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I was recently at the store buying some groceries. As I made my way up the aisles from dairy to produce, somewhere around the mustard aisle, I heard a young child throwing a tantrum a few aisles away. I caught up with them in the produce section, where what appeared to be a very seasoned mother, calmly and with admirable stoicism, kept pushing the cart with her tantruming young son wailing away. She very clearly acknowledged what he was doing, as she spoke to him gently every so often, but she seemed amazingly unfazed, as there was no quickening in her step, no sense of rushing to get him out of the store. 


People made faces. One mother and another woman made eye contact and waited for the screaming child and his mother to be out of earshot–at which point, the mother, with her young son in her cart, proclaimed loudly to the other woman, “I was going to say, that’s definitely not MY son screaming.” The eyes made between her and the other woman, coupled with her comment, conveyed an unspoken judgement of the scene the little boy was making. Like two gossipy housewives itching for some excitement and adult contact, they both stood there, two strangers who had never met before and would likely never meet again, rolling their eyes at this poor woman and judging her right there next to the honeydew crates and a display of rotten-looking plantains.


And for what reason? Because her son was having a meltdown at the grocery store?  My son throws tantrums most often at home, but that’s because that’s where we spend most of our time. If I spent most of my time at the grocery store, then it would stand to reason that he’d throw tantrums there. But, as most people don’t spend all their time at grocery stores but do venture out from time to time, it’s like tantrum roulette; you just don’t know when one is going to strike at an inopportune moment.


How graceful she was as she walked through the grocery store and wheeled her son out to the car. Even as she finished loading her groceries and stood for five minutes at the cart return with her son refusing to get out of the cart, she didn’t lose her composure once. I was envious of her mild-manner and sweet-tempered attitude towards her son. The reactions of everyone reacting to it showed just how stressed people become when faced with a difficult situation. And yet his mother, knowing full-well that everyone’s eyes were fixated on her and her son, somehow manages to be unshaken in the face of adversity. 


I wanted to hug her, to shake her hand, to ask her how in the world she had cultured such poise. But since I cannot, I will do the next best thing and honor her by trying to be a little bit better, a little more understanding, a lot less judgmental, and grateful for every shopping trip that doesn’t end in a public toddler tirade.