A writer friend shared this classic saying with me: Fate leads those who follow it and drags those who resist it. The same is true of motherhood. We can fight it, but it will change us nonetheless.
In my life before kids, there weren’t many consequences for the things I did and said. As long as I was able to weave my antics into a wacky adventure, I was typically rewarded for them. This was especially true in my relationship with my husband’s ex-girlfriend, Baz.
My obsession with Baz was the foundation for most of my comedy on Twitter and the inspiration for not one but two chapters in my first book. In my younger years (read: most of my 30s), I did drive-bys down her block, posted pics of myself in cute outfits I hoped she’d stumble across while googling me, and reeled her into interacting with me by finding things of hers around our house and gifting them back to her. Though cautious, Baz always seemed to respond to my high jinks, which only egged me on. But this is not that story.
Just before the start of this school year, Jason and I rented a house on Nantucket for a week and invited my sister, Samantha, and her family to join us. Samantha has three boys, two of whom are the same ages as my sons, Sid, 5, and Lazlo, 2. Her eldest, coincidentally, goes to school with Baz’s sister’s kids, making the two of them “mom friends.”
It was our second-to-last day on the island and the older boys wanted to see a movie in town. I waited out Lazlo’s nap and arrived at the theater about a half hour after my sister. Once I’d parked my car, she ran over and banged on my window.
“Jenny! It’s your lucky day!” she exclaimed. “Guess who I just bumped into? Baz! And her entire family!”
I hadn’t seen Baz for a good six years. I knew she was married and had heard she’d had a baby, but I was no longer up-to-date on her life the way I’d once been.
Courtesy of Jenny Mollen
“They’re walking around Main Street. You’re gonna see them,” my sister assured me. And shortly after, there she was, standing on an adjacent corner looking back at me. I was Captain Ahab and she was my Moby Dick.
My heart started racing as I tried to think of the best way to handle the situation. Unlike the old Jenny, who would have stopped at nothing to harpoon Jason’s former flame, I felt guilt and shame over the chaos I’d previously caused.
Baz held hands with her daughter, a little girl roughly the same age as Lazlo, as they cautiously crossed toward me.
Her past involvement with my husband was instantly irrelevant. She was a mother now, with responsibilities just like my own. To show her anything other than empathy would be antithetical to everything I try to model for my own kids.
Baz’s sister rushed up to my sister, and they began chatting. I stayed about a block away until Lazlo broke free from my arms and went charging in their direction.
Jason appeared just in time, swooping up Lazlo and making awkward small talk with Baz and her parents. Eventually, I had no choice but to join them. I could tell she didn’t want to speak to me, and I tried to honor that. The truth was that I didn’t deserve to be spoken to, and I understood her feelings fully.
I never thought I’d feel comfortable being an adult. Maturity seemed boring and the high road too arduous to trek. But kicking and screaming, I’ve changed.
A week later, I sent Baz this email: “Baz, I know I can’t take back the past. But I want you to know that I’ve grown up a lot since we knew each other. As a woman and a mother, I only want to lead with kindness, and the girl that I once was, was not kind. I know that I hurt you, and for that I am deeply sorry.”
This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's December 2019 issue as “Taking the High Road, Even If It Kills Me.”