Sit down. Sit down! SIT! DOWN! But the child didn’t sit down in the buggy.
I’m not doing this today. But clearly, she was.
I’M GOING TO SLAP YOU! And thankfully, she didn’t. At least – not at that moment.
This went on constantly for more than 3 minutes within earshot. Every harsh sentence made my stomach turn, and I was more than ready to leave that area of the store when the mother finally wheeled her kids somewhere else, still yelling at them. The worst part was that when I caught a glimpse of the two girls in the cart, the one she was yelling at appeared to be about 12 months old.
I think every parent has been at this breaking point. I have. It’s that point when Mommy is the one who really needs the time out. And every parent at some time will say or even threaten things which they wish they could take back. There’s grace for that, thanks be to God.
But what about me, the fellow shopper? I really wanted to approach this woman and say, “Look. I get it. I’ve been there — even just last week. Can I carry your baby around and we’ll walk together? Can I push the girls in another cart behind you? Can I pray with you here in aisle 19?” But I didn’t approach her. I pretended not to notice her, because that seems to be the thing to do. Just ignore. Just keep to yourself, because it’s not your business.
But it is my business. I am in the business of advocating for kids, and I am so tired of intentionally ignoring moms who are clearly struggling with the fundamentals of every day parenting. Every parent has a bad day, but there are moms out there who are experiencing every day as a rollercoaster that just left the tracks. Everyone is screaming, and someone’s going to get hurt. Somewhere in the chaos, they become confused and start pushing everyone out instead of trying to keep everyone on board. Mom is only fighting for her own survival.
In my work as a public school teacher, I’ve seen the effects of this far more than I ever want to see.
I’m not interested in a blame game. The reasons that some parents become monster-versions of themselves are vast and varied. What I’m interested in is finding a way to reach out to people who feel hopeless and
say show them, “It can get better.”
In some cases, I think folks need a little experiential education. Perhaps the mom I described above just hasn’t seen the gentle way someone might pick up a crying toddler and talk to them about everything they’re seeing in the store. Maybe that mom was only yelled at by her own parents. Perhaps that mom has been implicitly told that immediate obedience is paramount in bringing up babies and that anything should be done to enforce it from day 1. (And we hope instead that this just happened to be the one day we caught her outside of her norm.)
But maybe more often, parents become so overwhelmed with the task they’ve been assigned that they’re simply too tired to control themselves any longer. Insecurity and exhaustion pour gasoline on the normal frustrations of parenthood, and a fiery rage takes over. (Full front page shout out to the single parents who are getting it done. I don’t know how you do it. It overwhelms me just thinking about it.)
I think it sucks that in the name of being polite, we are supposed to pretend this isn’t happening. What about the kids?
I’m praying about how I can extend a hand without making people feel judged. Because yes, I do judge that some types of parental behavior are unacceptable, but I don’t judge that having bad days makes you invaluable. Otherwise, I’d have to count myself out of the game, too.