I had intended to post this weekend about my New Year’s resolution (yes, singular) and how it’s potentially the first and and only resolution I will ever even attempt to stick to, but something happened tonight that has me thinking and perhaps a little traumatized.
I went to Target tonight to buy my two youngest cousins their birthday presents and the materials to bake my youngest cousin his first birthday cake (it’s a sort of tradition, I baked his brother and sister’s first birthday cakes too). When I got to the toy section, I heard a child crying, which I didn’t think much of. I was engrossed in the 10 trillion different kinds of walkers that become ride on toys that become tricycles and I’m pretty sure convert into a car at some point.
But then I turned down the aisle where the little girl was and I soon figured out why she was crying.
She wanted a toy, a big one, and her mother had told her that she couldn’t have it. If she wanted a toy she could have one of a few smaller ones the mom had picked out. The whole situation, in typed words, seems entirely reasonable.
Except the mother would show the girl (who was 3 years old, I heard the mother exclaim it at one point) the small toys she could have, and then bring her back to the big one she couldn’t. And as if on cue, the little girl cried. And then the mother yelled.
And when I say yelled, I mean to the point that I, a 26 year old adult, cringed.
“I already told you that you can’t have this big one. You don’t deserve it. You can have one of those small ones over there. Stop crying or we’re going home.”
The little girl whined, and the mother yelled some more. They walked back to the small toys to review the girls options and then again, the mother led the girl back to the big forbidden present. And the same yelling cycle reverberated off the shelves again.
I stood and watched, in awe, of what was happening. The whole thing unfolded like a 6 year old taunting his younger sibling. Oh you want this one? Too bad. You can’t. You can have those. But look at this big one, you want it don’t you? Too bad.
Later. Rinse. Repeat.
Or at least until the mother grew tired of the game and the cursing began. First it was just a “damn” or a “shit” here or there. And when the girl got more upset the mother looked her in the face and yelled “why do you have to be such a fucking pain in the ass?”
I was stunned, the girl wept. I was nearly in tears myself. I am 26 years old and my mother has never spoken to me like that. I cannot in all my life remember her ever raising her voice like that. That mother’s voice and her words tore through me as if I was that child. They melted my insides. They broke my heart.
I finally had to walk away.
I could hear the yelling and crying fade as I moved toward the battery section and tried to rush out of the store as fast as I could. Despite my rushing I saw the family checking out, the little girl still in tears, the mother still yelling. I felt helpless.
I tweeted while it was happening and several people asked me if I said anything or called social services. I didn’t.
I am not a parent. I can’t even keep my cat from licking the kitchen aid paddle when I finish mixing cake batter, I know I don’t know what it’s like to raise a child. And I felt like if I said something that it would only cause a bigger mess and a bigger scene and that it would be hypocritical. Who am I to tell this mother that she’s doing something wrong? Who am I to step in on a situation that doesn’t involve me and that I know nothing of? Who am I to judge?
Now I am in the safety of my home, feeling troubled and conflicted. I wonder if my ignoring the situation was the same as condoning it. I wonder if I should’ve stepped in. If I could’ve done something. If I should’ve done something.
I know that many of you are parents, and that’s why I want to know, if it had been you instead of me in that store, what would you have done?