Tuesday, January 8, 2013

 The Scene in a Target store

You could hear her throughout the entire Target store. All the way in the back of the store, next to the bicycles and exercise equipment, - extremely loud screams could be heard. At first I just smiled a little smile, one that said, "whew, I am kid-less for this afternoon, and the poor mama over there has her hands FULL!" - and dismissed the noise. I'm pretty used to sounds such as these. They are a part of my world, and they come and go.

But after a while it wasn't quite so easy to dismiss the clamor. Yes, I am used to fit-throwing and loudness, but this became something different. This little girl, out shopping with her mommy and brother was all kinds of losing it. The screams only got louder, closer together, and more intense. 

My shopping was done, and I was making my way up towards the front to complete my purchases. - Up towards The Scene that was now in full swing. I was surprised by what I saw when I approached the area near where this little family was. Everything had slowed down. Shoppers were stopped in their tracks, literally gawking as this mom tried to settle her little girl. The girl would have none of the settling. "I wanted those ear muffs! I won't leave until you buy them for me!" - If it wasn't the ear muffs it would have likely been something else. The young one appeared to be over-tired, and of course stubborn. I know the drill.

 I've been her, I've been her mama. 

 But what I did not want to be was the other patrons of this Target store, whose jaws were nearly on the cold cement floor. 

I wanted to be the one to break the trance they all were in. Jump from aisle to aisle and say "Show's over folks! Either encourage her, or be on your way. Stop the staring, as if you've never seen a child throw a fit. Stop!" Maybe they hadn't. Perhaps they would never dream of having a child of theirs lose it in public. Must be nice. 

The mom held it together surprising well for a good long time. She was talking sternly, but not loudly enough to be heard by anyone except her children. She slowly moved through the line as her daughter continued the screaming and then added kicking. She kicked her boots off in the aisle. Mom calmly told her she would be awfully cold outside without her boots. The little girl began to scream that she hated her mom. No one moved. All check out aisles were pretty much halted as This Scene played out. I engaged the man in charge of my checkout aisle in conversation, in an effort to get things moving again. 

And then out of the corner of my eye I saw this mom break. How embarrassing, right? This had been going on for at least 15 minutes, and all of her efforts to quell the fit were unfruitful. She grabbed the girl's arm and this time quite loudly, let her have it. My heart rate was rising, because I knew where she was at, and I just wanted to get through the checkout line so that I could help. 

How? I don't know. 
What would I do? I didn't know. 
What to say? No idea. 

But my heart was compelling me to break the staring, and the negative head shaking, and the standing there like a statue, watching the train wreck. 

The guy checking out my purchases was saying something about "some people's kids" etc etc etc. I told him that I hoped he had a good day, and I meant it, but I hurried away.

I just touched her arm, because she wouldn't have looked up if I didn't. Her head shot up and defense was written over ever square inch of her face. Other heads snapped up too. Someone was approaching "The Scene?!"

"Hey, I've been here before.
 Right where you are at. 
And… and I get it." - It sounded utterly weak and meaningless in the moment, but it was all that came through my lips. I had been praying - begging God for the past few minutes that I would say and do the right thing. The clearest answer I had was "of anything you could do, just don't do nothing. Do not stand and stare, and then breeze by."

I didn't look at my audience, but I felt the eyes burning into the back of us. I didn't care what kinds of things were being said, but I heard the buzz of words around us. I got down on my knee and looked at the flushed and tear stained face of the little girl. "Rough day, huh?" - She just stared, wide eyed, but she stopped screaming. I patted her arm gently - while still trying to give them space. I could see that the mom wanted to bolt. She was suspicious of me, and I get that too. I stood up and touched her arm again, "I have four boys…" - She seemed to relax just a little bit. My heart was compelling her to just stop, 
take a break,
step back, 
She was so close to reacting, and falling apart, and I wanted to give her a brief moment to regroup. 

I smiled into her eyes, and then I quietly left. I felt that anything more would be too much for her. 
But anything less would have been disobedience. And it made me think of all the times that I don't want to talk 
and touch 
and feel. 
Enter in 
and get hands dirty. 
Take a hit, 
field comments, 
be different. 

How many times has God whispered to my heart,
get up,
go over there,
Whatever you do, do NOT be apathetic. I did not create you for apathy, girl! Go."

And I have laughed it off as a silly compulsion, and went on my way.

May God make me miserable if I ever walk away again.


Anonymous said...

I love this post, Wendi. God bless you for encouraging that mama. I hope when my kid's throwing a fit that someone like you comes up and encourages me.

DidiLyn said...

I loved this post. My mind is full of the times I have quietly walked away without a kind word. I pray to God that he gives me the kind of determination that he blessed you with that day.

