I needed to pick up a couple of things for dinner at the store. Three items was all I was getting so it was to be a quick in-and-out trip. I asked my daughter if she’d like to come with me to grab some stuff. She said yes and went to get her shoes. She’s become a great big helper in the kitchen and has a radar-like instinct whenever I open the fridge, inquiring if there’s something she can do.
In the car, she asks what the speed limit is, if I’m going too slow or too fast. She asks if I will get a ticket. She sees a cop and asks what he’s doing. (It’s a speed trap.) She tells me to speed up so I don’t get a ‘slow ticket’, you know, because she’s four and knows how to drive. She says 5000 other things that i will not list. We arrive at the store – Walmart no less. (If you don’t know, I really can’t stand Walmart and try to avoid going there if I can help it.) It was just a few items so I didn’t feel like driving into our regular store.
Once inside, we grab some apples, and my daughter decides that now would be the perfect time to launch into a whiney campaign to beg for these pouch mashed-up fruit things:
We have a rule in our house. Tantrums will get you no where. The answer to whatever you are asking becomes an automatic “No” when you throw a fit. We are consistent with this. I attempted to joke her out of it, “Have you lost all your teeth?! Are you an old lady who has only gums and can’t chew?! When did that happen?!” She giggles and snaps out of it. Or so I thought. Rounding the corner to the pasta sauce aisle, she started in again crying and stomping and wailing about the “fruit thingies”. She’s getting pretty worked up. I remind her that she’s asked (repeatedly), and I’ve answered.
Choosing the self-checkout is always a decision I make when I feel anti-social. I love self-checkout. I don’t have to hear remarks about what I’m purchasing, or make small talk. It’s not that I’m being mean or rude, there are just sometimes when talking to people takes more energy than I possess. Today was definitely one of those times. While I’m checking out the four items, trying to read the screen and move along quickly, another customer at the next self checkout lane starts in to talk to my daughter telling her what she thinks about her behavior.
“Ma’am. If you would please not talk to her right now, I’d appreciate it. It really doesn’t help.” I was even-toned. I never raised my voice. I probably sounded more exhausted and pleading than anything. I made sure to not be rude, but just kindly ask her not to address my daughter. Basically I was thinking, ‘Would you just please pretend you don’t hear her and go about your business and leave the me the heck alone?! I’m trying to get this done!’ Meanwhile, the screen is not cooperating, the attendant is looking uncomfortable and a line of people is starting to form. I can feel the heat of their eyes on the back of my neck. I’m being burned by the stares I’m receiving.
The lady turns her head over her shoulder and mutters just loudly enough so I hear it, “Well. The apple sure doesn’t fall far from the tree!”
I don’t know if I’ve ever been so angry at someone I don’t know. Hannah is completely out of sorts. I’m shaking and am about to lose it. I turn toward the attendant and inform him that the computer isn’t working, and I apologize, but I’m going to have to leave my items there. I need to leave.
Shocked by her audacity. What I can only describe as pure, unbridled frustration, I turn back toward the woman (who now will not acknowledge me) and say, “You know, your comments help no one. That was uncalled for.” Then I scooped up still-hollering Hannah and rush out. If I didn’t, I may have actually decked the lady. I sure wanted to.
Now both of us are in tears and I crumble in the car. We cry all the way home. I am the epitome of defeat.
Every parent has had meltdowns in the store. (If you haven’t, your kid isn’t old enough – just give it time. It will inevitably happen.) But if you see it, assume the parent is doing the best they can. Don’t judge. Don’t be careless with your words and opinions.
Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean anyone wants to hear it. Or needs to hear it. They just may be having an awful day. Your words may be the ones that crush them.