I'm at the checkout in the Superstore, packing the canvas bags that I finally managed to retrieve from the trunk with groceries, kids' clothes and other random items while simultaneously taking out my debit card to pay the bored-looking cashier and scrounging at the bottom of my purse for my keys. I glance up, and my four-year-old is jumping right into the middle of the aisle, directly into the path of a woman with a shopping cart. The woman stops abruptly without crashing into her, at the same time as I yell, "Watch out!"
I abandon the groceries for a moment to pull her next to me and start into my lecture. "Seriously, C—you have to pay attention! You have to watch out for other people! You're in their way, and you could get hurt!"
My four-year-old gives me what I'm sure will become her patented look as a teenager—the one that says, "But I DIDN'T get hurt!" and "You're totally overreacting" and "I'm not really listening to you anyway" all rolled into one. And now I'm holding up the line, and the man behind me is starting to look impatient.
I see women just like me all the time. The woman shushing her wailing baby as she waits in an unmoving checkout line. The woman patiently explaining to her older child why she can't call her by her first name instead of "mom" or "mommy" (the answer to which, by the way, was essentially, "because I said so"). The woman saying "no" for the thousandth time to the thousandth thing that her child has pointed out or asked for or grabbed right off the shelf. The woman bribing her squabbling kids with candy for just five more minutes of good behaviour so she can finish her shopping in (relative) peace.
Don't you see? We all have the same issues.
Having children can make your life seem more insular since so much of what you do, day to day, is focused on your family. So when I have 45 minutes to get the week's shopping done, I see the woman with the fighting kids as an obstacle blocking my path to the yogurt; I see the woman with the crying baby as an impediment to me getting my groceries and getting the hell out of there. I sometimes forget that we are in the same boat.
Life is busy, life is hectic and kids are endlessly demanding. But when you see that poor woman trying to stop her two-year-old from having a complete meltdown in the frozen foods section or cleaning up an entire row of cans that her kid has accidentally knocked over, instead of getting irritated, breathe. And take a moment to give her a little smile or a nod of complicity and understanding. Don't worry; it's fine.
God knows, we all need it from time to time.