Melody said...

Love this. A lil' good old fashioned encouragement goes sooooooo far. And you are right, we so often just stay stuck in our own comfortable little bubble, never stopping to reach out. Thanks for the encouragement to step outside of ourselves.

BaronessBlack said...

Bless You! This made me think of an experience I had when working in a shop when I was in college. There was an older lady who I worked with who sometimes just really couldn't cope with badly behaved children in the store. One day a mum came in with her children who just ran riot through the store; hiding in the racks of clothes, pulling stuff down and running over it, really wild behaviour. After a while of tidying up after these kids (while their mother vaguely told them to stop), this older woman had to go and sit down in the fitting room for a while. When I came to find her I tried to make light of the situation "Well, you know, they're only children. We were all young once, etc.etc." She looked at me very seriously and explained that she had had a special needs child that her husband and her family had persuaded her to give him up. They had repeatedly stated that she just couldn't manage him. "But," she said, "I managed him a lot better than half the kids you see in here!"

That experience really made me feel differently about the bystanders when my children are flipping-out about something. You never know whether they're sympathising, empathising or judging, or what their reasons are.

Magnolia said...

I absolutely would have stepped in and said the same thing. I've been in that place before as a single mother of two toddlers 20 years ago.

I remember the blood curdling screams that my daughter engaged in for 15 minutes while I tried to keep it together and get through the store.

I'll never forget the scornful, contemptuous judgment from everybody except this one elderly lady. She had to be 80 years old if she was a day.

She was tiny and soft spoken. she walked up to me, touched my arm and told me in the kindest voice......"You're a good mom, and you're doing a good job....."

I burst into tears.

I'll never forget it, and I never judge parents. Just never.

Yvonne said...

Wow, I love this post. (Made me cry!) I had to post on BlogHer's Facebook page! -Y

Shannon akaMonty said...

I think we often (especially me!) forget that sometimes with kids, it just takes a moment of distraction outside their normal scope - well done on your part! And I'm pretty sure I've dismissed that direction myself many times, and I pray that I'll remember this story next time it happens.
I've been extremely lucky in that this sort of thing never happened when my kids were small, but I've witnessed similar scenes and done nothing. Next time, I will. Thank you for the reminder!

Andrea said...

Bless you for your kind words to that mom. I think I would have been the one to shoo the crowd and break of the spectacle....or at least glare at the gawkers. In the end your action was much more Christ-like than mine would have been. Thanks for the example.

Much Ado About Somethin said...

You were her angel today. More of us should be so brave to break away from the cold, staring crowd and offer an encouraging word and moment of help when others are hurting. You certainly made an impression on that mother, but I know you impacted many others checking out at Target too.

Tanuja said...

A similar thing happened to my husband when our 2 year old son threw a full blown tantrum in the supermarket. We had recently moved back from the US to the UK and our son was tired and confused. His whole world had changed (except his Mom and Dad) and he just wanted to go "home". Most people were busy tutting and muttering. Just when my husband was at breaking point, this lovely old lady approached him and said "Breathe deeply son, you're doing a great job". He said it made the world of difference to him and our son lasted another 2 minutes before he climbed into his stroller and fell asleep!

Melissa C. said...

I've often felt compelled to encourage a mother in that situation as well, but never knew what to say.

Why do all the meltdowns occur in Target? I swear that's the only store I see it in!

Kudos to you.

DearHelenHartman said...

I had a screamer. Lucky for him he was our 2nd and we were not so freaky about being perceived as perfect. But I have stepped up to moms handling screaming kids and said: "It's probably not going to help you at this moment but most screamers are intelligent kids who are living in a world where their brains have things figured out that their bodies and circumstances keep them from acting on. The good news is when everyone is calm you can talk to them about it." Usually the mom is glad to have some empathy and as the article said, just something to break the tension. Great post.

Leanne said...

Great post. And I will remember your words. Thank you for sharing.

Larissa T. said...

I've seen this before, and even though I'm single with no kids, I've felt like going up to mothers in situations like these.. but I've never known what to say! I'm glad you approached her and shared about it; gives me more confidence to some day do the same.. (:

I echo your prayer.

Amy Austin said...

What you did took great courage, and showed great kindness. I hope that the next time I'm in your shoes, that I will live up to your good example. Well done.

Colleen - Mommy Always Wins said...

Well bless you for that simple kindness! I know I've looked at another Mom in a store like that before and said with a smile, "I'm so sorry...I know what that's like!" She looked at me like it was the nicest thing I could have said and here I thought it was nothing. Then I had someone say something similar to ME, and knew it was!

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