One of our favorite things to do is to go to the store. It can be a Target, a Home Depot, the gas station … whatever. Thomas LOVES to meander through the aisles, looking at and touching each and every thing. And I LOVE to watch him take it all in. It occurs to me often that this is potentially literally his first time seeing a certain type of bottle or a box of popsicles, and watching him make discoveries is one of my favorite things of being a parent.
On Saturday, we were enjoying a few minutes at the grocery store while Jake picked up groceries. We were walking through the clothing section, when some gray t-shirts caught my eye. I kept half an eye on Thomas as he knelt next to a shelf and perused, and I tried to assess what size I was in Freddie’s latest v-neck fashion.
An employee, maybe in his early 20s, came rushing down the aisle with a cart full of broken-down cardboard boxes. Thomas, of course, took this moment to stand up and start running towards me. “WAIT!” I yelled, and the cart driver came to a screeching halt.
I grabbed Thomas’s arm and pulled him closer to me, while the employee rolled his eyes. I felt my defensiveness rise.
“I was watching him,” I said.
“Right,” he replied, as he took off again down the aisle.
I felt my face immediately flush and my anxiety heighten, and looked around my immediate area. No one was there to see me being a bad parent. No one noticed my paying more attention to a t-shirt than my flesh and blood. After a few minutes, my heartbeat slowed and my breathing returned to normal.
My anxiety has encouraged me to mentally return to this situation multiple times, to replay, to reassess, to reanalyze. Is he still annoyed? Did he go back and complain to his friends about the woman who couldn’t keep her kid under control? The mom who thought shopping was more important than her toddler?
The answer? Likely a “no.” He probably, like a lot of people, completely forgot about the situation about 30 seconds after he walked away (or maybe not … if you’re reading this, Freddie’s employee, I’m sorry!!).
I remember, many years prior to being a parent, reading a Facebook post where someone was highlighting how whenever she’s at the park with her child, she’s surrounded by moms on their phones. While I don’t agree with completely blowing Thomas off for Instagram (although it has happened), I do wonder, when did society decide that a mom can’t take a breath even for a minute? When did our culture decide to promote perfection? I remember playing at the park while my mom read a book or, god forbid, closed her eyes for a second, and I turned out ok. Who decides what is (or isn’t) frivolous and unforgivable when it comes to taking your eyes off your kid?
I know I am just one of many voices starting to rise, but we need to be easier on ourselves. Could something have happened? Could Thomas have been crushed by a cart in front of hundreds of Oregonians, this 22-year-old kid’s life ruined forever? Yes. But more than likely, it would have been more like the situation we found ourselves in a few weeks ago.
Thomas kept walking up to the Macy’s store and slapping the window, as toddlers are prone to doing. I kept asking him to stop, walking him through the consequences and how someone might not see him and squish him with the door.
I walked away, anticipating Thomas was continuing his trek right behind me. About three steps later I turned around and saw him back at the door, slapping away, right as a woman opened it into his face.
They both yelled in surprise. She apologized profusely (as did I), and then she laughed. Thomas was fine and, as she put it, “he probably won’t do that again!” And she’s probably right.
What oversight “errors” have you made that turned out to be a good lesson?