I Am "That Mom"

I used to really enjoy shopping, and I still do in the event that I'm able to go by myself. Checking items off my list, strolling up and down the isles at my leisure, digging through the clearance section in hopes of finding an amazing bargain I can't live without, and calmly checking out at the register with time to meticulously use each and every one of my coupons. Now, shopping these days usually means buying diapers, but I'll take what I can get.

Contrast that with the shopping trips I usually experience with my children, like the one today, for example. We set out to the craft store to buy a few things to decorate Ruby's "Clubhouse" {the little closet in her room}. Normally I wouldn't dare set foot in a craft store with my children, but I'm down a kid, who is at grandma's house, so I was feeling optimistic about the excursion. We enter the craft store, which is filled mostly with very, very quiet old ladies. There are also some women of various other ages milling about, but no other children visible to the naked eye.

Immediately, Toby, my two-year-old, takes off running. He probably saw something shiny. No sooner would I get him back and stop to look at some fabric and he would be off to the races again. Everything needed touched, sat on, climbed in, or otherwise physically contacted. At one point I actually couldn't find him, despite yelling repeatedly and loudly {very quiet store loudly} for him. My stress level is rising, along with my blood pressure. He finally emerged, with a big smile on his face, from a bottom shelf filled with quilt batting. I'm just thankful he didn't fall asleep in there or he would've been lost for good. So we get our tulle cut to the appropriate length and head to the restroom before we leave, as we are still potty-training. He insists on washing his hands both before and after using the potty, and he opens the door on the poor woman in the first stall. "Toby, that's enough soap. Stop playing in the sink. Throw your paper towel away." I swear everyone in the store knew the poor kid's name by the time we left.

Apparently I'm a glutton for punishment, because we walked down to the grocery store following this marvelous experience. Heck, I only lost my kid once so far, right? We're doing pretty good. I probably would've called it quits right there if we had more food in our refrigerator then half a bag of lettuce, a lemon, some condiments, a leftover chicken breast, and 1/20th of a gallon of milk. Oh, and a block of cream cheese. And let me just preface the following section with the obvious fact that entering a grocery store with three small children when you are already stressed is probably not a good idea. So in we go.

By the time we got to the checkout, I was spent. The baby is hungry and crying, not wanting to be put down, and the kids are restless. I'm becoming convinced that checkout lanes somehow conspire against stressed mothers because I never fail to pick the absolute l-o-n-g-e-s-t,  s-l-o-w-e-s-t  checkout line on days like this. There were five people in front of me with about half as many things, and the cashier flipped the light to flashing with every. single. customer. As we inched forward with the ebb and flow of the manager, the kids moved from running circles around the cart and me to trying to open various pieces of candy to sliding down my legs like a firehouse pole to trying to get candy out of the machines by the door to finally sitting on a bench. I load the groceries and checked out {not before the cashier flipped the light, though}, and we made it to the car. Phew. We survived.

Before you have kids, they don't tell you that grocery shopping is a workout. Forget workout, an Olympic event. They don't tell you about the sprinting required to stop a small child from running the cart headlong into the woman who is simply trying to buy some pepperonis, or to grab that piece of candy from the floor out of your child's hands before they can shove it into their mouth. Or the skill and precision it takes to maneuver an overstuffed cart {because Lord knows you don't want to do this again next week} with children hanging off either side up and down the isles without running anyone over. Or the emotional and mental stamina you will need to withstand the onslaught of "can we get this?!?!" and "I want this!!" that starts mere seconds after entering the store.

Before you have kids, you think, I will never be that mom. You know the one. The one whose kids run wild, climb all over the shelves, hide in the paper towels, and ask for every God-forsaken toy, doll, game and piece of candy in the store, especially in the checkout lane. The one whose kids think that the balls in the big wire bins are actually made to be bounced across the floor. The one dragging her kicking, screaming toddler out of the store with one arm while desperately trying to keep her maternity pants from falling down with the other. The one with that crazy look in her eye because she's using every last ounce of energy not to erupt into a flaming ball of rage or melt into a puddle of sobbing exhaustion on the white tile floor. That one. If you're a parent out there, then you have been there before, at least once. If you haven't yet, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you will be, my friend. The only way to completely avoid one of those moments is to never go out in public with your child. Ever.

When you happen upon that mom in the store, at the park, or even at church {assuming it's not you at the time}, offer her some kindness and encouragement. A smile, a kind word, or even an offer to help goes a long way. She may not have the wherewithal to respond appropriately--I offered a deep, guttural sigh {really, a growl} to a kind woman today--if at all, but she hears you. She notices. And when she gets home and has all the groceries unloaded and put away, she will finally sit down with a cup of coffee and a moment to think. She will remember your kindness and she will be grateful that you took a moment of your time to bless her amidst the chaos that is her life sometimes.

To the kind woman at Joann's that left the extra flyer with the coupons, thank you. To the sweet cashier who said, "I'm not supposed to do this..." but clipped them for me anyways and applied them to my bill, thank you. To the elderly couple who smiled at my wild children as they ran right in front of them instead of scowling, thank you. To the fellow shopper who quietly watched me at both stores and offered an encouraging "hang in there" on the way out, thank you. Thank you for looking past that mom and seeing me.