Just Your Friendly Neighbourhood Grocery Store

Margaret Blackwood discovers some immature behaviour in the aisles of her local grocery store — and it’s not all coming from the kids.

“Stop it, Brian! Stop it! You are not shopping for me!” says a shrill female voice.

It’s 5:00 pm in a small grocery store in Oak Bay village, a sleepy, and by all accounts, desirable neighbourhood in Victoria, British Columbia. Back in the day, it was as though only the elderly lived in Oak Bay, but now the place is filling with young families with seemingly endless amounts of dough.

Grocery shopping with kidsI can’t stand it. Curiosity’s got the better of me. I wait two beats and stick my head around the aisle to see what’s up. The shrill, English-sounding woman is shouting at a little boy, presumably her child. The little boy is wearing a fireman’s hat and a yellow raincoat. He has just placed a package of crackers into their otherwise empty shopping basket.

“Stop it. Brian.”

“Yiiii yiii yiii,” he whines.

“Be quiet!” The woman shouts, at her breaking point. She thrusts the crackers onto an adjacent shelf.

Whimpering, the boy throws himself to the floor. Small gumboots kicking.

She’s got a cell phone in her hand, so she resumes her telephone conversation and turns her back on him.

In the safety of my aisle I resume my cost versus content cereal debate: let’s see, now… Cheerios or Shredded Wheat… but the image of little Brian in his fireman’s hat is foremost in my mind. What an odd thing for his mother to say: “You are not shopping for me.” What does that mean? He’s what, two? And already they’re in an adversarial relationship.

I move one aisle down. Can’t really think clearly anymore. Should I have said something? Offered to help somehow? No. Best to mind my own business. Move on.

In the middle of the next aisle, there’s a man fiddling with his Blackberry. Fiddle, fiddle. He might be checking his grocery list, or looking up the ingredients for a recipe (just the other day, in fact, I noticed a couple consulting a snazzy hardcover cookbook while they shopped). But it’s obvious Blackberry man has been at it for a while because his two young boys are bored beyond belief and lolling around on the floor. It is rush hour, if there is such a thing in a grocery store, and they probably should stand up because the floor isn’t the cleanest, but whatever. There are no old ladies (except for me, I guess!) within tripping range. I step around all three of them. No harm done. Their father‘s still at it on the Blackberry…

“GET UP!” he shouts suddenly as I pass by.

His voice is so loud I just about jump out of my skin. And he sounds venomous, like he hates his kids. Like they’re bothersome nuisances.

“GET OFF the floor!”

Okay, I think. I get it. It’s 5:00, you’ve worked all day. You’re trying to do right by your family. Presumably at one time or another you heard Oak Bay is a good place to raise your kids (if you don’t count the occasional murder and 2nd floor balcony cat burglar, that is) and that’s why you moved here. Maybe you’re stressed out from keeping up with the Joneses because, let’s face it, that’s what one does in Oak Bay. Or maybe you’re just having a bad day, period. But I have to wonder. Do you talk to your children this way all the time?

I can’t read the boys’ expressions. Their faces are blank. They get up off the floor, but they’re not even fazed by their father’s outburst. They don’t object or even wince. Could it be that they’ve already been yelled at so much in their short lives that they don’t take him seriously anymore?

It’s human nature to pass judgement on others, particularly when kids are involved. It’s hot button stuff. When my kids were little they rarely misbehaved or melted down in public, but when they did I certainly got my fair share of small minded high and mighty never-walked-a-mile-in-my-shoes helping hand remarks like: should be in bed (Sears furniture dept), spoiled rotten (Grandma’s nursing home), why aren’t you in school? (stranger’s face in open car window), and my favourite: lose the training wheels (Saturday morning in the park).

I remember feeling the scrutiny several years ago when my three year old had the flu and we were in a line up at the pharmacy. Hey, it’s not like I’m picking out carpeting or contemplating paint samples with an ill child, I wanted to shout, it’s the pharmacy: we’re here for a reason. Bad mother, bad mother, I heard my internal voice picking up the chant as I clutched him in my arms while he coughed up a storm; a whooping, gagging, plague like cough. Yes, he’s had his shots, no, he doesn’t have whooping cough.

Yes, I know, I know: If I were a good mother, I would have done up his jacket three days back, made him wash his hands just one more time. I wouldn’t have let him eat that random cookie he was given at preschool without first wiping him, and it, and everything else within range, down with Lysol. Yes, if I were a good mother, I would have somehow protected him from the germs that caused this cough. Yessirree… I would have told that little girl in the cloak room at preschool not to sneeze on my son, thankyouverymuch, I would have given him organic vitamins, made more nutritious meals, homemade soup. If I truly were a good mother, I would have ground my own baby food and frozen it in little ice cube trays… Oh, the guilt of it all.

Mother of the year I most certainly am not, but I can’t imagine ever speaking to my children with such hatred as I heard in that store today.

Perhaps I’m becoming just another meddling old woman eager to pay it forward, but I keep thinking that it might have made a difference if I had intervened or spoken kindly to the boys. Maybe I could have at least softened the blow for fireman Brian somehow…


Photo Credit

Courtesy of Shopping With Kids


Recent Margaret Blackwood Articles:

  • Leave Beacon Hill Park Alone
  • It’s the Thought that Counts
  • Being Thankful
  • Looking Forward, Looking Back
  • Don’t Call Me Ma’am

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