This morning I was in the supermarket doing the weekly shopping with my nearly-20 month old in the trolley. We had been there for a little while, and he was tired and bored of sitting down. He saw me putting strawberries in the trolley, and he wanted some. But he had already had some crackers and 2 bananas, and I knew he would have made me open the strawberries and then refuse to eat them. I would have then been left with an open box of strawberries which no doubt I would have spilled on the floor at some point (in the shop, in the car, in my driveway or in the house…) I had been there and done that, and I knew that would happen!
So I decided that I wasn’t going to give him the strawberries. I tried to offer another banana or some other object from the trolley to hold, to try and take his mind off the strawberries for a bit. It didn’t work. He wanted strawberries. I even tried to explain to him that we’d be leaving very soon, and he could have all the strawberries he wanted at home – I know he didn’t understand that, but it makes me feel better to explain things to him! And I then decided that the best thing to do was to hurry up and leave the shop – the strawberries would have kept him occupied for a few seconds at best anyway, before he remembered that, really, he was unhappy because he wanted to get out of the trolley and leave.
I needed one last thing – oyster sauce. Then we could go to the till and pay, and I knew he’d be happy then because he’s been to the shops enough times with me to know that when we get to the till we’re about to leave. That was the plan. So I hurried to the “table sauces” aisle, and while I was frantically scanning through the million versions of soy sauce available (how many brands of soy sauce do they need to stock, really?!), my son was pointing at the strawberries and ‘talking to me’. I knew what hewsqess wanted – we had been through all that.
At that point, a lady walked past with her trolley and said: “He’s trying to tell you something, and you’re not even listening. Mothers, these days…!”. Shocked, I turned around to see who it was, and all I saw was the back of her, because she carried on walking and didn’t even have the decency to turn around and face me. If you want to say something, if you want to REALLY start this conversation, lady, you better turn around and look me in the eye and be ready for what is about to come. But clearly she wasn’t. She had to drop her piece of wrong judgement and leave.
She was very observant that lady, wasn’t she? My son WAS trying to tell me something. But how could she know that I wasn’t listening? Perhaps mothers these days cannot look for oyster sauce while listening? It must be that. Perhaps mothers these days don’t understand their children. Of course, they don’t. My son says only a bunch of words, but I think we understand him at least 90% of the time. I’ve had 2 children before, but most importantly, I’ve had THIS child for nearly 20 months, most of the time, day and night, so I know him pretty well actually, and I knew EXACTLY what he was trying to say at that precise point in time. On top of that I also knew what he really wanted and needed – things that he couldn’t even possibly begin to try and articulate, but I knew them anyway. Funny that, huh? I knew all that. I knew MORE than he was trying to tell me. But I guess she didn’t want to know the strawberry story. She didn’t want to know what happened before or what would happen next. She just wanted to impart her wisdom…
Well, it’s a shame you didn’t stop, lady. I could have told you the strawberry story. I could have told you plenty of stories. I could have told you the story of how a couple of days ago I suffered a blow on the head which shook me up a little bit, and in reality, I shouldn’t probably even be in the shops, but I should be at home with ‘a responsible adult’ who watches out for delayed symptoms of head injury. But I guess you didn’t want to hear that story either. You just wanted to judge. Maybe that made you feel better. Maybe it wasn’t really me you were unhappy with. Because it wasn’t just about me today, was it? It was about ‘mothers these days’. Just out of curiosity, is it just mothers of young children? Or older children too? Is it all mothers? That’s a hell of a lot of mothers you’ve decided to judge today. But anyway, I could have told you something about that as well, as I know plenty of ‘mothers, these days’. And you know what? They all do the same thing that mothers ‘in other days’ did. They do the best they can. For themselves, for their children and their families, considering their own personalities and health (physical or mental) and those of their children; considering their circumstances, their means, their upbringings, their beliefs, their values and much much more. So next time you want to have a deep and meaningful conversation about mothers these days or you want to ask me about my child, his needs, his personal development and my ability to understand him, come over and I’ll put the kettle on. I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to have this conversation in the “table sauces” aisle while I look for oyster sauce, because my son wants to go home, so really, I’ve got to go and don’t have time to stop.
And mothers (and fathers) of ‘these days’, let’s stick together please. Let’s show whoever is in doubt that we’re in it together. Let’s not judge each other. We all have a right to our own opinions, and in our hearts we may think we’re better / doing better / know better / would do better than the next person, but the truth is that we’re not THEM, so let’s not fall in that trap. We don’t know their story. We don’t know their child. We don’t know what goes on day in and day out in their lives. And if we just see a short snapshot of someone’s day, we don’t even know what happened 5 minutes before or what would happen 5 minutes later! Let’s not make assumptions and judge each other. Let’s just give each other the benefit of the doubt that we’re all doing the best we can.
So I thank you, lady in the supermarket. I feel a better person today for having reflected on this. You made me think about what I do for my child and what I know about him, without even realising it. You gave me an opportunity to reflect on the good job I’m doing. That’s nice, and I feel better for it, and so I hope that you learnt something too. I’d say you probably haven’t, because you didn’t stop to talk to me, so your perception of the world hasn’t changed, but I’m not one to judge… You see what you want to see, and that’s your choice.
I do need help in one thing though, as the oyster sauce was never found…
This blog was contributed by our West London BabyNatal teacher Sara.