That was weird, that interaction we had, wasn’t it? I’m still a bit shaken by it…
So, what I saw happen was that my son backed himself (and our cart) into you while trying to turn around (he’s just learning to steer carts. it’s important to him this week. i’m not sure why he chose now, but i am going with it. choose your battles, ya know?). Actually, I didn’t see it (I was looking at my shopping list), I heard a thump and expect that’s what happened based on what I saw when I looked up. Because I was verbally guiding him through this whole learning-to-steer-the-cart thing and I had just said “back up” I then added “ah, but first look behind you.”
I seem to recall then that we made a brief moment of eye contact and shared a smile (you and me). Then I looked at my son’s face and he looked a little shaken. So I said “are you okay?” to which he responded “yes” and his face returned to normal. You had your back to us by now and were picking out some veggies. When you were done you turned to me and said “You know he ran into me, right?”
With slight surprise that you were addressing me (simply because it was unexpected) I said “yes-” and before I could say any more you started saying something I couldn’t quite make out about how you have four other kids and repeating again that he backed into you. You were also insisting that it hadn’t been your fault and you had done nothing wrong. You said “I didn’t hit him.”
When you paused I agreed that you hadn’t and asked you why you thought I had. When you explained it was because of my reaction to him and mockingly repeated “are you okay?” in a sing song voice I started to feel my heart beat faster. I began to object and really wanted to defend myself. I felt “no I didn-” start to come out of my mouth and I stopped it. I said instead, “I knew he backed into you. I’m sorry it seemed otherwise” at the same time you said “I’m not just some awful person who runs into kids, I have done this before four times and are about to do it a 5th.” Then you walked away.
If we had kept talking I would have attempted to explain that my questioning about him being okay was in response to his facial expression… no assumption of guilt or attempt at slandering you, but the moment was gone and I quickly averted my eyes later when we nearly crossed paths again at the eggs.
I thought it about it for a long time (and obviously still am). I really want to understand you, because I want to understand most people… and maybe more than that because I don’t love confrontation and I’d love to be able to learn from this and not be nagged at a public market again. Here’s what I’ve come up with–are any of these right?
1. You’re pregnant, and therefore crazy: I know that sounds awful. I read that piece on Huffington Post about labeling women crazy. It was good stuff. People should really start checking themselves on that shit. In this case, what I’m saying is… when I was pregnant I know that my brain was swimming in a cocktail of hormones that made me even more sensitive than I usually am. Maybe that’s what was going on with you.
2. You really did hit him: Seriously. Maybe you are some maniac (hormones or otherwise) who walks around Trader Joes’ and whacks kids in the back of the head for trying to pursue independence or explore the feeling of power that comes from navigating a cart around a store. You aren’t ready to own up to this crime but you’re not ready to stop either and someone finding out would surely put an end to your game so you’re quick to defend yourself.
3. You are guilty of some other crime: and this is just residual guilt/defensiveness. I tried to imagine one that I could picture you committing and all I could come up with is… nothing… I have nothing nice to say. I want to make fun of your pink sweatshirt and bad dye job, but you’re SUPER pregnant and apparently you already have four kids–I know we all do our best.
4. Some mean pregnant lady bumped into you in a market when you were a child and you never recovered.
(and this last one is where I landed… and started to get a bit pissed off… and then calmed down and figured this is an opportunity for education)
5. Despite having four children and another on the way it has never occurred to you to check in with a child about how they’re feeling about a situation and address their feelings as a legitimate need for expression: Yes, to have been the most effective model to my son I could have looked up at you post-bump and said “excuse us” before explaining to him the importance of looking before backing up. I didn’t do that. My bad. I was distracted and also focused on him. And I guess (if this is what happened) that’s where we have a difference of opinion.
First, can I just get out that it’s pretty hilarious that having four/five children means that you’re not a monster who hits them? Unfortunately the two are not mutually exclusive (I’m not sure if I used that correctly, but I’m too tired to figure it out).
Second, it’s okay to ask another person how they feel about a situation without implying that another party is responsible for those feelings. In this case my son backed into you. He was either physically hurt, shocked, embarrassed, something else, or a combination of some or all of those things. None of that is one you. Had you hit him, you’d be responsible for causing harm, yes, but not responsible for his reaction (this is something I’m trying to teach him about life).
Third, adults feelings and needs don’t need to come before children’s. In fact, a lot of the times they should probably come second. Here’s the deal. We, as adults, have the capacity to wait a moment to get our needs met without a permanent imprint on our psyche that impairs our ability to feel worthy or whole later in life–kids… less so. The older they get, the more they do… but either way, my six year old has less patience than you. I, as his mother, am responsible for two main things: meeting my own needs, helping him meet his. Sometimes, if I have energy left over I can help strangers in Trader Joe’s get their needs met–it’s rare. In busy Trader Joe’s at 5:30pm on a Tuesday, my kid’s look of horror takes precedence over whatever you were experiencing. You can handle your own stuff. Yes, his carelessness caused a collision. The learning I hope he takes from that is multi-dimensional. I want him to be aware of people and things around him and how his own body movements impact that. I want him to understand that there are potentially painful consequences to carelessness. I want him to know that his actions have the power to impact others. What I don’t want him to learn is that making a mistake means he is suddenly less important to me than you are (we have never met you, after all). Or that a mistake is anything more than a lesson to be learned from.
So, that’s where I was coming from. Sorry we didn’t have a chance to hash it all out in the dairy section.
With Gratitude for the experience,