• Erin DiMaggio

Melt Down On Aisle 6

How many times have we been at the grocery store with our kids when one of them inevitably melts down, maybe runs with his arms stretched out in the air, screaming through the aisles and possibly knocks all of the soup cans off of the third shelf? Or perhaps, she has decided there is a new toy that she absolutely cannot live with out. The thought of leaving the store without the plastic masterpiece in her hands causes her to stomp her feet and scream, “I want it! I want it!” It is in those moments when time graciously stands still so every passerby has space to gasp and stare. A momentary hush of silence allows us to slow down our own thoughts so we can hear the thoughts moving through the air from ear to ear. We think we hear, “What a brat! Control your kid! You are a bad Mom!” The eyes upon us are unaccompanied by a minor and the woman who is glaring at us is carelessly sauntering through the super market, filling her cart with hair products and glamour magazines. She ever so slightly tilts her chin down so her glasses fall to the tip of her nose to allow her eyes to pierce right at our little one who is making a b-line toward the candy section. Then, she shakes her head back and forth with a judgmental no, looks toward us, rolls her eyes, and proceeds toward the checkout lane.

We think to ourselves, “Grocery shopping should not be this difficult.” We feel a deep pain of shame and guilt as we realize how many mothers cannot even afford to feed their children and yet, it feels difficult for us to continue pushing the cart down the aisle. We momentarily wish we could be alone but we know it might just be another five years before we can shop without worrying about losing our kids under racks of clothes hanging in the clearance section. And then, the reality sinks in…in five years they might not want to shop with us because they will be too cool to be seen with Mom. We think, “I should enjoy this moment.” We take a deep breath, settle in and realize we can clean up the floor, put the cans back on the shelf but we won’t have this time back. This time is bittersweet and short because now is all we have.

This crazy paradox of wanting things to be different and then grasping to hold on to the moment bounces back and forth from within our cognitive processing centers in the brain and then they touch down into our heart and settle in our unseen emotional body. We carry these feelings around with us like groceries in a bag. We want to give our children the very best of ourselves. We want to be patient, kind and grateful. We want to calmly, firmly and lovingly, set limits and boundaries. And on the days when no matter what we do, some little body knocks everything off of the shelf, we need support, love and empathy from people passing by and most importantly, we need to learn how to support and love ourselves in those moments.

What do we do when we realize some things are beyond our control? We acknowledge that sometimes, we screw up, we mess up and we slip up and so do our kids. How do we handle the stares, the glares and the judgment that drift in from small cracks left unsealed? How do we ignore the blazing hot glares and instead look for and pay attention to some sweet person whispering, “Can I help you?” For every one judgmental lady there are always at least five people who have walked in our shoes, who know what it is like to go out on a trip for eggs and milk.

Brené Brown, in her most recent book, Rising Strong, sums it up greatly, “A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives.”

At the end of the grocery trip, the opinion that matters most, is not the lady buying beauty products at the grocery store or the old lady who raised her kids up with a rod. The opinion that matters most is the woman who carried these souls here, who pushed through contractions, gave every ounce of her fuel to ensure the delivery and well-being of another little human being and then continued on day, after day, year after year, doing all that is required to give the best to another human being. The opinion that matters most is ours and the precious little people that we are raising up. So, on those days when we feel overly vulnerable and tender, it is then that we need to be selective about what we say to ourselves and how we guide our children that matters most. We need to whisper kind words of love and encouragement so we can hear about the messages that matter most. We can then settle into the deep love that we feel in our hearts so mean spirited criticisms have no room in the cart.

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