Tonight on the way home from picking the kids up from my mums after work, I decided to pop into the pound shop with all three of my cherubs in tow. J had been asking (in his approximations of words) for the ‘pound shop’ since we got in the car. He loves having little toys that he can carry around in his hands when he’s doing other things. It was parents night for the two boys yesterday too and I decided I would let them choose a little toy and a sweet as a reward. I had thought about ignoring his requests but since he had been trying so hard to get me to understand his message I decided to give in.
How bad can it be? I asked myself. We will just be popping in for a few minutes and out again. B can hold W’s hand and I will hold J’s. I am now telling my stupid self that it can indeed be extremely bad. It will not go as smoothly as you think or hope. The kids will not follow all of the instructions you give and J will certainly not take kindly to having to hold your hand when he wants to run off on an adventure to find toys.
I reminded them all before we went in that they had to walk, stay close to me, not touch anything they weren’t buying and that they needed to use quiet voices when inside. I knew I was asking a lot but I hoped they would listen and not go completely mad. They did manage this for a short time. We walked in together and made our way towards the toys.
J was excited, bouncing as he walked and flapping his hands wildly. This immediately drew the attention of a girl who worked there. She stood and stared at him and then at me. I ignored her and walked on past and up to the toys. W chose a toy and J chose three. I asked him to put two down and just choose one. He shook his body, meaning no and started to walk away with all three. I gently reminded him to take just one and put the other two back. He shook again and turned away from me to run off. I took his hand and firmly told him to put two toys back.
At this point I noticed the girl had turned around and was watching us again. She had a look of slight annoyance on her face. I looked back at her, making eye contact, willing her to either look or go away. She didn’t. I took two of the toys from J and placed them back where he got them. We moved on to the craft items for B to make his selection. I had to hurry him along a bit as J was becoming impatient.
We headed for the sweet aisle. As we walked round the corner there was a big wedge of plastic lying on the floor and J accidentally kicked it with his foot, which sent it skidding along the tiles. At this point I heard a loud tut and turned to see the same girl now standing at the bottom off the aisle we were in, glaring at us and shaking her head. I loudly said ‘oh dear J be careful, you nearly tripped over that big piece of plastic that has been left lying in the middle of the floor’ and stared back at her. At this point I became quite annoyed. Had she been following us and watching us the whole time? Was it just a coincidence? What had we done that she found so distasteful?
All of the questions were going round in my head. Then I became quite indignant. The kids hadn’t been misbehaving. J was relatively good, pushing the limits a bit but fairly calm considering how he can be at times. I was also annoyed that she was behaving in the manner she was and very clearly passing judgment on us, with very little reason or knowledge of the full situation. We are as entitled to shop as anyone else. We weren’t making a mess, breaking things, running around or being overly noisy. We were buying quite a few things and despite it being a pound shop I had managed to spend over £20. I decided that I wasn’t cutting our trip short and leaving without some of the things we came in for, just because their shop assistant was ignorant to feelings and behaving in an unkind manner. I shook my head back at her and finished shopping.
When we got to the checkout she had been called over to serve to lessen the queue. I actually found myself hoping that we wouldn’t be served by her and even considered allowing someone else to go ahead of us if she became free first. Then I gave myself a shake and told myself I was being ridiculous to be upset like this by someone who means very little to us in the grand scheme of things. Why should I care what she thinks of us or how she behaves?
That’s the point though. I do still care. It upsets me that people feel that they are free to openly stand in judgement of me. That they think it’s ok to show their disapproval of my child and our situation. That they somehow think it’s ok to behave in a way that is so unkind. Would her reaction have been the same if she hadn’t seen J flapping and bouncing when we came in? He was doing it quietly and not getting in anyone’s way, it’s just a stim he has at times. She didn’t appear to be looking at my other two or disapproving of them.
Sometimes I wish I was brave enough, or confrontational enough, to have a word with these people. To tell them how inappropriate their behaviour is and how unwarranted their judgement is. I wish I could show them what it’s like to be us for a few hours, or just for one outing or shopping trip. To show them how hard it is for J and for me just to be there and do that. To let them feel the anxieties we have in the situation.
Again I look for the lesson or the positive to take from the situation. I realise I’m glad I didn’t make a scene or say anything. It was better just to ignore it. My kids hadn’t noticed and me saying something would have drawn their attention to her behaviour. I don’t think it would have made a difference anyway. You can’t make everyone understand or expect them to be reasonable. My mum often uses a famous quote; ‘Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his sandals.’ I realise that whilst I felt judged by this girl, if I said something and lectured her, I would also be passing some kind of judgement. I too would be engaging in behaviour that could upset someone else. I remind myself of my own favourite quote to ‘Be kind, always!’ and decide to show a level of kindness and tolerance that she did not show to us. If she had said something to us or told J off then this may have been entirely different but for now I bite my tongue, lick my wounds, pick myself up and move on.