To: That mom who was in front of us in the checkout line
I feel badly that my little girl accidentally bumped into your grocery cart while scooching around to grab that neon glow ball. I’m sure her innocent body didn’t mean to bother you. I’m certain it was the object in her view that made the world around her, including your cart, disappear for a moment. I’m sure you were irritated. In fact I saw it in your eyes when you looked so harshly at her. In fact this mom feels irritated, too, when she doesn’t watch what she’s doing or where she’s going. Often. But then, as I continued to put my groceries on the belt, I overheard you talking to the cashier in that serious and demonstrative voice telling her, “When my daughter was little and she acted up in the store, I took her outside and gave her a spanking and she never did it again.” That’s when I wanted to glare right back at you and give you a look like you gave my daughter. Were you trying to subtly send me a message? Because if you were, I wish you would’ve just said it to my face, because I would’ve had a reply. I would’ve met you in a way that I believe moms in grocery stores should meet one other…with compassion and understanding and grace, with an “I’m so sorry she bumped into your cart.” Because we ALL have had moments when our children have bothered adults in a store, when we’ve felt embarrassed and humiliated (maybe even shameful) by their behavior, when we’ve wished with everything inside of us that we were shopping alone, with adult manners, with the ability to keep focused on remembering what we need to buy. But, as moms, we don’t always have the opportunity or luxury or time or spouse to do that. And by the end of our shopping trip, we’re just really, really glad to have made it through the crazy-making experience and finally be done, in line checking out, because we’ve just spent so many minutes of our day managing children through a place that’s really boring and unimportant and over-stimulating to them. And the one-cent horse ride by the exit door is in view and we’re doing all we can to reach the finish line – for them, for us, for the frozen food! So then, to be met in a long and tedious line with your unkind face, glaring at my daughter, it feels unhelpful, unfruitful…not only for me and for her, but for you too. I’m sad for whatever lies inside of you that something so minute, so little in this world, got to you so severely and caused you to act so rudely, and had the ability to hide your love and gentleness that I just know lies beneath that furrowed brow. But that’s about you and whatever has gone on or is going on in your story. I have grace to offer for that. Not in spite of that, but because of that.
As for me, it reminded me of how us moms, whether new or seasoned, can offer a face of kindness and empathy when we see other moms struggling and managing and soothing and corralling, or even just wandering, in stores. Because we’ve been there. Maybe years ago, maybe hours ago. And we remember what shopping with kids was like: hard, chaotic, unnerving, definitely not any of the top 10 ways we would love to spend our day.
So again, I’m sorry that my little girl bumped into your cart. I’ll keep reminding her to try to notice what’s going on around her. That’s a really good and helpful quality to grow into.
And from me, to you – from one mama’s heart to another – may you see and feel, not only what’s happening around and to you, but what’s happening in and through your little girl, your children. So that when you’re in line at the grocery store again and some little girl bumps into your cart, you’ll notice her, and help her, and maybe even smile at her. And then, at her mom. Because you know. Because you’ve been there. And in that smile, that mom will know that you’re “with” her. That you “get” her. That you’re cheering her on.
I’ve only been on this parenting ride for about five years, but I’m pretty certain that most days, most moms, in most cities, need all the cheerleaders they can get.
From: That mom who was behind you in the checkout line