Speaking as an observant bystander, I think the actions of others can say a great deal about a person. Here’s what happened.
I was at the grocery store (won’t name it, it is not the one I usually go to, yet I happened to be on that side of town), which is a very busy place to be on a Saturday afternoon.
There was a line at the check-out lane, but I wasn’t in any hurry. The people ahead of me, there was a guy and a gal each in early to mid-twenties, a baby just able to sit up and reach out sitting in the seat of the cart, and a little girl about age three walking around, and looking, and asking a million questions.
The guy walked into the lane first, but did not turn around and begin taking things out of the cart.
Oh no, that might have been Helpful. He walked on past the credit card machine and just leaned on the counter.
The woman had to walk around to the side of the cart from behind and put the groceries up onto the belt, all the while keeping an eye on the baby and answering the questions of the little girl.
She paid with carefully counted out bills and exact change. I got the idea this might be money saved from Tips (been there, done that).
The bagger and the clerk put all the items into bags. The guy just stood there until the woman asked him to move on a bit so that she could maneuver the cart with one hand and hold the hand of the little girl. He did not pull the cart forward, help with either of the children, pick up any item off the belt and place it in the cart. He might as well have been a statue.
They were done at last, and I had about half my stuff on the near belt.
In the next lane, someone had just a few items, so pushed her cart all the way through the lane and turned it round the end. This action put it in the way of the little family just done in my lane.
Rather than move it, rather than look back and see if he should watch the 3 year old, the first guy just walked around the new cart and kept going for the exit. This left the woman trying to steer the loaded cart with one hand, the little girl calling out that the guy was getting too far and to wait up, and the baby reached out and bumped his hand between the cart he was sitting in and the counter.
All Hell broke Loose. The bagger tried to move the empty cart, the little girl tugged her hand away from her mom and ran around the cart being moved, apparently trying to get to the guy by the door, the mom attempted to get the baby to hold still and see if there was blood or bruise or what, and that whole time, the guy was just standing and waiting, over there, far away.
He did not come back to take the cart, he did not grab the hand of the girl even after she put hers out to him, he did not pick up the baby to see for himself how bad the injury.
There was no sign of concern whatsoever.
I never said a word, I swear, but I wanted to grab the guy by the shirt and shake some sense into his thick head. He has a family here. And Dammit, Be nice for them!
Head of Household counts in areas other than tax forms.
The clerk sent the bagger out pushing the cart, the mom trailed behind with the girl by the hand and carrying the sniffling baby, who is okay—no blood, a bit of a bruise on his wrist.
When my sons were small, I don’t think shopping was quite that awful. For one thing, when we shopped together, Husband and I each watched the kids and answered any questions. Usually, one of us went to the store with a list and the other did primary parent at the house for a couple hours.
What kind of mother was I when a trip alone to the store felt like a bit of stolen freedom?
We didn’t know then how much we helped each other carry the burden of raising three fine boys. We back up each other as much as we know how to.
The emancipation I have now that the sons are grown and leaving home, well the future is full of possibilities. Yet I still feel so connected to a young mom who seems to be getting very little emotional support. One person, one step, one day at a time….