It was another busy morning. I had not slept well the night before. The baby was recovering from a double ear infection and had been awake multiple times. The toddler had a cold and was cutting a set of molars. My husband hadn’t had a day off in two weeks due to work and weekends training at the fire academy. Needless to say, I was tired.
I was grocery shopping alone with both the boys. Every mother knows how stressful this simple errand can be. I never feel the need for another set of hands more than when I’m at NoFrills trying to juggle my list, calculator, snacks, jackets, sippy cups, and bottles while trying to keep the kids from killing each other.
(Side note: who thought it was a good idea to put the seats side by side in the cart? Why not one at each end, FAR AWAY from each other? How do they expect two tiny humans to sit in such close proximity for an hour without annoying each other to death?)
Fifteen minutes in and all the snacks were eaten. The boys got bored quickly, and the poking, shoving and whining began. I rescued the situation by carrying the baby, not an easy feat considering he’s 26 pounds already.
When my arms got too sore I put him back in the cart and let the toddler walk beside me, praying he would behave and not bring down an entire shelf of tomato products or run screaming in the opposite direction of where I needed to go. Thankfully he behaved fairly well. Wow, was I actually getting good at this parenting thing?
We made it to the checkout without any major meltdowns, but their patience was running thin. The toddler, who was unwillingly back in the cart, kept pushing his brother away from “his side” because you know…kids. (Cart manufacturers, help me out a little here?!) The baby was unimpressed and started crying, leaning out of his seat towards me, asking to be held. They were both tired of sitting and were getting hungry for lunch. I was feeling rushed to get home and feed them so that they could both go down on time for their afternoon naps.
Just then a cascade of gift cards hit the ground and scattered everywhere. I smiled sheepishly at the horrified lady behind me as I reprimanded the toddler, crawling around on my hands and knees cleaning up the mess. I ignored her stares as I tried to keep him from snatching the candy bars that were laid out temptingly beside us.
I hurried through the checkout as quickly as I could, but by the time I paid and started to pack the groceries, both the children had lost it. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me as their screaming filled the store. I kept my eyes down, trying to avoid the judgy looks and disapproving glances I knew I would see. This wasn’t the first time this had happened. Feeling stressed, I started throwing things into bags as fast as I could, not caring if the grapes or kiwis got squished. I just wanted to get out of there, fast.
A grandma walked by us pushing her young granddaughter in the cart. “Don’t you ever do that,” she said, addressing the little girl, but loud enough so I could hear. I looked up and met her eyes, daring her to say something to my face. She clucked disapprovingly as she watched the boys reaching behind them and throwing things out of the cart.
I was trying not to get embarrassed but the tantrums weren’t letting up, and I still had more than half the groceries to pack. My oldest smacked his brother on the head, causing the wails to erupt at an even higher pitch. I corrected him and told him to be nice. I offered a bottle to the baby and promised treats to the toddler if he would be good, trying to quiet them down long enough so I could grab the rest of my things and run. Yes, I bribed them. And no, it didn’t work. They both kept crying even louder. The baby flung his bottle on the ground and grabbed at my clothes while the toddler shovelled all the jackets off the cart.
The conveyor belt was backing up. Other people were going through the cash and needed my groceries out of the way. At least two people had paid and left already and I still was only half finished. Honestly, at that moment I wanted to join in the crying.
Suddenly I heard a cheerful voice by my elbow. I looked over to see you, one of the cashiers, picking up the childrens’ coats off the floor.
“Is this yours?” You smiled at my toddler as you helped him put on his jacket.
“I LOVE your coat. It looks so cozy, it’s my favourite style,” you kept on talking in a calming voice, zipping it up and popping his hood on.
Both the kids had stopped crying and were staring at your beaming face. I stared too.
“Any chance I have to get away from my register these days, I take it. It is so busy lately,” You laughed, tickling the baby’s cheeks and making him giggle.
I picked my coat up off the floor. You looked right at me when I stood up and put your hand on my arm.
“And how are you doing, mom?”
I looked at your face and saw no hint of judgement. You weren’t annoyed or frustrated. You didn’t care that my kids had just disturbed every person within earshot. You weren’t there comforting my children because you felt sorry for me or couldn’t stand the noise. You were there because you cared.
“I’m doing good,” I smiled.
And thanks to you, I actually was.
You chatted and played with the boys while I finished packing my groceries. There were no more tears and crying. You had completely changed their mood. They were happy and laughing by the time I placed the last bag in the cart.
“You have a great day,” you nodded at me, giving the baby’s hand a final squeeze.
All I said was thank you. I wanted to tell you what you did for me, but I didn’t know how. I just smiled gratefully and watched you leave. Then turned and walked out of that store with my head up, smiling…because of you.
You didn’t judge my mothering skills even when everyone else around me was. You didn’t frown and shake your head at my “unruly” children. You weren’t condescending. You didn’t try to give me advice. You just stepped up and helped me when I needed it. And you did it without making me feel small and embarrassed.
I’m sure I’m not the first mother to experience your care. There must be so many other tired women out there whose day you’ve brightened.
I just want to say thank you. I wish that everyone was like you, that their first reaction to crying children would be sympathy instead of wishing “those brats” would just “shut up”. There would be a lot of happy mothers out there if people showed them love and understanding as you did for me.
I walked out to my car, smiling. I buckled my children in their car seats, still smiling. I loaded the groceries in the trunk and drove home with a warm feeling in my heart. You turned my day around. You took the time to bless me and my kids. You made sure I felt like an awesome mother.
And for that, I thank you.
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