Thursday, September 10, 2009

It Breaks My Heart

I heard her before I saw her.

“No, Johnny! I said no!”

Mom,” Johnny cried. And cried. And cried. “But why? I wa-a-a-a-nt it.”

Whatever “it” was, was NOT going to make it into their shopping cart, that much I knew.

“Johnny, just be quiet. I never should have brought you with me today. You’ve been naughty since the moment we walked in this store.”

Just then, the distraught mom and her equally distraught son walked past the end of the aisle I was standing in. I don’t even know what I was looking for because they were creating such a scene, yelling at the top of their lungs for the entire grocery store to hear.

I was embarrassed for her. The look on her face gave her away—this woman had HAD it. She was angry at her son, angry at herself for yelling at him, maybe even angry at having to be at the grocery store in the middle of the afternoon when she might have wanted or needed to be somewhere else. She was definitely at the end of her rope with this kid.

The scene in the grocery store reminded me of one time when I was probably a teenager. I was shopping with my mom and another distraught mother of a toddler was screaming at her child. I mean, really screaming. My mom couldn’t handle it—this always bothered her—so she asked me to finish the shopping while she left the store.

You know what? It bothers me too. It bothers me to hear a mother screaming at her very own precious gift, treating her child as if it were some throwaway rag doll or, worse yet, a dog. It bothers me to hear words exchanged in frustration or anger or desperation. It bothers me to think that that’s what’s going on at home.

Even more than that, it bothers me to hear a mother yelling at her child in a store because I wonder how many times I did that when my kids were little. I shudder to think that an older mom just looked at me, in my own moment of frustration, and shook her head at my inability to cope. It bothers me to think that I could have ever embarrassed myself like that in public.

But I’m sure I did--at least once. I know I had rough days. I know I had days when I actually said, out loud, “I have HAD it with you!” Oh, those early years of motherhood were hard.

And so, to the mom in the grocery store, I’d just like to say that I understand. I understand those bad days. I understand that you probably love your son with all of your heart, but you are JUST. SO. MAD. at him right now. And I understand that you want your day to get better.

It breaks my heart, but I do understand.


  1. Thank you, Shelly. My sweet little girl has developed the ability to push my buttons, and she often does it in the store. I'm usually pretty good about holding it together, but sometimes, it's just hard. Just yesterday, I found myself saying to her, "Would you please just get off of Mommy?!"

    Thankfully, at least in that moment, I realized that these moments when she wants to be right on top of me are fleeting. So I set down my magazine, opened my arms and held her.

    But I'm pretty sure I won't always realize what I'm saying in the moment. Being a mom is hard! :) (But so wonderful, too, of course!)

  2. I know I have been on both sides of that fence too. It's funny, but I really do keep my cool w/my kids in public as much as possible (at home too, for that matter), and it always amazes me that if my girls misbehave in public, (or if I do, for that matter) there are so many who are so quick to judge. Sometimes I wish those who walk by disgusted would just offer a word of encouragement like, "I see you are having a bad day. I remember those days, and don't worry, it gets better" or something like that.
    Now that my girls are mostly out of that phase, I really do try to encourage other moms who are having a hard time, even if it's just with a smile.

    Like your mom though, when I hear a mom being verbally or physically abusive to her child, I can not take it. My stomach hurts, and I carry that pain w/me for awhile.

  3. The scene you describe is often brought to mind. As I recall, Shelly, YOU were the one who encouraged me to leave the scene of the yelling mom because the situation troubled me. I marveled at your sensitivity toward me. Today I wonder how many times I acted inappropriately toward you and your sisters! Love to all of you!

  4. After a particularly rough day with Jonah I was stuck sitting next to him in the rear seat of a mini-van on a two-hour car ride. I was soooo not wanting to sit next to him at that moment. But when I leaned forward in my seat to get something for him he reached out and rubbed my back and said, "It's okay, Mommy." It's amazing what a little encouragement from a 2-year-old will do!

  5. Great comments, ladies. Thanks so much. Mary, you're right--being a mom is hard!

    I love that story, Linnea. That's happened to me before too. Don't you just love the perceptiveness (is that a word?) of those little ones?