Here’s my first Quora answer! I keep forgetting it, until I get a new notice about an upvote. Still makes me cry when I read it.
I was at the supermarket with my one-year-old son (Hanniford’s for you folks from Keene, NH) running “just one more errand”, when he had a meltdown. I knew what it was. He had patiently accompanied me through my morning, me trying to get all the things I needed done, until he was at his limit. He was hungry, and he was not at his best when he’s hungry. (Still isn’t at age 28!) He went into tantrum mode.
I was sitting on the floor, holding him tight, and an older woman walked by. I glanced up and gave her an apologetic smile. She glared at me and snarled, “If that were MY kid, I’d smack him!” and moved on.
I sat there almost crying myself, when along came a young woman who worked at the supermarket. I thought the other woman had complained, and thought the employee was there to ask me to leave.
Instead, she knelt down beside me and said, “How can I help?”
Now I was almost crying with gratitude. I told her he was tired and hungry, and if she could just bring me a carton of milk and a straw, he would be fine in a few minutes.
She did just that. When I told her I would pay for the milk, she just smiled and said, “On the house. Anything else I can do for you?”
I said no and thanked her, and she left.
When I am anywhere in public, and someone’s kid is having a meltdown, I now approach the parent and do the same thing. If the mom is just stressed out because the kid is being “too noisy” or “too rambunctious”, I give mom a smile and say something kind. “I remember those days! Hang in there.” Or, “Your child is so happy!” or anything that shows I am not insulted or perturbed by ordinary kid behavior. I can see them visibly relax and soften, and they often look at their child with exasperation, but also with love.
I will always remember that angry woman who judged me. I will never forget how she made me feel less-than. (I have no idea what her issues were. I just don’t EVER want to be like her.)
But I will also always remember that young woman who showed compassion for me and my son. Such a small act of kindness that still seems so big, after almost 30 years.
We have the power of our choices. And I will always try to choose kindness.
(Note: If I hadn’t been so addled, which was my normal state of mind in these early kiddo years, I would have gone back to the grocery store and asked for that young woman’s name. Then I would have told the manager that they had my loyalty as a shopper forever, because of her.)