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Dolladrama

A couple weeks ago I had to run into Dollarama to buy some special dishes for a yummy breakfast I was planning to soon make myself.  I was walking quickly through the aisles to get what I needed and I could hear a mom hollering at her kids from somewhere out of sight.  I felt a little uncomfortable and I admit, I felt a little judgy (step 3) but I thought whatever, I’ve felt the same way, or acted the same way in my home… what’s the difference?  Who knows what this mom has had to deal with?  (step 5) I grabbed what I needed and found my place in line behind the mom and two other ladies.  The mom was paying for some candy that her daughter had taken a bite out of… something she wasn’t planning on paying for but now had to.

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a really fun moment a couple years ago when Ezra was in his insane fit-throwing stage.

The lady in line behind the mom decided that now was the time to let the mom know what a terrible job she was doing at motherhood, putting the mom down and shaming her for her children’s behaviour in the store.  The lady behind that lady soon joined in and they even went so far as to point at the mom’s oldest daughter and comment on how she was old enough to be behaving more properly.

Naturally, the mom was completely defensive and talking back to the lady and I found myself in such an awkward position.  Do I look around normally, as if nothing is happening?  Do I speak up and say something to the ladies in front of me and take a stand with this mom?  I am a people-pleaser and I hate confrontation, so I really didn’t want to get involved and potentially have these ladies turn on me too.  My knees felt weak as the mom and the lady kept arguing back and forth.  Ultimately, I said nothing and the mom gathered her things and her children and left the store.  The ladies in front of me continued to discuss the situation with the cashier, who appeared to be the manager (who handled it fairly professional, I might add, in case any Dollarama execs are reading my blog).  Meanwhile, I just stood there praying that I would get a chance to talk to the mom in the parking lot after I finally made my transaction.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, this mom was just two parking spaces away from me.  I was scared and honestly, I didn’t want to, but I came around to the side of the car where the mom was buckling her daughter in and I quietly said, “Excuse me… I was in the store just now… and I just wanted to let you know that I know that you are just doing the best job you can at being a mama, and –” I couldn’t even get the rest of the words out and this poor mom was flat-out ugly crying in front of me in the parking lot.  My heart just broke even more.  I didn’t know what to say or do and before I knew it, there I was hugging this stranger and saying “Being a mom is so hard, it’s so hard, we’re all just doing the best we can.”  I left her there with her daughters and told her that I hoped she knew that not everyone in that store thought she was doing a bad job and I hope that she had a better day from there on out.

It’s been more than two weeks and I still can’t really shake this experience — and I bet the mom can’t either.  I feel so badly for the ladies in the store as well, as I can’t help but feel they must have some real pain and insecurity in their own lives to publicly shame someone as they did that day, but in the end, my heart is naturally way softer for the yelling mom.

The thing is, we just don’t know what people are dealing with in their lives.  It’s so easy to point fingers and to judge.  I know what it’s like to have kids who throw unexpected, unpredictable and uncontrollable fits, even in public.  I know what it’s like to have kids who throw such fits despite any and every kind of discipline and gentle talking or not gentle talking you could ever do.  Our kids’ behavior can sometimes just be beyond our control, part of who they are, and is not always a reflection of who we are as parents.  And maybe that mom hasn’t had the best upbringing, or she has no support, or she’s just dealing with some really tough stuff, or maybe she has an awesome life but guess what, today is just a bad day.13

Sometimes I feel so alone as a young mom.  A people-pleaser like me just really wants to do things right and make everyone happy.  I look for the rules, for what I should do.  It’s such a cliche but there really is no manual for motherhood.  Our kids don’t come with an instruction booklet.  I didn’t live with my own mother for most of my childhood and I don’t have a mentor or a role model to come alongside me and show me how to do this whole motherhood thing.  And when I’m at my wits end, when I’m having a bad day, when my rope is frayed… it never does me any good to have someone telling me what a terrible job I’m doing.  The only thing that does is make me feel like giving up completely.

From my experience, when I’m reacting in a negative way to my kids, I already know in my head that I’m not doing my best in this moment.  I already regret the things I’m saying or my actions.  But I’m in such a desperate, raw, pull-my-hair-out moment that I don’t know what else to do… or I do know, but I just can’t.  If I knew and was able, I’d be doing it!  I don’t need someone to agree with my inner-voice that I’m a terrible mom.  When you feel like that, don’t you just wish someone would come alongside you and tell you how to do it, or do it for you, or simply just help you do it?  To crouch down with your kids and gently and lovingly remind them of proper behaviour?  To grab your groceries for you and help you carry them out to the car because one of your kids is running one way and the other one bit into some food you hadn’t paid for and you’re already late and you feel like you suck as a mother and just want to give up — but you can’t.  Because you are mom and you just have to keep going, no matter how messy the whole thing looks.

We need to build each other up and cheer one another on.  We need to give each other hope that we can make it.  I don’t know what was going on in that store before I walked in and maybe this mom was absolutely crazy and her kids were bonkers too and maybe they were totally ripping the store to shreds.  Maybe.  But even so, I have to believe that even in our most absolutely crazy moments, we really just need someone to tell us “You can do this.  It’s hard, I know, but you can do this.”

Because hope is sometimes all you need to keep moving forward.6

(Title credit goes to my friend Joanna who, after I texted her the entire story, responded with “Dolladrama!”)

