I was in the laundry aisle of Target tonight when the loud screaming of a young child became audible. It was a pitiful sound that made my Momma heart ache; and I immediately began to search out where the noise was originating. It didn’t take but a moment to locate this maybe two year old because of the scene her own Mom was making in the store.
I’m going to attempt to paint the scene of what happened, in an earnest attempt to get across the deep helplessness I felt. This mom was repeatedly squeezing her child’s legs, hard. She would tower over the child (who was buckled into the cart) and yell, “You don’t EVER tell Mommy no, EVER, when I get home I am going to spank you again and again and again!” This child was literally shrinking back and down as far as she could into the cart as tears and snot ran down her face. Granted, I do realize we all parent different yet I am in the practice of respecting and accepting the cultures, belief systems and lifestyles of all people. However, this woman was bordering on abuse. My heart hurt for that little baby as she shrunk back. Everyone around this woman would look at her, then we’d look at each other. There were shrugs, head shakes, even conversations about what to do, but no one (myself included) knew the answer. It was the epitome of social discomfort.
I kept following the woman, at a safe distance. She continued to scream at her child as she walked up and down aisles, she took time every few minutes to text someone. It felt like she was trying to draw attention to herself. She was very well dressed, extremely loud and seemed to put nothing in her cart. The final straw was when I made a moment of eye contact with the little girl which was broken when her mom said, “You know better than to behave like this, you ought be ashamed!” That whole shame phrase cuts me deep. There was an older woman next to me and we made eye contact. She said, “what can you do, I don’t know what to do?” I replied that I didn’t know either.
I knew that I had to do something, I had no idea what. I felt a little afraid that whatever I did, it wouldn’t fare well for this baby girl. I didn’t want this woman to feel judged but I did want her to stop and think. I was praying super hard. I approached the woman and child from behind…”Mam, Mam” No response so I got a little braver and tapped her gently on the arm with a firm, “excuse me, mam” That got her attention.
Me: “I notice you seem a little bit stressed, I wondered if there is anything I can do to help.”
Her: “No, thank you. She (points at child) knows better than to act like this”.
Me: “Gosh, she sure is beautiful with those big brown eyes. How old is she?”
Her: “She just turned two and she knows better than to cry like this.”
Me: “Ah, two is such a tough age, she’s doing just what is developmentally appropriate, but it’s sure hard. What’s her name?”
Her: “Her name is Lilliana (not her real name).
Me: “I love her name!” (I’m talking to child trying to speak soothingly and hoping mom sees that this gets good results bc screaming has turned into hiccup cries} “Thanks so much for stopping and letting me talk, I can’t ever pass up the opportunity to talk to little ones, I miss that age so much.”
Her: Gets a call and waves at me as she exits the store and Lilliana resumes crying.
I wonder what happened as they left that store. I wonder why it didn’t occur to that Momma to pick up her distraught child and love on her. I wonder who didn’t teach her to do that. I am not judging, please know that. I have had (still have) endless hard days with my kiddos where I have reacted rather than responded and I have behaved ugly on more occasions than I care to mention. Something about this just bothered me, deep into my soul.
I don’t know if it’s because a precious family that I love lost their child to cancer today or if it’s because my own precious children are fighting huge battles of their own right now, this just hurt.
I hadn’t planned on leaving a little piece of my heart at Target, but leave a little piece of my heart I did. I’m praying for that baby girl and her Momma tonight that they can connect and that nurturing, peace and love will override all else. I wish I could share this little image of this day being a gift with them.