I’ve been noticing this disturbing trend, but I will not apologize for my children. Instead, we will be the change we want to see.
I’m noticing a trend more and more as I leave my house with my kids and venture into public places. Yes, public places. We will get back to that important point in a bit.
To say that I am noticing something is significant because I am not a naturally observant person. We used to joke that if I was called on to give my testimony about a crime I witnessed, the best I’d be able to do is to say man or woman… with hair, I think… and maybe wearing a shirt. *shrugs sheepishly*
I know, though, that it’s not just me noticing this trend because I’ve heard it from many others. In fact, when I vented a little on social media this afternoon, I received many messages from others who know exactly.what.I’m.talking.about.
You may be new here, or just have a hard time keeping count of my kids (trust me, I know the feeling), but we have five kids. Five adorable, inquisitive, noisy, friendly children. Five little people who accompany me just about everywhere I go. It’s a common scenario many find themselves in. It’s called motherhood. You don’t have to have five kids to know what I’m talking about. You receive admission into this club with just one.
Here’s the thing. More and more, it seems that too many people find the flock of children following me everywhere I go to be unpleasant. That or they are smelling something I’m not which is causing the stink face I see almost whenever we go out.
I’m naturally inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt. Believing the best is truly such a light and free way to live. However, there comes a point when a scenario is presenting itself so frequently that you realize it’s not just all coincidence.
Our culture does not value children and (beware, sweeping generalization ahead) when children interrupt their schedules or block their grocery aisles or simply act childishly, such is viewed as a nuisance and met with sneers at worst and indifference at best.
If I’m picking up on it, I’m guessing my children are too.
And that breaks my heart.
Today I was at the store with four of my children and three of them were pushing small kids’ carts. The store was not busy and my children were behaving themselves. We were having a good time together. They were relishing the independence and were full of joy at being able to fill their carts with groceries we needed. I was soaking in the joy of observing my children interact with their world.
It wasn’t long (about ten minutes) before a stranger felt the need to comment on how many children I have. And while noting the size of our family doesn’t bother me, the unkindness that too often follows quickly flushes my cheeks.
May I remind my neighbors what they must have forgotten since they were themselves children: if you can’t say anything nice, keep yo’ mouth shut.
The snide comments are much less frequent than people’s general indifference and unfriendliness towards children, though. I’m trying to figure it out, but I can’t quite put my finger on when we stopped offering smiles at the people we pass in stores and on the sidewalk. Maybe it’s just me, but when I am out with my children and we meet with no smiles at all, it’s like ice cold water down my back.
We left the store abruptly today. I just couldn’t deal with it and I let all the joy escape from our outing.
I spent a lot of time thinking about our recent experiences and our interactions with people this afternoon. And I am freshly committed to three things when I am out with my kids:
1. I will not apologize for my children’s presence.
Probably owing to the fact that I have strong people pleasing tendencies, as soon as I get a cold look from someone I start to feel like I owe it to people to make sure my children are not in anyone’s space. I have a knee jerk reaction to shush my kids and act like we have done something wrong simply by being there.
But c’mon! This is so opposite from what I actually believe. So opposite from what I want my children to believe about themselves.
Remember what I said about us being in PUBLIC places? Well, the thing about public places is that they are for the public. No one should be made to feel like they are less welcome because of their age, their gender, their appearance, or anything else.
My children may be young, but that doesn’t take away from their ability or their right to participate in the things we do.
2. I will model and teach courtesy and consideration.
I was reminded about the importance of being the change you want to see. I ran away today, but I want to be a gracious example of hospitality in and out of our home. A hospitable person makes people feel comfortable, welcomed, and cared for. That’s the kind of person I want to be. Even in the grocery store.
My children loooooove to talk to people. I don’t want to squelch that in them. Through my example and direct encouragement, I commit to raise children who are aware of others’ needs around them. And yes, that does mean teaching my brood not to block the aisles.
Whether or not we receive smiles, we will give them. We will return kindness for indifference. We will give joy for sneers.
3. I will remember that for every cold shoulder, there are dozens of people who have our backs.
How easy it is to let one or two bad experiences leave a sour taste in your mouth and dampen your spirits! But I will commit to believing the best in our community and will remember that all around the world are people in my shoes– shoes with little footprints on them from toddlers stepping on their feet, shoes that have been walking alongside kids growing up too fast, shoes filled by parents who would do anything for their children.
I heard from so many of you this afternoon (thank you!), and I just want to remind you that you are not alone.
I will also strive to remember that behind a cold shoulder could be a hurting heart or an anxious mind, and I will extend grace instead of resentment.
My children will continue to go out with me, not only because leaving them at home alone is against the law, but because I enjoy them. We will shop together. We will visit museums. We might get in your way. My son might bore you with an all-too-detailed recitation of every gem he owns and their specific qualities. (#justsmileandnod)
There will be times when they will be in bad moods. Do you know what that’s like? Yeah, I do too. (#humility).
I hope that as we invade these public spaces, that we will spread a little more joy, a little more fun, and a dash of innocent delight. At the very least, I hope that we get home with most of the groceries on my list. (#lifegoals).
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