My daughter and I were out shopping the other day, and while she went into a dressing room, I stayed nearby looking at various clothing items.
“Get over here, right now!” she shrieked.
I stopped my hand mid-way on the hanger because the tone of the voice was jolting.
I looked up and saw a woman towering over a boy who was no more than three years old.
“I have other things to do. You are slowing me down! Get over here!” she yelled.
I try not to judge a situation because I am not living her life, but if someone spoke to me the way she was to him, I would have done exactly what he did. Run the other way.
“Fine! I am not getting you anything you want!”
She spun her cart toward a customer service counter while he fled in the opposite direction. I tried to see where he was going but he disappeared. She talked to the store representative as if there was no urgency to find her child. I moved myself farther out to try and get a better look to see where he had gone while she was taking her time focusing on what she thought was so important.
Because I know we live in a society where children are not safe to be left unattended, I felt that I needed to try and find him just to be sure he was okay. I glanced around not trying to draw attention to myself because I didn’t want someone to think I was a predator instead of a protector. After awhile, I heard the wheels on her cart moving, so I knew she was on the hunt for him now that she had taken care of her own needs first.
I observed her run up and down aisles searching for him. By this time, my daughter had come out, and I explained what I was watching. She didn’t call his name but merely walked briskly around the store glancing back and forth. I began to wonder if she really wanted to reconnect with him. Inwardly, I was feeling somewhat panicked as it was taking so long for her to relocate him. I was hoping he had not gone out into the parking lot on his own.
From a few rows over I heard his wails as she said,
“Get into the cart!”
Somehow she managed to put him into the child seat while her tongue lashing continued.
The last words I heard him say to her before I exited the store were,
“You don’t love me.”
They weren’t shouted or screamingly said in a tantrum. It was just a matter of fact statement of not feeling cared about. I turned to look back to see her not paying attention to him with her eyes glued to her phone. No interaction. No correction. No place for apologies. Just silence.
We ventured across the street to another store and within moments, I was in the middle of witnessing another mother and son moment. This time, the boy was close to twelve and was carrying two boxes of shoes.
Normally, I don’t go about listening to other people’s conversations with their children, but when a woman’s voice is so loud that it invades my hearing space, what am I to do? She began chastising him for every small infraction she thought he was doing. I saw him move away from her to give himself some distance. She was twice his size in weight and her face was one big scowl.
He placed both boxes of shoes on the jewelry counter while she busied herself on her phone. He quietly waited for her when suddenly, she spun around and said,
“Get those boxes off of there!”
Like a brute, she ran over and snatched one out of his hand. He put his head down and placed the other box under his arm. I could see that he felt he could do nothing right to please her.
“We are leaving!”
My daughter and I glanced over the rack at each other feeling another round of despair for this young boy. As I continued in the store, I began to contemplate what I had observed. Why had such venom been directed at these children? I understand we live in a world where some kids are diagnosed with various physical and mental disorders that can frazzle an adult’s patience, but in both cases, it appeared to me as if the moms were the ones suffering from a malady.
I silently sent a prayer of love over both situations, and I inwardly asked God a couple questions:
Why is this happening? Why are these moms so angry?
The first thing that popped into my mind was that both of these women had some sort of unresolved anger toward a male figure in their lives and the stress of circumstances was bringing it out toward their boys. I have to say, I would not have come up with that on my own. It made me see the situation differently. In fact, after watching the second lady verbally trash her son, I was so filled with hatred toward her that I would have loved to put her properly in her place. So to have the thought come that she herself was wounded, made me reconsider my anger. It made me view the situation through another set of eyes that were more compassionate than my own.
Moving along through the store brought me to yet another mother and son.
“Mom. I am tired,” he said while she was looking through bras and underwear.
“I know. Just a couple more minutes.”
She spoke softly and he responded in the same manner.
What was I seeing here? Respect from both parties toward one another. Her acknowledgement of his feelings and his trust in her that what she just said back to him would come to pass.
He quietly stood by while she finished. She took his hand as they walked toward the cash register. She said,
“I am ready to go. Thank you for waiting so nice.”
I was relieved to have encountered that after the other two experiences.
To some, this wouldn’t matter, but to me it does because what you see going on in public is just a small reflection of what is going on at home and eventually we all have to deal with it. I know that everyone has a bad day, both children and parents, and parenting is not easy.
I guess what I was struck most by was the tone and the volume that the other two had used so that the entire store was made aware of the conflict. Like the pressure was so volatile and huge inside of them that they were bursting because they couldn’t contain it. Unfortunately, their children were the recipients of it and some of us bystanders were splashed by it as well.
With all of the technology, parenting classes, scads of books and articles available you would think our society would be the best at child rearing and healthy adult living. Yet, you can see many times over we are not at the top of our game. Something is missing.
So, what is the answer? What is the key to a good, loving household? In Ephesians 6:4 it says:
And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with loving discipline… (TLB)
If children are expected to honor and love their parents, then the parents need to give their children something to build upon. And, if mom or dad has past issues and pain, then it’s time to deal with that too. And guess what? In Psalm 147:3 it says this:
He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds. (TLB)
If you are observant, you can see that there are gaping holes in the hearts of people. A gigantic band aid cannot fix the problem, but we can pray for America’s parents to turn toward and move into the arms of a loving Creator who can repair the damage. In turn, their children will reap the benefit of wholeness. God is faithful to restore and make well the lives of the walking wounded.