We drove to the city today so Brian could get seeds from a small neighborhood co-op that sells organic seeds in bulk. It’s become a kind of ritual; since we aren’t paying members of the co-op and since we don’t normally drive all the way to the city to shop, we rarely go there except in the spring to buy seeds.
It is a small, cozy shop with organic produce and health food. I put the baby in a cart and Hannah and I shopped around a little while Brian took the other kids to pick out seeds.
Joshua, as you probably know, is a few things: impatient, strong-willed, and LOUD. He tolerates a little cart-riding, but not much. I drove past Brian to see his progress. He was carefully labeling a packet of spinach, and was about a third of the way through.
Joshua was straining against the seat belt, grunting and squawking. I got him out, and he and I pushed the cart (he likes to push stuff) for a few laps around the shop. It got old quickly, and Joshua began to shop.
To Josh, shopping is running, grabbing something off the shelf, throwing it, and then running to the next item as I’m picking up whatever he’s thrown.
I reason with him, I say, “OK, pick it up and put it back.” Sometimes he does. Others, he doesn’t. We were fine in the canned goods aisle. But then he got into the condiment aisle, where many items within his reach are glass.
He reaches for a bottle of vinagrette. I lunge, grab, replace, and scoop Josh up. He is NOT thrilled with this, as I am clearly interrupting his gleeful shopping spree.
He squirms, squeals. I walk over to Brian to see how much longer. Josh twists, howls. Brian’s still got several more varieties he needs to count and label. Hannah is looking at the hand made soap, and I walk over to see what she’s found. Josh arches his back, and lets a mighty whooping cry.
“You might want to take him outside.” The voice comes from down the aisle. I look over, smiling, thinking that the person behind the voice is commiserating, or kidding (it was pouring outside, and chilly). The face of a man with a tasteful leather jacket, pressed-looking tee-shirt and designer jeans grips his basket stares at me, his eyes communicating no jest. “It’s obnoxious. We shouldn’t have to listen to that in here. We’re trying to shop.”
Uh. I feel as though the air has been knocked out of me. I smile, a little wavering-ly. “I’m sorry,” I say, and hold my hand out for Brian to give me the keys. I grab Hannah’s hand and drag her outside before I cry in front of everyone.
Josh is immediately quiet in the truck; I let him mess with the steering wheel and radio buttons. I, however, begin sobbing. Hannah says, “Mommy, that man was rude to you, wasn’t he?”
I don’t know. I’ve been around people with uncontrollable kids. I’ve thought to myself, “Jeez. What a monster.” I’ve been around people who have no regard for the fact that others might not be able to control their circumstances. In Wegmans the day before Easter, a woman huffed and harrumphed her way through a busy produce department, upset that people were so packed and so pokey.
Josh is loud. If there is something he wants that I can give him to make him quiet, I’ll do it, especially if we’re in public. But if he wants to trash the bulk granola, I’m not really into paying for all that, so I guess he’s gonna holler a little.
What this comes down to is: are kids, like, so much of a CHOICE that I should be condemned to never inconvenience anyone else by subjecting them to my daily struggles with them? I mean what really struck me, as I sat in the truck crying, is that that man had NO IDEA. Every. Day. I. Live. Through. what he was simply saying I should take outside because (why? he couldn’t think clearly with the squawking? because it “hurt his ears?” because the vibrations were sullying his organic leaf lettuce?).
Look, buddy. I don’t get to tell someone to take it outside. This is my life. So I can’t live publicly? I can’t be in places where other people might be uncomfortable or bothered by what IS MY LIFE? Again, I understand. I have made a choice to make my lifestyle different from people who choose to live, shall we say, quieter lives. Do we need to have grocery stores for people with kids, and grocery stores for people without?
But I’m not angry. Not at him. The clerk came out to the truck to tell me she was sorry, and that she would speak to the other customer, and that I could come back in if I wanted.
Brian assured me he offered the man some well-chosen words before he left.
But it hurt me. Because he was saying: You should not be here. You do not BELONG here. Get out.
Here is what I’m doing with this experience: the next time I’m annoyed by another’s actions, inactions, inability to assess appropriate behavior for a situation, or other incident that would normally evoke my utter disdain, I will make sure I remember the way that I felt when I was treated with scorn.
And I won’t be annoyed. I’ll smile. And maybe cry some more.