May 7, 2014 - 9:05 am Jill Slywka - This is a beautiful story! And beautifully written! Thanks for sharing - but even more so, thanks for being brave enough to go up to that mom in the parking lot afterwards. We need more people like you, Chelsey, who are willing to say, 'I understand', and 'Me too', rather than just judging. Thanks for encouraging me in this today.

May 7, 2014 - 2:24 pm chelsey - Doesn't "me too" feel so good, Jill? What a relief when you find out you aren't alone. We need to take our guard down and hold each other up more!

May 7, 2014 - 10:18 am Janelle - Oh my goodness! This is a great story and a great message, and how great of you to share it. Thank you for your words!

May 7, 2014 - 2:24 pm chelsey - Thanks, Janelle :)

May 7, 2014 - 10:54 am Jenn - This is a beautiful story. On behalf of frazzled moms everywhere, thanks for taking the time to share a kind word. I have had trips to the store with my two young kids who are just having an off day and I just don't know what to do....we need milk! hahaha...I catch people staring with their nose up, or shaking their heads and I can only imagine what they must be thinking...I've thought the same before I became a parent. You are totally right, we just don't know what going on in the back ground. Have a blessed day!

May 7, 2014 - 2:23 pm chelsey - Thanks for reading, Jenn. It is just so hard and it only makes it worse when you are already frazzled and then feel like everyone is looking down on you!

May 7, 2014 - 2:37 pm L.A Blackwood - Thank you for sharing this. I was in a small town grocery store (I won't list because it's that small) I was picking up diapers and dinner. My good friend was standing with me in line. We had to do some errands before we hit the grocery store which was on our way back to my place. We had stopped for coffee and breakfast maybe 5 minutes down the road before we hit the grocery store. It was Jan and where I live it was ridiculously cold. My 21 month old was going through a stage where he refused to wear mitts and a hat or his hood. He was in a one piece snow suit with a blanket and everything. It was nap time and I literally lived in the 3rd house from the grocery store. So I have this screaming baby who wants to nap after a breakfast out. My hair is fire engine red and long apparently I look 17, I'm 27. While I was paying for my groceries which by the way consisted of diapers, chicken nuggets, baby food, baby cookies, and kid's cereal. Two elderly women decided to begin telling me what a horrible uncaring mother I was and how children my age should be in school. The cashier at the grocery store also jumped in. I thanked them for their concern and explained I needed to get my son home to have his nap and didn't have time for this. This was a horrible situation for me, I was crying for hours after. Hearing that even if they are afraid to step up other people don't look so horribly down on moms with screaming kids it helps.

May 7, 2014 - 3:35 pm chelsey - Oh, thank you for sharing, LA Blackwood. I'm in the same boat as you, people often think I'm a teen mother because I look much younger than I am. How terrible that you experienced this public shaming as well. It would help so much more if these women would pass on their wisdom rather than shaming us for not having it yet! {hugs} to you, mama! You are doing a good job.

May 7, 2014 - 2:59 pm Lauren MacDonald - I am so happy Kelli reffered this blog to me, it makes me realize that you're right, no one knows what an individual is going through and we need to help, not hinder.

May 7, 2014 - 3:33 pm chelsey - Thanks for reading, Lauren. You are right! We need to help each other out, we can't do it alone. I think we are all afraid and so we judge instead of saying "I'm not perfect either." In my experience, it is so much better to help someone out instead of judge them -- it changes both lives for the better!

May 7, 2014 - 11:10 pm Kati - Aw Chelsey! Your response reminded me of an event YEARS ago when our 3 daughters were hmm... 8, 6 and 1... eating in a restaurant outside of Langley BC on 'vacay'. The kids weren't being terrible, just... kids... spilled pop all over the table... crayons scattered everywhere, food everywhere. I was super stressed... I was always so self conscious of our kids' behaviour in public, because I, like you, am a 'pleaser' (still am, some things never change!) ... in the midst of all this, some random (random??) lady about the age I am now (gulp) walks up to our table and says, 'excuse me, i just wanted to let you know how impressed i am with how charming and well behaved your children are!' Whaaaa??? Really??! Are we talking about the same children?? It was so counter to what so often happens (ie the snotty behaviour you described from the women in the store or at the very least, dirty looks from surrounding tables) and so easy to make assumptions. But that one little positive encounter has stayed with me to this day (23 yrs later!) and buoyed me up on days when I doubted I had any parenting success whatsoever! I'll bet you dollars(store drama) to donuts that gal will remember your intervention years from now! Now THAT's listening to the Spirit :)

May 8, 2014 - 8:31 am chelsey - I hope my words stick with the mama more than the other woman's do, Kati! When you feel like you're drowning isn't it much better to have someone reach out their hand instead of saying "you should've learned to swim."? Thank you for sharing your experience!

May 8, 2014 - 8:07 am Hope - Well -lived and well written! I'm now 58 but I had a child that was a challenge and one that was average and responded well to common parenting techniques. So often when my child had the full-blown tantrum or fell apart in public well into the elementary school years I felt judgement from family or strangers. Some offered less than helpful suggestions. I make a point now of giving verbal "gold stars" to parents who are working hard at their job whether or not their child is behaving perfectly. By the way....my child now 30 - started doing food elimination when she was 20 - and now feels like her brain is at peace. In her case no gluten, dairy and other grains.

May 8, 2014 - 8:28 am chelsey - That is awesome that you do that now, Hope. And isn't it amazing how some foods can affect us?

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