I will begin this post with an apology to my dear husband who I am certain would rather me never write it. Mainly because he would never want something like this to upset me. So, Moustapha, I am sorry. But, I am also inspired to share my not so lovely experience with friends and other parents out there who have ever taken a child or children to the grocery store. This is for you.
The following is an open letter to the admittedly “not nice” lady my four children and I encountered at our local grocery store on December 30, 2013. I’ve written about grocery shopping with kids before. See How does Momma grocery shop for her Els? from 2011 This is a little different:
Dear Not Nice,
I am not sure what it is exactly that my four children and I did to offend you so. However, your aggressive “know-it-all” behavior wasn’t received well by us or any of the human-beings who had the misfortune of being in your path today. To say that I was shocked by you, is putting it mildly. It was astonishing.
Let me tell you about the events before you approached me and my four children to tell me how horrible they were and that they were my responsibility- a fact I am pretty much constantly aware of every moment of every day.
This morning, my fever broke around 10am. I began running fever around 530pm two days prior, during the visitation for my husband’s uncle who passed away on Christmas day. We drove 3 hours to attend the services and not long after our arrival, I became sick. A few hours before encountering you, was the first time I felt well enough to venture out by myself with my children in several days. My husband went to work earlier and I was left to care for our four children alone and sick. We wanted to make the best of it. I offered to take them to a special brunch at our local diner. They were so excited. As is my normal practice, I let them know what to expect while we were out. “First, we will go to the Diner and have brunch together. If we all make good choices at lunch you can each have a quarter to play one video game before we leave. After brunch, we will make a quick trip to the store to get everything we need to make chicken spaghetti and then we will can go home.” We agreed. Got dressed and eventually made it out of the house for our brunch.
We had a delightful brunch.
After brunch, we headed to store. When we arrived, we went straight to the restrooms. We washed hands and I loaded the 2 youngest children in the cart. My two oldest, 7 and 8 yrs old were walking with the cart and me as is our normal practice at this store. The largest cart they have at this location is for 2 children. My two youngest, ages 3 and 5 buckled in to their seats in the cart.
We made our way through the store. Fruits first. Vegetables next. Chicken for the Chicken spaghetti, etc. We were on our way. At one point, one of the boys who happens to have special needs) began to remove his jacket. We stopped everything and waited for him to put it back on. I was afraid he would put it down and lose it and I let him know that I expected him to keep his jacket on and that we were almost done.
Taking four children to the grocery store is never high on my list of things I love to do. It’s work and frankly I am really good at it. I am pretty strict on them. They can’t touch anything. They can only help when I ask and they can’t overwhelm me with a million “i want this and i want thats.” If they are really good, sometimes I will treat them at the end of our trip with a donut of their choice or a favorite snack.
When we made it to the front of the store to check out, we saw a classmate of my 3 year old in the line next to ours. It was extremely crowded as to be expected on the day before New Year’s Eve. We waited patiently. Finally, it was time to check out. I lifted my five year old daughter out of the cart, so she could help her older brothers unload the groceries. We were doing great until she reached into the cart with one hand and lifted the blueberries from the cart. The container opened up and blueberries fell to the floor. We started trying to clean up. I immediately asked our checkout attendant if he could call for help. He called and let me know that someone was on their way to help us. I was continuing to talk to them about being careful not to make more of a mess and step on any blueberries.
That’s when you approached me to tell me “Your children are making a huge mess. This is your responsibility.” Or, something to that effect. I think I handled you well at that point, letting you know that we had called for help and were cleaning up the blueberries. I thought that would be it. But, that wasn’t enough for you. You huffed around and got very close to us continuing to tell me how awful we were. I again let you know that it was an accident and asked you if you had four children. I don’t know why I asked that. I guess in the moment I felt like you had no compassion for a woman in my shoes and were just ready to judge and pounce. You looked bewildered. I then let you know that you were not being nice and that is when I thought something was terribly wrong. You looked at me and said “I am not nice. I am not nice.” What impacted me and my dear children the most was not your poor behavior, but the kind responses of others. The gentle way the lady helping us sweep up the blueberries told my dear daughter not to worry and that accidents happen. The clerk helping us who reached his hand out to me and told me everything would be alright. The neighboring customers who told you to leave us alone and gently told me that everything was fine and not to worry about you.
We celebrate Christmas through the entire Christmas season, which goes through Epiphany. December 30th is right in the middle of Christmas time. I am doing everything I can to teach my children well. We teach them about patience, which we often lack. We teach them about love, loving our neighbors and our enemies, which is often one of the hardest challenges. We teach them about compassion for others, to live outside of our red brick home and make a positive difference in our world. We teach them that God is good and that His desire is for good and not for evil. We face challenges. They wonder about death and why there is so much pain the world. They wonder why bad things happen. Sometimes we can answer their questions and sometimes we join them in the wondering. And, then there is you. The lesson of you. We’ve been back to our neighborhood grocery store twice since our encounter with you. You are now a lesson we have been forced to learn. I have a feeling you thought you were teaching us some other lesson. But, what you taught us was to have faith in the good of humanity. You reminded us that we need to keep our eyes open, be prepared for an attack, but look closer to see the good that surrounds us.
I am so very thankful for every person that surrounded us in that store on that day. Their support was amazing. One last thing. Families need groceries too. I would advise you to shop when children are in bed or in school, if you have such a problem with them. Children do have a right to be in grocery stores.
|A picture of Us (minus me, the photographer) at brunch just before our grocery store trip|