Grandma and Grandpa took the boys over to their house today for some quality bike riding/hot tub paddling/Mythbusters watching time, so I got to go to the grocery store all by myself. (I love, I love, I love grocery shopping. Maybe more about that later sometime.)
For some reason, there was only one checkstand open when I got to the front of the store, so I spent several minutes quietly watching and listening to my flock of linemates. (Warning to the general public: Writers are everywhere. And we see, hear and ruminate on everything.)
Today’s checkout line crop included a woman in a tent-like blue polo shirt with at least 20 Totino’s ™ Cheezy Party Pizzas stuffed into her cart (yes, I started counting… no, I couldn’t finish counting, she kept moving), accompanied by her two children. The kids were just about Fisher and Rhys’ age–the older, a boy, was perhaps a year or so older than Fisher–and they were experiencing the most common symptoms of Grocery Store Overload Syndrome. They were grabbing at the four hundred little kids’-eye level doo-dads that always crowd the cash register area… candies, Power Rangers, magazines about Jessica Simpson’s enormous knockers, etc. She told them to cut it out. They gleefully ignored her. She said "One. Two. Three." They looked at her, looked back at the kiddie crack, and resumed their messing about. And up until this point, I’m feeling pretty darn sympathetic towards her. Kids acting up in grocery stores are kind of like Pap smears… you can avoid them successfully for a while, but sooner or later they’re going to need to be dealt with.
Then the woman in front of her–also accompanied by two children of Fisherish and Rhysish size–turned around and said sympathetically, "I know how you feel… mine do this all the time."
And Blue Polo Mama said: "Yeah, and if they don’t quit it, I’m gonna smack their little asses for ’em, and I don’t give a rat’s ass who sees me do it."
Unfortunately, I couldn’t see Normal Looking Mama’s face to see her reaction to this… alas, it must have been somewhat positive, because Blue Polo Mama continued:
"Makes me sick how people let their kids act all the time. They grab stuff in the grocery store and whine long enough for it, they’ll buy it for them. But not me. I won’t put up with that. I hate little bratty-asses." (This said as her older child loses interest in the candy display and starts, instead, bouncing around in the aisle so that people can’t maneuver their carts around him. This behavior goes unremarked-upon. The younger child, meanwhile, comes and stands close to her mother and holds the hem of her shorts, as if seeking some reassurance that the tirade will soon be over and she’ll be none the bruiseder for it.)
The rant goes on: "And my friends’ll all do the same thing, too. Not like my mom. Her generation, they just let kids do whatever they want. Kids start crying for something in the store, my mom says ‘Why don’t you just let ’em have it?’ I just can’t do that kind of hippie parenting. I’ll just smack ’em if they need it."
At this point, fortunately for the continued health and safety of Blue Polo Mama, another checker came over and asked if I would like to repair to her newly opened checkstand.
As I drove home, there was a lump in my throat. Those kids would grow up convinced that they were brats, massive inconveniences to their ass-obsessed mother, worthy of nothing more than continued ignoring punctuated with random fits of violence.
I’m a strict mother… a self-described Mean Mama. But I hope my boys never have the feelings of worthlessness and sense of being doomed to failure that I saw in those little ones’ eyes today. I hope even on the toughest days, they know that the sheer joy I take in their existence, my love of their goofiness and crazy-making questions and best-friend/worst-enemy sibling schizophrenia, outweigh by a million times the frustration and even rage that build up all day and pass in a moment.
And that no matter what, even on the busiest craziest day, if one of them comes up to me and stands still and tugs on my hem with big sad eyes, I’ll stop whatever the hell I’m doing and give him a hug.
Even at the grocery store.