“What are you staring at?” a disheveled mom at the grocery story hissed at me.
Before I could answer, she spun around, and demanded that the clerk apologize—again—for accidentally bumping her cart with her newborn inside.
“I said I was really sorry,” the cashier replied meekly. “It was an accident.”
The angry mom turned her rage back towards me. She wagged her finger at Evie, my three year old, and Caleb, my four year old. “You’re the one with the crazy kids,” she yelled.
What had been a small supermarket mishap, one I hadn’t really been involved in, had suddenly turned ugly.
Caleb, who had been staring at the angry mom, turned his attention to me.
I paused, holding back my fury toward this mother for involving my children, and turned my back to her.
“Let’s zip up our coats,” I said to my kids. She stormed out of the store and I thought the situation was over.
But when we went out to the parking lot, she was circling around in her car, waiting for us. As I threw my kids into their car seats, she sped next to us, rolled down her passenger side window and started yelling at us again.
I climbed into the car and as she circled around again, I sped out of the parking lot. Thankfully she didn’t follow me.
As I drove, I couldn’t help but wonder how things had spiraled out of control so quickly. I wonder if I had responded in the right way. I didn’t stick up for my kids. In fact, I hadn’t said anything to her. The woman was right: my kids were acting crazy. Both of them were having major meltdowns. But would it had mattered if I had tried to explain that we were only at the store to get my sick son some juice and popsicles? Would it had helped if I had told her that Evie hadn’t napped and that I’d had a long day and my husband was going to be late? Probably not.
I wondered what the rest of her story was. She was frantic, almost manic, and looked like she hadn’t showered in days, and probably hadn’t slept in a while. Did she have postpartum? Did she have help with the new baby?
I looked in my rearview mirror. My kids had calmed down and had fallen asleep. They will probably see a lot more ugly behavior in their lifetime. But it’s up to me to teach them how to respond. As Christians, when confronted with a hostile situation, how should we respond—especially when we have little eyes watching us?