The other day was fun. I ventured out of the house with my Little Mister (17 months) for the first time in three days. We were headed somewhere reeeeallly exciting.
We went to the supermarket where I feel like the very least they could do is add my name to the lease, because I friggin’ live there.
The Little Mister was really excited to get back out into the world again, after our huge trip to visit relatives across the country. Everything was so thrilling. He was pointing left, right and centre at every item down every aisle until I would tell him what they were. He was chatting and giving me the kind of cuddles that make you feel simultaneously like you’re going to burst from all the love, but your back is starting to hurt as you huddle over the front of the trolley.
Who doesn’t love a happy toddler in a supermarket? Seriously. Who?
About halfway round, he started showing the signs that he wanted to find the goodies in my handbag. He was getting quite persistent, pointing and grabbing at it, his face all earnest and determined.
I knew I had three choices (based on the environment and the contents of my bag).
1. Don’t give him anything, letting him whinge and cry all he likes. Great for discipline in most places…except a supermarket with a trolley half filled with groceries.
2. Give him snacks to keep him busy and quiet.
3. Hand him his dummy.
I chose option number three. I had my reasons. All of which were valid and seemed suitable in the context of the Little Mister’s particular situation at the time (I’m deliberately choosing not to explain myself in great detail here because the point of this post is to express that we don’t owe anyone and everyone explanations for our parenting choices just because they’re choosing to judge).
The Little Mister allowed me to finish my grocery shopping (quite a large haul to replenish stocks since we got home from our trip) and we were having a really lovely time together.
I chose the closest check out, which happened to be attended by a lady who has always given friendly service and says a smiley hello to the Little Mister. I thought today would be no different, but no. She spied that dummy and she had an agenda.
We’d hardly exchanged the polite, “Hello, how are you today”s, when she launched into it.
“Ooooh,” she said in an ominous tone, “You can have real problems with those [dummies]. You’ll have to hide them away and throw them out. They get addicted.”
I shrugged it off, thinking that she was simply trying to commiserate and that she meant well (she has young children).
She continued to look at the Little Mister’s dummy with a shaking head and look of disapproval.
I politely (because I’m so people pleasing like that) said, “He’s pretty good. He just needs it in the supermarket haha.”
Awkward, nervous mummy jokes are my thing. Noted by the strained, “Haha?” at the end.
“They like it when they’re teething,” she continued, “but you should give him rusks instead.”
She scanned my items while not breaking eye contact with the dummy – not even for a second.
“Tut tut tut”.
Seriously. She tut tut tutted.
By now I wasn’t being very warm and friendly anymore. I wasn’t being rude, but I wasn’t being very receptive.
It wasn’t so much what she said that made me feel annoyed, so much as who she was, what her relationship with us was (ie there isn’t one) and the way in which she stared my son’s dummy down and looked at me like I was a hapless idiot who was clearly making a big mistake and one day that mistake would bite me in the bum.
Here’s the thing, dudes. Body language totally makes a difference. It says so much more than words can.
I did not take so well to being judged by a near stranger and given advice that I knew would not be helpful (in context because he’s MY kid and I live with him/know him/care for him). When I didn’t appear to want her advice, she got a bit cold. Well, screw her. She could have her opinion. We all have opinions. It’s just about knowing/deciding whether it’s appropriate to air them or not. Having an opinion doesn’t mean we’re all experts or that we know all of someone’s story. It doesn’t mean that the recipient has to take on our unsolicited advice (or else it’s a disapproving look for you, love). I just wanted to finish buying my exorbitantly priced groceries and get the hell home for the Little Mister’s nap!
I handed her my shopper rewards card and she said, “Oh? You have a card?” with a surprised tone that almost bordered on sarcasm.
Yes, lady. I have a card. I don’t always have it with me, because I share it with my husband. You really need to stop paying so much attention to me each week. I want impersonal, clinical service (perhaps with just a hint of a warmish smile), please, but I’m not telling you how to do it!! I don’t know your life!!
On the way home (all of a five minute drive) I was fuming. Apart from the over the top “THIS IS GOING ON MY BLOG – SHE WILL RUE THE DAY SHE MET ME!” thoughts, I realised that this lady who is normally very kind and keeps things friendly might have her own sh*t going on in her life. Perhaps she was projecting her own parenting frustrations and perceived failings onto me. I was a soft target. There is no excuse for it, but I do realise that the Little Mister looks at least six months older than he is. At this stage in his life (almost a year and a half old) there seems to be a huge difference between 18 months and 2 years of age in development (based on my observations of the children I know). The poor kid gets judged based on a 2 year old (or older)’s abilities/developmental stages. So unfair. I feel that it’s something I’m going to face more and more with my little man’s height, full head of hair (and I mean FULL) and bright, inquisitive, conversational eyes. He’s fine without a dummy for 90% of the day and we have so many positive little developments, milestones and things we’ve done well in the day that cannot be noticed by a judgemental check out lady while she scans our food items (no matter how much she stares).
The transaction was finalised and the check out attendant said, “Bye. Have a nice day.”
Like the life had been drained from her soul.
I think she knew she had lost me during that exchange and I almost felt sorry for her.
I’m not fuming anymore. I’m just sitting here, eyebrows raised, thinking about how funny it is that we feel entitled to tell others what we think of their situation (even if we don’t know the half of it). Who do we think we are? No-one asked us!
Have you ever received judgement and unsolicited advice from a stranger? How did it make you feel? Please share.