I was at Publix the other day with the kids. Robbie calls it “our Publix” because it’s the one closest to our house. We’ve gotten to know the cashiers and baggers over the years and they’re always sweet with the kids.
“Good morning, Robbie! Are you going to pay for the groceries today?”
“Maddie – you’re growing so fast! Can I get a high five?”
I try to coach the kids on manners. The basics: eye contact, “yes, please,” and “no thank you.” Every once in a while, Robbie wows an employee with a charming, “How’s YOUR day going?” Those moments make me smile. (I also secretly hope everyone in the store witnesses my “angelic child” and believes he is the product of my AMAZING mothering).
This particular trip to Publix was NOT such a positive experience. In fact, my kids were such a nightmare in the checkout line, I was convinced they conspired against me while my back was turned grabbing milk.
First, Maddie swiped a Snickers.
“No touch, Maddie.” I calmly responded.
The sweet cashier saw Robbie and immediately inquired, “Heya Robbie! How are you today?”
Instead of responding, Robbie slumped down into the footwell of the “car-cart.” I was about to confront his rudeness when Maddie, frustrated by the encroachment on her leg room, squirmed and pushed his head away from her body. Robbie screamed at the top of his lungs. Shocked by the outburst, I barked at him, “Robbie! Get back on the seat RIGHT NOW!’
The bagger, who had witnessed the whole thing as she sorted our produce, said gently, “It looks like his zipper is caught.” Embarrassed and frazzled, I squeezed around to Robbies side of the cart to release him from his self-imposed trap only to watch helplessly as Maddie whirred through the candy like a tornado, hurling at least 10 bags of skittles onto the floor
Letting out a guttural, exasperated “Ugh,” I faced my audience of cashier, bagger and fellow patrons and uttered a bold-faced lie. “I’m so sorry. They’re getting over the flu and neither of them napped today. They usually LOVE the grocery store!”
And there you have it. 30 seconds of toddler mayhem had sent this therapist into a tailspin of what I call, “Mommy shame.” Because worse than their display of misbehavior was the feeling of inadequacy I was experiencing…which I quickly numbed with a lie.
After the ordeal was over, I buckled the kids into their carseats and we headed home. I wasn’t even out of the parking lot before I had seriously considered trading “our Publix” in for a new location. Then it hit me. “Wow, Katie. Really? You’re beating yourself up over a 30 second meltdown? You’re not going to make it til dinnertime if you don’t conjure up some grace for yourself.”
So I did two things.
First – I uttered what I call “breath prayers.” Quick, honest, solicitations of the Lord’s help. “Lord, please help me be patient.”
Second – I called one of my closest friends and told her the whole story. She followed it up with, “Oh honey – I totally get it! Just the other day, we were at the park when…” Ahhh. What a relief. It’s not just me. This was a rough moment on Wednesday, not proof that I am an unfit mother.
Moms – there are lonely days. But you are not alone. Brene Brown says “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” There is not a mother out there who hasn’t felt ill-equipped, exhausted, short tempered or inadequate from time to time. One of the greatest gifts of imperfect motherhood are the connections you make along the journey. If you’re willing to be honest…and be seen. Authenticity takes practice and courage. But it’s worth it.