The other day I was trying to maneuver my way through the aisles with my four children, so I could pick up a couple items. This grocery store is a favorite with my kids because of the free popcorn. Each child stands (or squirms) until their hands grasp the beloved bag. I’m usually pretty happy with the popcorn as well because it keeps them busy during our trip.
I don’t know about you, but grocery shopping with kids always proves to be an interesting affair for me. For one thing, anytime I go to the store during school hours with my children, we always get some looks. But this story isn’t going in the “Why, yes, in fact we are homeschoolers” direction.
This particular trip included children who, as they ate their popcorn, occasionally wandered aimlessly without watching where they were going. They were apparently hypnotized by crunching on buttery filled bites. They weren’t purposefully being naughty; they just weren’t paying attention. I had to bring them back to “home base” a couple times (“Hold onto the cart and don’t let go”), apologizing to the ladies they inadvertently cut off as I was trying to cross out my list. I was already feeling a little stressed out about the size of our clan, seeing that we take up the equivalent space of two other shoppers walking side-by-side, when my four year old falls on the ground and spills much of his popcorn.
Immediately, after seeing that he’s not hurt and in fact has a goofy grin on his face, my blood pressure begins to rise. I walk to where he has fallen, in the middle of one of the main cross sections of the store, right by the all-important blood-oozing meat section, grab his arm and pull him to his feet. I’m not real happy. People are walking over the popcorn. I feel their eyes boring into my head as I quietly, but sternly question my son.
“What were you doing? How did you fall?”
He looks up at me, rather unfazed, “I wondered what it would be like to faint. So, I tried it.” He smiles with those big blue eyes.
Even those baby blues didn’t work on me at that moment. Eyebrows raised, I point at the popcorn and tell him to pick it up. “No more pretend fainting.”
As he’s cleaning up his mess (did I mention it was in the middle of the aisle way? Right where everyone is walking? Yeah…) an elderly lady comes by and slightly reprimands me, “Don’t worry about it. He doesn’t have to clean it up. They’ll take care of it.”
I smile and kindly say, “No. He can clean it up. He did it on purpose.”
I have played this shopping trip over and over in my mind. Mostly, I’ve replayed my response to Matthew.
For one thing, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to shop with my children. I was tired and feeling nauseated, which is typical of my pregnancies during the first trimester. When I’m not feeling well, I’m not as patient or “on top of things” as I normally am. However, that is no excuse for how I handled the situation.
I don’t like the vision I have in my mind of myself going over to a smiling, oblivious to the fact that he’s made a mess and is in the way, four-year old boy and pulling him to his feet by one arm. Granted, no harm was done to him, but I was upset. I was embarrassed that he was making a spectacle in the store around a bunch of strangers. Isn’t that ridiculous? No matter how tired or sick or grumpy I am feeling that’s no reason for me to get so riled up by a childish display especially if I’m more upset because of what others are thinking. He had no idea that it was a problem to “fake faint” in the store. He wasn’t thinking through the fact that his popcorn would go everywhere once he fell. He really wasn’t thinking much about anything, but what it would feel like to faint. And that sounded really cool.
If I could go back, I’d do it a little differently. I’d still help him up, but with two arms instead of one and take him off to the side, but I’d do it more gently. He’d still have to pick up his mess (sorry, Grandma, but even if it was a mistake, it still has to be picked up by someone and that someone should be the one who made the mess) and I’d still say, “No more pretend fainting,” but I’d say it the way I said it when we got home: “Good grief boy! You are so silly! Why on earth would you want to faint in the store?” A tickle from me to him. A giggle from both of us. “Next time you feel like trying something new, ask me if it’s okay first. And no more fainting in the store. It makes a mess and it blocks the way for other people.” Hugs. More kisses. “Okay, Mama.” His eyes are twinkling and he wants to please.
I don’t want my actions to be determined by how my family is perceived by others or even how I’m feeling at that moment. May the Lord grant me the wisdom and patience as I deal with “fainting episodes” both while they are young and as they grow.
Heidi Vriesman, a follower of the Good Shepherd, is a rather spontaneous wife to her detailed husband and mom to their 4 sweet children, ages 8 and under. She has a BA in Elementary Education and was fairly against homeschooling until the Lord worked on her heart. Now, after 3 years, she couldn’t imagine educating their children any other way. You can find her recounting their days in word and picture at www.dearlylovedmist.blogspot.com. She’d love for you to stop by and say, “Hi!”