I was grocery shopping today in the best store ever, Aldi, with my 4-year old escaped mental patient whom was having a good day. He was in a good mood, chatting away, discussing the merits of outer space and why didn’t the packet of alphabet pasta have any numbers in it, while we were checking out. A lady came up to the cashier to complain about an item she had purchased two weeks ago. Without so much as even asking for a receipt, the clerk gave her a replacement but she felt the need to comment that my child was well behaved, unlike some of the other kids she had seen in here. She began ranting about two children who were in the store last week when she was there, just running around, being loud and unruly. I tried to nicely diffuse the situation that perhaps the kids were just having a bad day. Even kids have bad days, you know. Didn’t even try to get into the ages of the kids and whatnot. My suggestion was met with deaf ears (expectedly!) and she insisted that the kids were just awful. They were hitting each other. All the while, she’s nodding at my child as if he’s the Golden One.
What she doesn’t know is that last year, he was the devil incarnate when it came to Aldi and his screams could be heard throughout the store for every entire shopping experience, because he was a three year old mental patient then with no logic, rhyme or reason to his actions. He lives on pure emotion and that expression of emotion. What she doesn’t know (and I don’t know) is that perhaps those two kids last week are coming from a difficult situation, maybe there’s trouble at home. Maybe this is the first time they got to go grocery shopping in a month. Maybe they’re hell on earth, maybe they aren’t. Maybe the mother just needed to get her grocery shopping done and didn’t have childcare. We don’t all have a village of people at our disposal.
I refused to acknowledge or concur with this woman’s conclusions of her previous experience, ending the dialogue that I’m sure it must have been very tough on the mother and I turned back to the clerk.
Really people, does a little empathy have to be so hard to provide???? We’re all so damn quick to judge, so quick to hoist an imaginary level of superiority over complete strangers, when the God’s honest truth is that you have absolutely no damn idea what’s going on in their world, why someone, anyone, is acting how they do. What I want to know is how does it make YOU feel to belittle random strangers? What good does it do you???
My family went to brunch last Saturday and my 7-year old asked to sit next to me. It was a rare moment of her wanting my attention and actively engaging with me, so I spent the entire brunch focusing on her completely. My husband and son were mostly ignored and to anyone looking on the outside, it must have looked weird, but I never get to devote time just to her. Haven’t been able to for years! So when she opens a window for me to connect with her, you better believe I’ll drop whatever it is and give her what she needs. Again though, anyone looking at our table wouldn’t have known that.
Frequently, when we are out and about, my son will declare he wants to go home. Sometimes, it’ll make others feel uncomfortable and I’ll be damned if I care. He’s an introvert. He’s four years old. If he’s emotionally aware enough to tell me that he’s reached his limit socially, I better listen. It’s quite funny to see some faces sometimes. The looks of disapproval when he projects how he’s feeling can be epic, because somehow all children are supposed to conform to some uniform standard of behavior (i.e. being extroverts) and any deviance from that makes people uncomfortable. An adult listening to a child is apparently a rare enough phenomenon that I get odd looks as if to say, “you’re leaving because of him??” and the answer will be yes! I may try to drag out another thirty minutes, but when he’s reached his external limit of tolerating other people (and that’s what introverts do, they merely tolerate), it’s nothing short of cruel to ignore their pleas.
So please. Just keep your thoughts to yourself. If you think the children in the grocery store are a nuisance to you, instead of complaining about them, be grateful they’re not going home with you in your car, OK?