by throwing and crushing as many things of hers that he could find. One by one, he threw various items onto the asphalt including, oddly, a potted plant (doesn't everyone carry one of those with them to the convenience store?) and what appeared to be lip gloss and hand sanitizer. I suppose nothing says "we're through" quite like crushed hand sanitizer.
Ryan made his way past the arguing couple to our car. He'd no sooner gotten inside when we both saw the guy shove his girlfriend to the ground. In an instant, he was on top of her, pinning her down with his body and pummeling her face with his fists.
Another man tried to pull the irate boyfriend off of the girl. As soon as he'd succeeded, though, both the boyfriend and the beaten girl turned their anger onto him and began punching him.
Before I could say anything, Ryan jumped out of the car and ran up to the fight. He pushed the girl out of the way and subdued the boyfriend in order to free the unfortunate good Samaritan. Thanks to Ryan's efforts, the man was able to escape, but now the crazed boyfriend was punching Ryan.
Nobody hits my baby.
In what was probably not a very good idea, I ran up to the boyfriend and demanded in my sternest voice possible that he leave my son alone. It must have been quite a sight: middle-aged me getting in the face of this badly-behaving jilted boyfriend. Still, I must have at least been a distraction. Ryan was able to free himself and pin the guy to the ground, an action that provoked hostility from the equally combative girlfriend. She swung wildly at Ryan while yelling for him to leave her boyfriend alone because (who didn't see this coming?) she loved him.
The boyfriend was back on his feet and things were really getting ugly. Even though he was more than capable of defending himself, there was no way I was going to leave Ryan to fend for himself against these two. I channeled my inner Mama Grizzly, shrieking and pulling at the girl to get her away from my son.
Now in the middle of the conflict, I could see the girl's face. Her nose was badly bleeding and she had a wild yet vacant look in her eyes. She was high on something but it certainly wasn't love.
Coming face to face with her, my first thought was why would she allow someone to treat her like this? My next thought was that she was someone's daughter, someone's baby girl. I'm sure her parents wouldn't want to see their child beaten by someone who was supposed to love her.
So, I did what any red-blooded, slightly out-of-her mind mom would have done: I tried to reason with her. "You shouldn't let him treat you this way. You're bleeding and your stuff is all over the parking lot. Is this what love looks like to you?"
She stopped trying to hit Ryan long enough to tell me what I could do with myself. Let's just say she wasn't wishing me a good day.
A petite woman, probably in her late-50's, came up to us and asked the girl if she was OK. At the same time, the boyfriend, also under the influence of something other than love, staggered over and began screaming at the girl again. The petite woman quietly suggested that someone call the police. The girl heard this and flew into a rage. "No one's calling the police! I love him!" She swung around while punching uncontrollably, hitting the petite woman squarely in the nose and narrowly missing my own face.
Any sympathy I'd felt for this girl was now replaced with anger. I grabbed the girl's arm and pulled her away from the woman, surprised that she didn't fight me. Several people including Ryan had formed a human corral around the boyfriend, separating him from the girl and rendering him harmless, if not entirely quiet. He spewed every verbal yet incoherent assault imaginable.
Employees from the convenience store as well as a crowd of twenty or thirty customers stood along the edge of the parking lot. A woman shouted that the police were on their way. Another woman who was a nurse came over to check on the petite woman, who was speechless and in shock at having been attacked by someone she tried to help.
With the situation finally under some semblance of control, Ryan and I left the melee and went back to our car, still parked at the gas pump. Four police cars with lights flashing pulled into the parking lot just as we were pulling out.
"That was pretty intense," I said to Ryan. "But I'm proud of you for trying to do what's right."
"I couldn't not do anything."
"I know. You're a good person."
After a while, Ryan said, "Hey, I guess this was my first fight."
"Yeah, I guess it was. Maybe I should enter it in your baby book," I joked.
As a mom, I've always known that I'd do anything for my children. Apparently "anything" also includes abandoning all reason and jumping into the middle of a fist fight.