Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If Looks Could Kill...

If looks could kill, I'd be in trouble.

Trips to Sam's Club (or any store, really, but mostly Sams) with all three boys (ages 5, 3, and 2) usually go either really well (rarely) or really poorly. There are just so many wide open aisles, beckoning to young active boys. Yesterday's trip was an absolute train-wreck.

It didn't start out that badly. We talked about proper behavior in the store. My three-year old was actually holding on to the cart, and he said, "Mom, I guess I'll just obey you. I guess I won't run in the store." My two-year old was strapped into the cart. That is, until we were nearing the end, and he decided he was at his end and started working on getting out. He figured out he can turn himself around and wiggle out of the strap, then attempt to climb over the edge of the cart. So I thought a little walking wouldn't hurt, right? Wrong.

My two and three-year olds, partners in crime that they are, decided it would be more fun to get a cardio workout in Sam's than to remember the initial promise to obey Mom.  As I was picking out a bag of apples (looking down), they ran off over by the milk case, opened the doors, and tried to climb the shelves. My five-year old, acting the part of a border collie, ran over to give me the play-by-play of what they were doing. So I retrieved them, scolded them, and proceeded to grab the last few things on my list over by the meat department.

The problem with this was there was a sample stand nearby. It was a good sample. As I was checking out the prices on the items in the deli cases near the sample stand, the two ran off again. I didn't notice immediately, since again, I was looking down. However, the fact that the sample lady had turned around and was glaring at me told me something was definitely up. I went to investigate. Sure enough, the boys were an aisle over, sitting on the metal bar running the length of the deli case--that is, when they weren't walking on it, practicing their tightrope act for the circus.

From there, we went straight to check out. My three-year old wanted to help me unload the cart. No problem, right? A way to keep him busy, I figured. It was working beautifully until he wanted to help me unload the eggs and put them on the belt--all by himself. Way too risky. So I told him no, and he proceeded to throw a temper tantrum. A real big one, right there in the checkout lane. What can you do when you're in the checkout lane with your groceries going down the conveyor belt? I did the only thing I could do at that moment: I picked up both of the boys and strapped them in the shopping cart (at least it was a double).

As if his behavior wasn't embarrassing enough, the couple behind me in line just gave me that glare. It's hard to describe it if you haven't ever received it. It's a deadly look, really. Without words, it says so much: disapproval, disdain, disgust. The whole situation brought tears to me eyes. Yes, I was embarrassed. Yes, I knew my son wasn't behaving well. Yes, I dealt with it. But not in the checkout lane.

Why do people have to give those kinds of looks in stores? What can we as moms do about it?  I heard a great line once--you could say, loudly, "Your mom is going to be so disappointed when I tell her about the way you're behaving." At least then, the onlookers will have sympathy for you--"She's just the nanny," they'll think. "Poor girl." But if you're the mom, different story. You get the "What an awful mother. What undisciplined, bratty kids. What is happening to this generation of parents?"

All I can suggest is--if you're at the store and it happens to someone else, please don't glare. Please smile instead, sympathetically. It may be just the wee bit of encouragement that mom needs right then.  If you're in checkout, offer to help her unload her groceries.

And if you're at Sam's Club, remember to always strap the kids in the cart, and never look down.


  1. I had an older woman tell me once that *her* kids never acted that way in the store. I told her, "Aren't you lucky to be so perfect that you can judge me. I hope I can be as bitchy as you some day." Probably not the Christian thing to say but it came out before I could stop myself.

    I would give you the look of sympathetic mom pity and totally commiserate with you.

  2. We have all been there and this too will pass, before you know it they will be refusing to be seen in a grocery store...Like my eldest (17yrs) who will complain I never buy any food she likes but refuses to come with me.

    My 2yr old however is a shopping menace that I was not prepared for the second time round, how our memories trick us as we grow older lol or have children...The worst about this one is she saves her naughtiest behavior for Walmart and embarrasses her daddy no end, because he works there and so those "looks" are coming from ppl he has to face everyday at work...Me when I am shopping with her on my own, I just fill her face full of bananas, tomatoes and sugar free pop tarts to keep her occupied..Tip: for weigh items just tell them weigh one twice when you are checking out...I can't imagine trying to keep up with 3 little boys on my own though...You are a brave brave mummy.

    Blessings Kelsie

  3. I can totally understand what you say about looks. We had been fairly lucky till now with my 2.5 yr old but we had a horrible time on a recent trip back from LA. We were coming back from the funeral of a niece so were totally shattered and grief-stricken. On the plane, my son was a little loud (he was not crying but was speaking out loud) and since it was take-off time, we were not able to entertain him with the DVD player too. We were trying our best to quiet him but this lady behind us screamed (yes, she actually screamed) "Are you going to do something about it or not ?". I was too stunned to react. No, I did not expect her to know and sympathise with me but can we not even tolerate for 10 mins ! and after that, this lady got drunk and was talking loudly to her companion. I almost stood up to ask her to tone it down but thought it might be too petty. Now, I wish I had.

    Thanks for letting me vent but yes, I totally commiserate too.

  4. I can totally relate. I have five children aged 12-2. My first few were super pleasant wherever I went and very compliant. My fourth, however, was a horse of a different color and proved to be agonizing to take anywhere once he reached the age of 3. I dreaded the looks from people, and now that I have five I know it's the look combined with "what is the matter with you slovenly woman for having so many children - get it under control." I firmly believe children are a blessing from God, and mine are. I think it is a true test of our patience and testimony as mothers to project that testimony when we're in those kinds of trials. My fourth horse-of-a-different-color child was diagnosed with autism a few weeks ago (he is now five). Truly, you never know what you may be judging by a look to someone else. And now I have the added challenge of teaching my 2yo correct behavior, not that modeled often by my 5yo. God gives us all grace to walk in what He has given us or allowed, and I try to give my best effort to forward that grace to others. Thanks for the reminder, and don't forget, it's just a season of your life working for your good. :-)

  5. I have three children 5, 2.5 and 1.5. My 5yo has always been very well behaved in stores but the 2.5 and 1.5 (who also both figured out early how to wiggle out of the straps on the cartseat) are a BIG challenge.

    I always bring each child a container with crackers and raisins to keep them occupied and I try to wait until halfway through the trip before i give it to them. I also keep a refill bag in my pocket for when we get to the checkout.

    I have had to deal with tantrums from both at the same time in the checkout line too. Really I just ignore the people around me. I know that I am a good mom and have great kids. I know I will address their behaviour appropriately as soon as I am out of line. It really does not matter what they think and no explanations or excuses are owed to anyone.

    My advice is to continue training your kids to behave, set them up for success by selecting a good time of day to take them and a realistic amount of time in the store. Continue to correct them as needed and ignore those who feel the need to judge. Pray that they will find more love and grace in their lives so that they will no longer feel the need to pass on negative attitudes to others.

  6. I love that line about telling their "mom". I'm going to have to use that!