Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ms. Manners

Today I had some errands to run after dropping E off at school. Since I am babysitting, I had all 4 little kids with me. I am quite a sight wherever I go, and I usually get lots of second looks as people see 4 small children, close in height, and age. I get many questions as to how old they are, if they are all mine, if they are twins, etc., etc. So I wasn't too surprised in Target when an older woman stopped me at the end of the aisle and asked, "Are these your children?"

"Well, not exactly..." I started, ready with my usual stock response of 'these two are, these two are friends'.

But I was interrupted mid sentence as the woman jabbed her finger at me and snapped, "You need to teach them manners!" And then she turned on her heel and walked away.

My smile froze on my face as I tried to process her remark. It was so unexpected, and so rude, I was taken aback. I herded the boys toward the next aisle and tried to figure out what prompted her remarks.

I admit the kids can sometimes get out of hand, running down the aisles, yelling, or touching merchandise. When this happens I usually reign them in, making them walk with their hands on the cart. In fact, we had just been at Costco and the boys had been getting rowdy, and I made them sit in a time-out as I went through the checkout.

I thought back over the last few minutes. I hadn't been totally focused on their behavior as I was pondering the bed linen selection, trying to see if anything would work for the girls' room. As I perused the shelves, squinted at price tags and considered color and pattern choices, the kids were pretending to have no arms. They pulled their arms into their shirts robot/transformer style ("Ch-ch-chk") and then proclaimed they had no arms. I absent-mindedly commented each time "Aww, that's so sad, you don't have any more arms!" or "That's too bad, I really liked your arms". Then they would gleefully pull out their arms and say, "They're right here!".

So, they weren't being silent, and it might have been a little noisy as all 4 children vied for my attention, but they certainly weren't acting crazy or disruptive. The two little girls were sitting in the cart, and the boys were standing close by. As I turned the corner I remember the woman talking to the sales clerk and they both looked at me as I started to come down the aisle. The sales clerk said to the woman, "Well, thank you for bringing it to my attention". She must have been complaining about the kids and hoping that Target lady would say something to me. But when she didn't, this woman immediately stopped me at the end of the aisle, blocking my way with her cart, and decided to take matters into her own hands.

After she walked away, I went hot and then cold, trying to think of something to say in response. All I could think was "What?" It was so unexpected, I felt like I had been sucker-punched. I kind of wish I had the "where-with-all" to give some kind of snappy response, but even now, with time to think about it, I can't come up with anything.

This whole experience is a good reminder to me not to judge other moms as they are out and about with their children. I don't know what kind of day they have had or if the kids are hungry, tired, or sick. It is not for me to pass judgment on other moms' parenting skills. A little understanding and empathy go a long way.


JoshHan said...

wow, all I can say is that someone should teach that lady some manners.

EEEEMommy said...

That's just rotten! :(
I'm reminded of a time that we took all 4 kids to see March of the Penguins at the movies. We went towards the end of its running, at a matinee which was almost empty. Before the movie started, our toddler was walking back and forth from me to Chris, and the kids were talking. Then we had an employee come tell us that there had been numerous complaints and that we needed to keep our kids quiet or we would be asked to leave. So we did. And then after the movie started, another attendant came and told us that they'd received another complaint and that we would have to leave if our kids didn't behave (but they hadn't made a peep or moved at all!) The two kids in front of us were talking with their dad though, but somehow we'd been targeted with our 4. I watched the entire (LONG) movie terrified of getting kicked out and angry. It didn't take long to discover that it was an older couple who had complained. You would think they would be glad that a family was going to such a quality movie together...

I'm sorry that woman was so rude to you. I can't imagine any of your kids being disrespectful and your not dealing with it yourself. You're a fantastic mom, and you have fabulous kids!!!

Rachel said...

Dude, did you see my post from like the same day? I had a harrowing encounter with a RUDE lady at Costco and just had to post about it as well. So glad that it's not just me...

Heather said...

daisy, this kind of stuff happens to mommies all the time. i don't understand it at all. sometimes i think that grouchy people just need to take their grouchiness out on someone, and we are easy targets! you are a wonderful, patient, kind, and loving mom and caregiver. don't let her let you believe otherwise!

The Moser Family said...

After reading your blog and Rachel's I'm afraid to go out in public - I'm going to be next! And, you both are such wonderful moms and take your parenting seriously.
I'm glad you know where to find your true value and significance.

Jen said...

Hi Daisy,
Haven't stopped by here in awhile...boy, the kids are getting big!
Re: your post, I was in a store the other day (without the kids) and saw an older lady fly into a little boy who was with his sister in the "kids corner" playing while the mom was shopping nearby. Apparently the little boy had knocked over his sister's toy and then said he didn't when she fussed. The older lady marched over to him, pointed her finger in his face and said, "Don't lie! I just watched you do it!"
My first thought was, "Wow...glad she's not my Grandma" and then I realized she was just another shopper. I assumed she knew the little boy, but apparently not! So many people are carrying anger around which manifests in such hurtful ways. It's very likely that your encounter had nothing to do with you and everything to do with that lady's unresolved emotions. I'm sorry you had to bear the brunt of it :-(

In other news, thanks for stopping by with your good wishes. For some reason they didn't show up in the comments, but I really appreciate them, as did Bob :-) I'm doing great, feeling completely normal and even better than that on many days! God has been - and continues to be - abundantly faithful and we look forward to all the blessings He has in store for us. Looking ahead to the unknown can let in worry, so we look behind and find no reason to believe He'll stop caring and providing. His track record is pretty good ;-)

Hope you're enjoying the Christmas activities with the kids. It's a great age now, isn't it?
Give our best to Ed and have a great holiday.

Love, Jen (and Bob)