It was a lovely morning. The crowd was light and we were able to walk around without bumping into other people. B was sleeping soundly in the Snugli. I draped a thin blanket over her head to shield her face from the sun. Her little feet in ducky socks peeked out from the blanket. She was warm and secure. While tasting samples of homemade salsa and pickles from a popular booth, an older gentleman approached me with a warm smile on his face. He pointed to B's socks and asked, "Is it a boy or a girl?" I replied with pride, "Girl." "Ah," he said, "How old is she?" "A little over six weeks." Then he shook his head and said, "You have some nerve." He turned and walked away, leaving me completely baffled as to what just happened. The dude just shamed me for bringing my six week old daughter to a festival. My daughter was soundly sleeping, covered and safe in my arms. There was not one inch of bare skin showing. I would understand someone questioning my parental decisions if she was chain smoking or sucking down bottles of bourbon, but I felt that this was completely unwarranted and just plain rude. I stood there, on the verge of a postpartum hormonal break-down, replaying the exchange over in my head. The Hub walked up and asked me what happened. I quietly retold the story and asked if we could leave the festival. My outing was ruined and I just wanted to go home. The Hub wanted to tell the guy where to stick his opinion, but he was no where to be found. He just disappeared.
Two weeks ago, I went to the grocery store with both kids in tow. I only had a few items to pick up: toilet paper, cold medicine and a couple of ingredients for dinner that night. I broke several of my errand rules that day. (For complete list of rules, please read How to Defuse a Bomb.) I did not have a neat and organized grocery list. B was not feeling well and did not have a nap that day. She was cranky and only along for the ride because she's too young to stay home alone. S was fresh off the school bus and was a little miffed that the shopping trip was cutting into her after-school playtime. I was fighting seasonal allergies and looked as worn out as I felt. But, I needed to pick up these items and I assured everyone that it would only take a few minutes.
As soon as we walked through the door, B started to whine. "I don't want to sit in the shopping cart. I want to push the cart. I am a big girl now and only babies sit in the cart." Fine. I let her push the cart with me. First aisle was the bread and peanut butter aisle. I pointed to a loaf of bread and asked S to put it in the cart. Bad move. The next item was peanut butter. I was looking at the sale prices (another no-no) and B grabbed a jar of peanut butter and chunked it into the cart, crushing the loaf of bread. I removed the jar and told B that it was the wrong brand of peanut butter. Before I had a chance to hand her another brand of peanut butter, B stomped her foot at me and said, "No! I want to put the peanut butter in the cart like S!!" I calmly said, "Please, do not talk to me like that. You can put the peanut butter in the cart once you apologize and calm down." S looked around to see if anyone else was watching her little sister's bad behavior. B raised her voice a little and said, "I want the peanut butter now!" S pleaded with me to just give her the peanut butter so we could move on. I explained to S that B was not going to get her way. She had to calm down first. If I let her talk to me like that, then I am setting myself up for more of the same behavior down the road. That's when B stomped her other foot and said, "Please mommy, now!" Just then, an old man pushing an empty cart pulled up next to me, walked over to B, put his face inches from her face and yelled, "SHE SAID NO!"
I stood there in shock. S turned ten shades of red and started to cry. B, absolutely terrified, ran and hid behind my legs and exploded into tears. What was a fairly quiet debate between a tired mommy and a cranky child turned into a major scene. Everyone stopped shopping and stared at us. The old man shrugged his shoulders and grunted as he turned the corner, "Just trying to help."
It happened again. Some random old man put his nose in my business. This jerk had no right to barge in while I was trying to control my kid. I was not going to let my 3 year old tell me what to do. I was not letting her get her way. I was letting her know that she was not allowed to talk to grown ups like that. I didn't let my exhaustion or desire to get home as quickly as possible stop me from upholding my parental responsibilities. I was doing exactly what people say you should do... be a good parent and discipline your child. You hear all the time about horrible little brats walking all over their parents. Whenever someone commits a crime, without fail, someone will say it's the parents' fault the person grew up to be a criminal because they allowed their kid to behave however they pleased. Not this mama! But, I don't raise my voice at my kids in public. I stay calm and firmly resolve the issue. I had the situation under control and this nosy old bastard decided that I wasn't doing my job to his satisfaction. Once again, I was a victim of drive-by old man criticisms. Why does this happen to me?! Do I have bummer sticker on my butt that reads:
This was my chance to finally say all the things I wanted to say to the guy at the festival, but didn't. I never tell rude people off. Too many times, I am rendered speechless at their behavior or bravado. I also constantly stop myself from saying anything in return because I want to be "the better person." Not this time. To hell with my quick shopping trip! This was way more important. I am fully aware that my daughter is not perfect and can have an attitude. She's 3! But, this guy passed judgement on my daughter and me without any knowledge of the situation. He does not know that I don't back down when my kid whines. He did not know my kid was not feeling well. He has not seen all the other times she is out and on her best behavior. I was not going to let this man think he can go around and yell in a child's face (especially while the mother is in the middle of dealing with her child) and get away with it. He crossed a major boundary and I was going to give him a piece of my mind.
I put B in the cart, grabbed S's hand, and went after the guy. I stormed down each aisle, checking out every man's face and preparing my speech. Oh, and it was good. I was going to wave my finger and shake my head to really illustrate just how serious I was. After twenty minutes of searching the entire store, I lost him. I knew he had just arrived when the incident occurred because his cart was empty and he had a fairly long shopping list in his hand. There was no way he could have finished his shopping within minutes of yelling at B. It's like he just vanished. And that's when it hit me... it was divine intervention.
It was a freakin' miracle. I am sure that some sort of heavenly being swooped in and pulled that old man out of the store before I could get to him. His guardian angel must have heard the alarm that his human being was moments away from getting his face chewed off by a pissed off mama bear and rushed in to save him. I mean, think about it. How can an old man just disappear like that? Twice! It happened once at the festival and then again at the store. One minute they are there and then Poof! - they're gone.
Or maybe he's in some secret league of opinionated geezers and their only mission is to rile up frazzled mothers and then slip back into the shadows... like a geriatric Batman with nothing better to do.
I shared this story with my mom. She thinks he may have realized he made a mistake and decided it was better to shop somewhere else. It's possible, but then, that's giving the guy too much credit.
I may never figure out the who or the why to this mystery, but mark my words, the next time an old man criticizes my parenting or tries to interject, I'll be ready.