Once upon a time I went to WalMart with four children so they could spend their allowance. This was momentous because it had been a few months since their last "allowance spending day"--a tradition their little hearts loved and had missed. Suffice it say that all the expectations combined with all the stresses of the previous months. It was a dangerous mix, and I was clueless.
At first there were joy and excitement. Then someone threw a fit worthy of a Barbarian god.
A middle aged woman with frizzy hair, dyed red a good too many times, scrunched up her sagging face and asked, "Is he autistic or somethin'?"
I was dumbfounded. I couldn't think. So she yelled at me some more, telling me to spank him, to teach him how to act proper, and that some people didn't know how to parent.
I wanted to crawl away, but instead my dignity found its voice.
"And some people need to learn manners." I ignored her shock and disgust at my reply.
Without breaking into my own tears, I picked up my wailing Viking to whom I just could not give in and put him in the shopping basket. I had to carry the two year old who understandably didn't want to sit in the seat with his brother screaming. My older two were crestfallen, eyeing the beloved toy they each had chosen and then looking at me: Would Mom please let them get their toys? Do we have to go straight home just because someone else was being naughty?
So I decided that fair justice would come at any cost to my pride.
We began the long march of shame from the very back of the gigantic WalMart to the very front where the cashiers were stationed. All along the way people glared, clucked their tongues, and rolled their eyes as my boy in the basket wreaked his hellfire and damnation for being told "no."
I was certain that the seemingly never ending journey was penance. I was reaping what I had sown. I had dropped the ball in my parenting, and now it was time to eat the bitterness I had wrought. Did I make the right choice? Had I asked too much too soon? Perhaps I should've given in and used another time to be firm. But no, I had made a decision, and I couldn't go back now. I couldn't cave into the roars and tears of my little Teutonic pirate. And then an angel appeared.
She was an abuela with crooked and missing teeth in a face as round as the sun, and she couldn't have been more lovely. She didn't speak any English, but she wanted to help. As she saw me coming around the corner with the toddler on my hip, a screaming child in the cart, and the other two kids trying to keep up, she smiled at me. Then she gestured with her hands that it was going to be okay. She threw up her arms and laughed with the warmth that only someone who's "been there" can.
My heart melted a little, and I actually giggled despite myself. I saw the ridiculousness of the last five or so minutes, which up until then had seemed like hours. I couldn't help smiling the rest of the way to the checkout even though the circumstances hadn't changed. The derision I received from then on rolled off my back. I had been strengthened.
I got the lesson to "never judge" emblazoned on my brain, again. However, I also learned the priceless value of the one that loves. I want to be the person that smiles and encourages, maybe even laughs, so that I may give another in his or her arduous journey a bit of heaven.
©2014 Emily Woodham