I was at the grocery store for approximately the 18th time last week, making my way past the cheese section while Ella munched on a Mum-Mum in the grocery cart seat.
That’s when I heard it.
But it wasn’t really crying, I’m I’m going to be honest. It was screaming. One of those mad wails that had escalated into hysterical screaming somewhere between the rotisserie chicken and the pre-made deli plates.
I was curious, I’ll be honest. I rolled the cart a little faster as Ella clutched her Mum. I wanted to see if someone was hurt, or if it was just a child losing his mind.
It was the latter. As I watched, I saw the mom grab an iPad out of the boy’s hands, which doubled his screaming efforts. Admittedly, the noise level was impressive. The scream-crying echoed through the grocery store and bounced off of the countless metal surfaces with incredible resonance; this child had lungs. And I saw why: the boy was older than I had expected him to be–maybe six, maybe seven years old. His brother sat, unmoving, next to him in the body of the cart while this seven-year-old had a fully committed meltdown right in the middle of the ready-to-eat food aisle.
And then I watched as the mom rolled–no, raced–her cart to the store’s exit. She grabbed the hands of her sons–one of them still screaming–and ran out of the store. She was panicked; her body language spoke that harried tilt that moms know all too well. It’s the tilt that belies what’s underneath–all of the anxieties, all of the fears, all of the things we wish we could fix or stop or pause but can’t.
Her cart, half-full, was abandoned by the automatic doors.
I made my way down the long aisle and over to the lonely cart and looked out the front doors, hoping she was still there.
Because I wanted to tell her this:
It’s ok. You’re ok. Nobody but you will remember this.
I wanted to say to her:
I don’t judge you. I don’t think you’re a bad mom. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
I wanted to hold her hand and speak:
We’ve all had those days. Those bad days. The days where even the iPad and the extra snacks and the favorite toy won’t help. I’m sorry today was your bad day. I hope that you don’t have bad days most days, but even if you do, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. It just means it’s hard.
I wanted to let her know:
You’re not alone. I can imagine you’re doing your best. And if your best wasn’t enough today, tomorrow is another shot at this crazy-hard thing called mothering.
And I wanted to finish her grocery shopping for her and hug her and let her know that I understand that she’s trying, even if it’s hard. Because this being a mom thing–it is hard.
And next week it might be my kid screaming in aisle one. If it is, I’ll take a hug. And some chocolate.