i looked at my shoes when i might have walked

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.

EinkaufswagenThis 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.

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10 thoughts on “i looked at my shoes when i might have walked

  1. How very true Lauren. I’ve seen similar situations in the store and never known what to do about it either. Parenting classes? I do think your idea of helping her out as she walks around the store has merit though, although she might have just tried to slap you instead. But really, if we moms helped each other out more, wouldn’t that be a great thing?

  2. Lauren,
    Oh this is tough. Do you step in to help and instead insult; do you step up and strike out? I do not know. I know sometimes it helps to engage someone in this position and it helps just to divert them from the chaos at hand. If that engagement leds to being able to make more of an impact then great. I have to remind myself that sometimes my interpretation of something is not what is going on at all and without facts I should be very careful making any kind of judgement.
    I do think engagement might help to simply pull them back from the edge; to help them calm and not put themselves out on a limb that is hard not to fall from.

      • Does anyone know where the cinnamon is? LOL Of course I could ask about most anything since I do not know where much is!

  3. Oh how I LOVE this post! I can all but guarantee that the mother was really overwhelmed. It is really embarrassing when your child is acting up in public, you feel like EVERYONE in the store is staring at you and judging you, and you catch people looking at you, and quickly diverting their eyes when you catch them….

    Now, there are 2 types of bad parents, the ones like me, who are trying everything they know, and it just doesn’t work, so we get frustrated, and upset and lose it and scream and threaten much to the horror of other shoppers… ie, you…
    The second type just doesn’t care. She is the mom on the cell phone telling her kids to shut the **** up or she is going to beat the **** out of them. That mother would be very OBVIOUS! She will have an attitude of I don’t care and you can’t tell me nothin… and you can’t. In that case, the only option is CPS, Unfortunately 😦 But they can help in ways that you can’t.
    Back to the first mom, the under~educated one who is overwhelmed and just barely keeping her nose above the water line… I think that the way to go about that if you really want to take a step out, is to pray, and then say something along the lines of, I can see you have your hands full, or something light that lets her know you recognize that she is struggling, in a neutral tone which will put her at ease, it’s the same kind of thing when you are at a restaurant and the waitress has 20 tables to serve because the other girl up and quit, and you say something like, wow they ought to give you some roller skates for how much they have you running… it helps break that, “everyone must think i’m a bad mom” feeling… and if she says buzz off, you do, and pray for her while you finish shopping, but just maybe, she might say, oh my gosh you have no idea, and you come back with, oh yeah, I do, I have 3! and you begin to talk a minute or two, and at that point you can offer, can I help, she may take it, may not, but the fact that someone noticed, and CARED and didn’t judge can mean a whole lot to someone….. and Lauren, if anyone on earth would have that kind grace and tact to do it, it is definitely you…. Sorry for the book haha, maybe I need my own blog! Ha! ❤ you!

    • I may have teared up when I read your comment, Kayla. I think you’re right. There’s a risk, but the risk is probably small compared to the potential reward.

  4. How? How do you do it? Just today I criss crossed with a couple in Target. I saw him on three different occasions verbally abusing her. She didn’t respond at all. Not once. She was a verbally (more?) battered woman. All of me wanted to approach her and tell her to run. There were no wedding bands. I wanted her to know she didn’t deserve such abuse. His incessant berating was exhausting and I was just an observer. How do you help?

    • 😦 That’s sad. Unfortunately, apart from praying for her to see the value she has as a person to not deserve abuse, there is nothing you can do. (Speaking from experience…) you can get them away from the guy over and over, and they will keep going back, because they feel that is all they are worth.

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