As much as possible I avoid taking all 4 kids grocery shopping, with the exception of Costco where at least two of the 4 can be cart-contained, and the other two are given strict instructions to stay close by. Grocery stores are designed to make kids turn into crazies, with everything at eye level, and within reach – colorful foods and boxes literally JUMP into their arms when we peruse the aisles! Typically I leave the shopping up to my husband, which is a huge relief, taking away the hassle of arranging the outing around all our schedules and schoolwork.
Alas, on this past Tuesday afternoon, we found ourselves at one of our little local grocery stores with a list of things to get that could wait no longer. Or, at least, we would have had a list if I had remembered to bring it before we left the house.
I gave the minions cheerful instructions to stay close by and challenged them to help me remember the items that were on the list. With Miss E in the cart and The Boy pushing, we were off to a great start – that was 2 down, 2 to go. Jay was by my side helping me pick radishes, Keekers hanging around near the cart a little ways down the vegetable aisle.
I was just telling one of them to put back a bunch of something when I heard a voice behind me. It was obviously agitated, and I turned to see a woman speaking to me, quite annoyed. I braced myself, ready to field the usual question of “No school today?”.
Instead I was quite taken aback to hear her reprimand me for letting my children touch all the food like that. I stood there for a moment with my mouth open, trying to re-route my brain from the shock to respond. I managed to get out a “No ma’am, I am NOT going to let my children touch all the food, thank you for pointing that out”, but it fell upon deaf ears as she stormed away.
I looked up to see The Boy toss a single carrot back onto the pile as he walked toward me. It tumbled to the ground. Insult to injury.
In stunned silence I gathered my children around me – she wasn’t wrong, they WERE touching the produce, but what she didn’t know is that they were doing their best to be a help to momma, bringing me things to ask if we needed them.
I quietly told them that they were going to need to keep their hands to themselves, unless I asked them to get something for me, and to wait. My eldest said “Mom, what did that lady say to you?” I told him she was upset because they were touching the food, and she was right, we needed to be careful what we were touching.
A store clerk came alongside me, shaking his head and saying “I’m a dad, I have young kids, I get it.” Tears welled up in my eyes as he turned to the kids and said “You’re doing a GREAT job helping mom. Way to go!”.
As we wandered through the tiny grocery store, running into this poor, miserable woman at every other turn, I contemplated what had just happened. My heart was burdened for her as I knew her reaction to us probably had very little to do with what the kids were doing, but was likely related to other factors apart from us. We just happened to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I tried to keep my head so we could finish our shopping and get out of there. But I struggled – the mom-guilt had been heaped on, and I let it.We checked out and I left feeling like I never EVER wanted to take my kids shopping EVER again – for fear of how someone might view their behaviour or, heaven forbid, me.
Later that afternoon, I posted on Facebook about our experience, my frustration, disappointment, and feelings of failure. And my friends, moms and singles, young and old alike, came alongside, like a loving arm around my shoulder, and applied salve to my wounds.
They shared their own stories, laughing and sympathizing with me.
They told me that what had happened wasn’t fair, but encouraged me to give grace, expressing compassion for the woman who was obviously so unhappy.
But most of all, they told me not to give in to the feelings of failure, not to allow one person’s supposed view of my children impact what I knew to be true.
To not give up doing what I was doing.
The grocery store woman made me feel insecure, inadequate as a mother; that my children were unruly, undisciplined, disobedient scoundrels, which was the furthest thing from the truth at that moment!
All I could think was I shouldn’t have had them there, or should have kept a better eye on them, or should have given them firmer instructions….should’ve, could’ve, didn’t….
I can’t go back and change what happened, so there’s no point in feeling guilty over it. The fact of the matter is, I was there, with my kids, spending time with them, engaging them, giving them a chance to help and learn. And that’s what matters.
I COULD decide to never take them to get groceries again. It would certainly be a LOT easier to leave them at home! But then I would miss so many opportunities to teach them. How to control themselves in the store, to be focused on a task, to be a good helper, to take pride in their job. They can learn how to make wise decisions, compare prices, pick the best looking produce, say no to that thing they just so badly want.
These trenches of motherhood are deep. And sometimes we have to endure more work in order to reap the benefits of character and maturity later.
But believe me, there ARE benefits.
So, let’s stop it with the heaping of the guilt on ourselves. Let’s decide to turn off our facebook feeds with the blasts of guilt of all the things we’re supposedly NOT doing for our families, and focus instead on what we ARE doing for them.
Ignore the perfect-home blog posts, and see how we are building the forever homes of our children’s hearts.
Shut down the lies and voices that tell you you’re never going to be enough when you hit 9 am and are already running on empty and coffee.
YOU ARE THE BEST MOM for YOUR KIDS.
YOU make the sacrifices that YOU feel are important for YOUR family. No one else gets to decide what they are. They may or may not include fresh made bread at every meal. They may or may not include cereal for dinner because daddy isn’t home tonight.
What matters is that today, you showed up. You wiped the runny nose and changed the dirty diaper, again. You made lunch (who cares if it was just crackers and pickles?!). You read that beloved story for the 10 millionth time (and you enjoyed it!). You stood your ground when your little one threw a temper tantrum or your big one challenged your decision, then welcomed them with open arms after. You laughed at their non-sense jokes and praised their tower of toys. You loved and cared and provided for their needs. THAT IS ENOUGH.
Choose to focus on the good. Choose to fill your mind and heart with truth. Choose to find joy in the frustration and the dirty work, the beauty in the messes. Choose to be an encourager, to build others up, and to apply grace to wounded hearts.
Drop the guilt, and stand with your head high.