Can’t help a mama out? At least do no harm.

Saturday I decided to combat the “oh my good god, alone with a toddler for 32 hours straight” syndrome by heading out to the mall after Smooch’s nap. He was a-frickin-dorable in his Gymboree Fair Isle hoodie, a navy turtleneck, and tan corduroys. I wasn’t doing so badly myself, in my Old Navy rock-the-postpartum-bod jeans and a new shirt from Macy’s.

We hit Yankee Candle Company, to use a new coupon (come to Mama, you Christmas-y, spicy Balsam & Cedar big jar candle!) and a couple of shoe stores in search of a pair of brown boots (score! with a pair by Mudd). I had a nice café mocha and Smooch had some pretzels, and then we browsed around a few more stores. Oh, how I wish I’d had the laptop with me! The outfits on the teenaged girls… the words coming out of the mouth of a six-year-old-ish boy… the ZZ Top beard on that one dude with the J Crew gal by his side… So many bloggable moments. But then I saw something that took the cake.

As we left the Disney Store, I saw a mama sitting on a bench with a young boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old. Her hands were on his shoulders or upper arms, and he seemed upset. Maybe crying or just his body posture, I’m not sure, it was a quick glance. A man hovered nearby, probably the dad or boyfriend. My next glance took in at least eight groups of mall-goers standing in a rough circle around the bench, all staring at this family.

I realized that I’d “looked” at them, too, and felt bad since I’d obviously just come upon the end of some kind of attention-getting scene. I tried to flash the mom a sympathetic, “rough day, huh?” half-grin as I made my way past the gawkers and headed for the elevator. When I got there and pushed the button, Smooch in his stroller and I leaning against it, we faced the elevator doors. The other two families waiting for the elevator? Turned the other way, still watching the mom & son back on the bench. I could hear some kind of commotion – it sounded like the boy was upset, crying, and then raising his voice – though I couldn’t make out what he was saying, exactly.

We boarded the elevator with the two other families – a mom & dad with a very young baby, and a mom and dad with three kids, all elementary-school aged. As soon as the doors closed, Dad of Three said, “Did you see him?” Dad of Baby said, “Hitting her in the face?” One of the three kids piped in, “Somebody shoulda called security!” Mom of Baby shook her head and “tsk, tsk”ed. Mom of Three said, “Don’t anybody {glares at her brood} get any ideas!” Dad of Three said, “Oh let ’em try it, just once!” The elevator doors opened and we all left, but I couldn’t get this whole scene out of my mind.

People, if you are at the mall and your kid pitches a fit, the last thing you need is a big group standing around you and staring. In some cases, this may add to the fuss the kid is creating if he feels he’s getting attention. In most cases, it will (at the very least) add to the parent’s stress level about the whole thing. That mama probably just wanted to get some freakin’ shower gel at Bath & Body Works. I’m sure she didn’t purposely set out to have her whole family scrutinized and talked about. I can only imagine how that felt. I know that when Smooch is upset in a store, or when he cries at nursery drop-off at church, I get flushed and hot; I start sweating, my blown-out straightened hair starts to frizz; my blood pressure soars. I’ll bet that mom was probably experiencing all of that, to the power of nine.

If you are at the mall and you notice a kid pitching a fit, for pete’s sake – stay out of it! Now, if there is a serious situation happening, sure, maybe you should call security. Or when it’s winding down, maybe you can offer a word of encouragement to the parent (Looks like y’all are having a rough day. I hate when we have those.)

The thing is, I wonder what’s going on in that family’s life. The boy may have just been having a bad day – he could have been tired, or hungry, or really wanting a toy that his parents refused to buy. But then again, he may have some bigger issues that led to his outburst at the mall. He could have autism, or bipolar disorder, or sensory integration issues, or a number of other things that make a big, public, stimulating place like a mall really hard to handle. They could have just been through a tramatic incident, or they could be going through some family problems.

My point is – can we please just try to find it in our hearts to sympathize with other parents, instead of instantly judging them? Maybe we should create some sort of Hippocratic Oath for Parents.

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2 Responses to Can’t help a mama out? At least do no harm.

  1. Mrs. Chicken says:

    Seriously! I was at the mall this afternoon with The Poo. What a strange place it is when you look with eyes wide open.

  2. Mrs. Chicken says:

    ps – I LOVE my sweetheart jeans. Love love love want to marry them love.

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