5/16/2006

Mac and Cheese Thump

Awhile back ago I was at Target with the kids. My oldest was looking around in the electronics department and my two younger (the boy and the girl) were with me looking for various things. I remember I had promised my daugter something if it was there---I think Neopet cards or something. I told her I would buy her the cards if they had them in stock. They didn't. So, naturally, my daughter was lamenting the cards behind me as we were walking along, aisle by aisle and pretty soon she could not contain herself anymore and she started just bawling. I remember standing there, looking at her, and being quite embarrassed. I thought for a minute. Finally I stooped down and said to her in a calm, gentle voice, "Now, E---, you have a bad attitude. You need to have self-control. I know you wanted that thing, but you can not have it now because it is not here," etc. etc. Finally she calmed down after a few more promptings of the same effect and she could control herself. As I was walking off with them to another aisle, a lady stopped me out of the blue. I think she almost touched me.
"Excuse me. I just wanted to tell you that you are a great mother---"

"Thank you," I said. For some reason that was the best compliment I could ever receive. Not because she told me I was a great mother, but because she was a complete stranger and I was not especially trying to behave myself. I think about that when days like today come along...

I was just at my favorite store, Trader Joe's, and I could about cry. My oldest was so set on being on his best behaviour, I let him take charge of the grocery list. We were going down the aisle where the mac and cheese was and I prompted him to get a pack or two. I turned around to grab something else while he went and by the time I turned my head again, there was my oldest dropping two boxes into the cart. "Done!" he said.

Then I heard this woman's voice. "Ma'am! Ma'am!" I turned around thinking perhaps she was talking to me (there were other people in the aisle too) and thinking that I must have dropped something. Then I saw her face. She looked like she was going to kill me. She was pushing a cart with a little girl in it. Now, when people do this sort of thing and I am the recipient, usually I am pretty even keel inside. "Excuse me, but your boy there hit my daughter on the head!" She was shouting at me.

I knew immediately what happened. Let me tell you what I thought at that moment before I looked at my son. Her little girl was cute, I noticed that. ---And that is what sent my oldest son over the edge. Whenever he sees a cute little baby (2 and younger) he just can't control himself very well. He tickles them, pets them, and rubs them either on the top of the head, the belly, or the arm or leg. I thought, this lady just thought it odd that he pat her daughter on the head---she interpreted it as vicious or something.

So I said, "Hit?"

The lady said, "Yes, hit. He bopped her on the top of the head with that box!" She pointed to the box of mac and cheese in my cart.

I looked at my son. He said, "I did not hit her." I kept looking at him. I felt really embarrassed.

"Oh, yes he did!" She yelled.
This lady just stood there looking at me like she wanted me to pay her money for her trouble. Her lips were all screwed up and her eyes were about to pop out of her head. She had her hands on her hips. I could picture steam coming out of her ears, she was that angry.

"What are you thinking?" I said to my son.

"I'm gonna die," my son said.

I did not think this woman would listen to me if I tried to explain that my son is autistic, that he does not know how to socialize properly and show manners. He does not know what is appropriate all the time. I did not think that it would be appropriate for me to tell her that he is autistic and that his affection for her daughter was shown by his "bopping" her on the head. The girl was not hurt. When it happened I did not hear her cry, I did not hear one sound. I don't know, maybe I am being ridiculous. I felt that this woman was over reacting.

I did not know what to do. Being indecisive already, I saw that my oldest did not think he was doing anything wrong (since he was showing affection) and plus, I would have to stand in the store for half an hour just explaining to him that people don't like that. I did not know how to get him to apologize---I felt like I would have been taking the lady's time and plus, I had three kids to deal with while this was going on---I just wanted to spontaneously combust into thin air. I stared at my son to show him I was embarrassed and angry at him.

I turned to the lady, who was waiting for me to respond, hands on hips. I owed her something. I felt bad, but the only thing I could offer her was "I'm sorry", and that is exactly what I said.

She sort of shifted a little bit, took her hands off her hips, put them on her cart, and said, "Well, okay." She sort of sleepily turned her eyes to the direction of her now-turning-around-cart and walked off.

Look. I already think that people must think I am crazy with all the kids with me. I am constantly telling them to stand still, be quiet, get off the cart, etc. But after this lady treated me like that, I felt such incredible shame, I can't describe it. I was mad at my oldest for doing that in the first place. But I just felt like I could not even let my son do one little task for me without something going wrong. I wanted to disappear. I felt like the whole store heard it. It was like she was purposely trying to embarrass me in front of everyone around. She was making a scene. She could have done it quietly, is what I think now.

I then resolved that I did not want anymore things to happen so I told my oldest to wait in the car. That is what he did. When we got to the car to put the groceries in I sat at the wheel and cried for a second. Maybe that sounds stupid. Yeah, maybe. But that is what I did.

"Let's face it Mom, you can't take me anywhere," my oldest said.

"You're poor," my daughter said. ("poor" means"sad and worthy of sympathy" to her at all times.)

I thought about the situation for a second. Did she think my son was degrading her and her daughter because she was black? I didn't even think about her being black. Maybe that does not matter in her estimation of the situation or maybe she thought I was some stupid white lady who taught her children to hit black girls on the head with macaroni and cheese boxes.

I asked my son what he hit the girl on the head for. He said she was cute and he was just "petting" her with the box. Of course, I told him what to do, what not to do, and everything else if that situation arises again where he sees a cute little girl or boy. I told him what was appropriate and not. I told him that people see things like what he did as a threat.

I had one more store to go to right down the road from our house so I just dropped my son off at home because he asked me to. I thought it was a good idea for both of us.

Now, what should I have said to that lady? Once my oldest went to the car, should I have tracked her down and explained to her what really happened, or do you think it was useless---that she would not even take that as an explanation and here I would be exposing myself to more turmoil by her anger? When I got in the line to pay I looked over and she was in another line. Her face was upturned slightly in indignation, like she wasn't going to take crap from anyone. Her mouth was set and her manner seemed very defensive. I was sort of glad I did not approach her again. She looked ready to bite.

Give me advice. I will take it. I am really really (still) despondent about this.

2 comments:

Alisa said...

People are going to be people. You should read the book "Searching For God Knows What" by Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz is actually better, but it doesn't talk about what I'm about to talk about).

In the book Miller explains the Lifeboat Theory, where we think some people are better than others, and it's kind of instinct to think that. The reason we get angry when someone cuts us in a line (or etc) is because we are always looking for a validation to know that someone thinks that we are better than someone else. If someone cuts us, then we think that they think that they are better. It has to do with the Fall and a lack of good relations with God. I kind of forgot where I was going with this, but I had a point originally. Something about that lady thinking that you thought that you were better than her because your son tapped her daughter on the head. I forget now. Anyways, read the book and maybe you'll understand.

R said...

Sounds interesting, Alisa.

Reminds me a little of Mere Christianity. Like we all have standards, and when someone does not meet a certain one, we go nuts. That person may not have the same standard as you, etc. You know, the "you owe me a bit of orange," kind of thing.