Shopping frenzy
Friday December 21st 2007, 8:10 pm
Filed under: Life

This is for every harried parent of a small child, trying to survive the last-minute shopping thing:

I had four kids in just under six years, and I well remember what it was like when I had to drag them all out to some mundane thing such as grocery shopping or trying to keep them on their best behavior in, say, an interminable DMV line before online anything existed. Christmas shopping! I remember how quick other adults were to scowl at them and me. How much it meant to me when someone smiled: often, it would be a middle-aged woman, remembering the days. An actual compliment from a stranger could carry me for weeks.

That 40-something (I still get to say that) woman is me now. There are perks to this motherhood thing. I was in a big box retailer one time a few years ago, and coming out of checkout, there was a bench for customers and a young dad sitting on it.

He was holding his little girl with long black curls, who was maybe 16 months old? Old enough to walk, too young to really talk but old enough to understand enough to surprise her parents from time to time. Mine did.

She was at that stage of exhaustion where some kids get to, of flailing in a no-holds-barred screaming tantrum, arching her back hard to try to throw herself on the ground, knowing her daddy wouldn’t let her fall anyway and heedless of any consequences. She wanted her mommy and she wanted to go home and she wanted dinner and she wanted bed and she wanted it NOW.

Somehow, as I approached them, I managed to make eye contact with her. Focusing on her, totally ignoring her father. I think that part was crucial to what happened next–she noticed. Still, this was unusual: just like adults, when little ones are upset, they don’t want to look you in the eye. But something caught hers and she saw me as I slowed down, thinking, what an adorable child! I stopped just far enough away not to be too close, and affirmed happily to her, as if I’d just run into an old friend, “Yeah. I’ve had days like that.”

She stopped immediately. She looked at me, suddenly silent, eyes wide. I was smiling back. She eased down in slow motion into her daddy’s lap, put her thumb slowly up to her mouth, and looked up quite shyly at me but with a little smile now too. She was SO cute. My own smile got bigger.

And then it was her daddy’s turn; just before I left I gave him a quick glance, a smile and a nod. He was looking up at me, too, by then, with this, “Oh thank you. THANK you!” in his face. His daughter watched me leave the store, waving bye-bye just before I stepped outside out of their sight.

The whole scene took so few seconds out of my busy day to let happen. But I will never forget those two. They brought out the best in me, and I am grateful.

12 Comments so far
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Where was someone like you when my daughter was having those tantrums. Especially when they were due to allergic reactions before we knew she had allergies. I remember those days, they were only a few years ago and I make certain I speak to the children or smile at the parents. Thanks for helping the two that you helped.

Comment by Vicki 12.22.07 @ 4:47 am

I’m so with you on this one! Like Vicki I always make a point of smiling to the parents of children who are “acting up”. With 6 of my own I have certsinly BTDT 🙂

Comment by Nurhanne 12.22.07 @ 5:32 am

I’m so with you on this one! Like Vicki I always make a point of smiling to the parents of children who are “acting up”. With 6 of my own I have certainly BTDT 🙂

Comment by Nurhanne 12.22.07 @ 5:33 am

Oops 🙁

Comment by Nurhanne 12.22.07 @ 5:35 am

What a sweet story! I was blessed with a calm child and since she’s an only her routine never pushed her to exhaustion. Unfortunately, my mother was not as blessed (read: problem child ME!) Hope you and yours enjoy a peaceful holiday. I’ve been meaning to check in since your November accident anniversary post but have been side-tracked. Hope to keep a closer eye on your blog in the New Year!

Comment by Lynn 12.22.07 @ 8:43 am

🙂 The other day at Wal-Mart Hubby and I were in line and there was a younger couple ahead of us, speaking Spanish to their little one and each other. He kept reaching for and pullin at the magazines. I could tell they were getting frustrated so I smiled and caught the little ones eyes distractin him for a few min so mom and dad could unload their cart.

Comment by Danielle from SW Missouri 12.22.07 @ 11:17 am

I’m sure it made the Dad’s day, too. Like you said, most people just scowl and think “Why can’t those people control their children?” not stopping to think that children are people, too, and they have a spirit that you should not try to break because they are having a bad moment.

My son went through a long phase of tantrums and crying when we would go to stores, and now can verbalize to us that stores are very loud and busy for him. But it made it hard for the times where he could only cry.

Comment by Amanda 12.22.07 @ 1:18 pm

It’s tough. I know that my daughters get very frustrated when I start fussing and demanding to go home from the mall LONG before they’re ready.

Comment by Laura 12.22.07 @ 6:24 pm

Lol! Yeah, I find the best way to get teenagers trying on things in the dresssing rooms to hurry up is to put down my knitting (which they had thought was bad enough) and sit there resting my chin on the arc of my cane. Amazing how fast they hustle out of there when Mom’s being weird again.

Comment by AlisonH 12.22.07 @ 7:51 pm

I love your blog. 🙂 I so enjoyed the story and, how kind of you to take the moment and reach out – and make a difference in someone else’s life…It was one of those “human” moments that can happen to any of us…and you made it so much better and memorable….for the little girl and her father…and reminded us all that it’s worthwhile to be kind to those in a difficult situation…it often only takes a moment to brighten that moment for all parties involved. Thank you for sharing and…wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year!

Comment by Abby Baker 12.23.07 @ 8:08 am

Just wanted to wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas! 🙂

p.s. I’m going to play bloggin’ catch-up after the holidays.

Comment by Toni 12.23.07 @ 5:41 pm

Alison – you have such a way with words. And I loved the ornaments of carved wood. And to take time to make contact with the little girl and her father. I have found one of the best cures for my depression is to go to a store and spend the time “talking” to little ones and older people who are invisible to so many people. It really lifts me up and does more than any drug could do.

Comment by Rena 12.24.07 @ 10:51 am

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