A few weeks ago, I took my kids to Shoe Carnival to get Big Sis some new shoes.  And it was just like any other day.  Aside from the fact that the kids were hungry and a little tired, they were in good spirits.  And after browsing the store for a while, we found several pairs of shoes that my oldest daughter liked.  With my two-year-old by my side, I helped my four-year-old try on a few pairs and took a little extra time to show her how to tie the laces.  She had never had shoelaces before, only Velcro.  Needless to say, she was very excited.

Once we had been in the store for a while, my two-year-old started to lose it.  She is not great at being tired, after all, and she doesn’t do well in between meals.  (She would be an awful contestant on Survivor.)  Regardless, over the course of about ten minutes, my sweet angel turned into a deranged lunatic.  She started running up and down the aisles like a crazy person.  And because I was trying to help her big sister, I basically ignored her.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that she was knocking shoes off their display pedestals as she went.  Crap.

Doing Damage Control

As I began frantically began matching all of the scattered shoes to the right pedestal, my four-year-old started crying.  That’s when my two-year-old decided to throw her own shoes in the air, just to see where they would land.  To say I was embarrassed would be an epic understatement, yet all I could do was clean up the mess and move on.  So I did.

Once I got all of the misplaced shoes back in place, I started looking for the shoes my two-year-old had thrown.  In the meantime, she took off her socks and started doing a modified snow angel in the shoe store’s carpet.  And she did this all while crying, of course.  And that’s when things went from bad to worse.

At this point, all I wanted to do was pick up our mess, pay for the shoes my daughter picked out, and leave.  Once I had everything back where it went, we stood in line while my daughter’s tantrum commenced.  It sucked.  Store employees and customers were ogling us like members of a traveling circus.  Dirty looks.  Loud sighs. 

The teenager behind me mouthed “WHY ISN’T SHE DOING ANYTHING?”

But, the woman in front of me shot me a knowing glance.  She nodded and smiled.  She laughed.  But, she wasn’t laughing at me.  She was laughing with me, as if to say “oh, I’ve been there” or “you poor thing.”  The look on her face let me know that I wasn’t alone.

Unfortunately, others in the store weren’t as understanding.  My two-year-old was still rolling on the floor when I discovered the shoes we picked weren’t $24.99 like we had thought.  In fact, they were $49.99.  Yikes.  Since we would never pay that much for children’s shoes, I apologized to the cashier and told her that we didn’t want them.

Oh, come on!  You got to be freakin’ kidding me,” the woman behind me shouted.

Both of my kids were crying by this time, and my two-year-old ran away screaming as if she were escaping a burning building.  Gulp.

After a few moments, I gathered my kiddos and bolted for the door.  And if looks could kill, we would all be dead. 

It’s Easy to Judge a Mother

It’s easy to witness a tiny glimpse of bad behavior and assume you know the whole story, isn’t it?  It’s easy to think the worst of someone based on a snapshot of time – an instant – even though that moment cannot possibly tell you what their life is really like, what kind of rules those children have, and how hard that mother tries to do everything right.

It’s easy to judge a mother that you don’t know. 

She was alone so she’s probably a single mother. 

She couldn’t afford the shoes.  She’s probably poor and on welfare. 

My kids NEVER acted like that when they were little.  They would’ve been spanked immediately. 

My kids were always perfect angels in public.  How embarrassing.

When I have kids, they will never act like that.

Think what you want, but you never really know what goes on in someone’s home.  The awful moment in the shoe store may be the worst parenting moment that they’ve ever experienced.  Maybe it was an isolated incident.  And maybe, just maybe, the parents are doing the best they can.  Maybe they’re not perfect, but they’re trying.  And really, isn’t that the best that any of us can do?

It’s easy to judge a mother.   It’s easy to roll your eyes and assume the worst.  It’s easy to huff and puff loudly, to ridicule her, and to let her know that you disapprove.

But, it’s just as easy to smile and nod, to laugh with her not at her, and to let her know that she’s not alone.