Crash Course in Parenting

, | USA | Hopeless | July 25, 2016

(I am doing some grocery shopping at a local store. I notice a couple with a young son moving through the aisles at about the same pace as I am. They are letting him walk on his own, so I am trying to make sure there was plenty of space before passing them. After I finish my shopping, I move to the end of an aisle to start for the registers, and right when the nose of my buggy passes into the open area, the little boy comes running through at full speed and crashes face first into the side of the cart.)

Me: “Oh, no!”

(I am looking around for his mom or dad. I’ve been a babysitter for a long time, and don’t want to pick him up without his parents’ permission.)

Parents: *rounding the corner and seeing their son on the floor* “What happened?”

Me: “I’m SO sorry! I came out of the aisle right when he was coming by. I hope he’s not hurt.”

(I brace myself for a lot of yelling.)

Dad: “Oh, he’s fine!” *picks his son up and looks him over* “Nope, not a scratch.”

Me: *surprised* “Well, I still want to apologize.”

Mom: “Please, don’t worry about it. We told him not to run in the store.”

(They dried their son’s tears, told him calmly that this was why they told him not to run in the store, and waved goodbye. It was so refreshing to see parents actually PARENTING!)

Giving Your Best Shot

, , | MN, USA | Hopeless | July 15, 2016

(It is 2004, when a bad batch of the flu vaccine creates a shortage for that year. So, high-risk groups like the elderly, young children, and people with chronic health issues are prioritized. My brother and I go to a local clinic with our grandparents. Note that my state is known for being constantly nice and generous.)

Nurse: “I’m afraid we don’t have enough doses for everyone. So if you don’t have or aren’t…” *she lists criteria* “…please prioritize those that are at high risk.”

(About a third of the people leave, making the line mostly older people.)

Older Customer: “What are you doing here, hon? You’re not the right age for the risk.”

Grandmother: *indignant* “[My Name] has asthma. The flu complications could kill her.”

Older Customer: “Oh, my gosh! I’m sorry. Hey, let this kid up the line. She has asthma.”

(As I move up, I see my neighbor heading out, carrying her recently internationally-adopted daughter, about four.)

Me: “Wait! [Neighbor]! Don’t leave. [Child] gets priority, too. Her immune system needs help to adjust to the US. Here, give her to me. I’ll make sure she gets it.”

(Especially because I am carrying a toddler, many of the mostly-older people let me up to the front of the line, saying it’s better to protect the younger generation. I soon reach the nurse.)

Me: “If there’s not enough, give the shots to [Child] and my grandparents. I can go without.”

(Both my grandparents come up to us and interrupt.)

Grandfather: “No. You are getting this shot. I am 78 while you have 65 more years to go!”

Grandmother: “Absolutely not. Give it to [My Name]. Even if you have to skip us.”

Nurse: “Wait…” *counts heads* “There should be enough now that some people have left. You can all get it.”

(Despite this, even the frailest-looking old people continued to push children and the very ill to the front of the line; I later read that the vaccine shortage was much less of a problem in Minnesota since many people chose to make sure there was enough for those at risk.)

Angels In America

, , , | GA, USA | Hopeless | June 27, 2016

(I’m stocking a shelf. I notice a customer with her five-year-old daughter. They both look like they’ve been through a hard time.)

Little Girl: “Mama, I’m hungry.”

(The mother looks near tears.)

Mother: “I know baby; I’m sorry. Mommy only has $5, so we have to find food that will stretch until next week when mommy gets paid.”

Little Girl: “Okay.”

(I see a another customer with a baby in a cart walk up to the woman.)

Another Customer: “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear you. I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but I’d like to help you.”

(The other customer holds out a $20 bill. The mother starts to cry.)

Mother: “You don’t even know me, and you’re trying to help me. My husband walked out. I work a minimum wage job, and it’s just been so hard. You’re the first person who has shown me such kindness in a long time, and you’re a stranger to me.”

Another Customer: “I’m someone who thinks the world would work a bit better if people paid it forward a little more. I might not know you, but I know you’ve been dealt a bad hand. When’s the last time you ate? I’m sure you’re making sure your daughter eats, but when’s the last time you did?”

Mother: “How did you—”

Another Customer “Because you’re a mother.”

Mother: “I… thank you so much! This will really help. Are you sure?”

Another Customer: “I’m positive. You know you can get some of the stuff here ‘2 for 1’, so that can help.”

Mother: “Thank you… thank you so much! I’ll find a way to pay you back.”

Another Customer: “There’s no need to do that. I hope things get better for you, and when they do, you can pay it forward.”

Mother: “Thank you so much.”

(I’m called to the front, so I don’t see the rest of the exchange. The mother and daughter come through my lane with a cart full of food.)

Little Girl: “Mommy, was that lady an angel?”

Mother: “Yes baby, she was.”

(Their total comes to just under the 25 dollars the mother had. I relate the story to my manager. When the other customer comes up with her daughter, my manager has a gift card for $20 waiting for her. That customer comes in every month or so, and we all refer to her as the angel.)

Should Have Been A-Parent

, , | Freeport, ME, USA | Hopeless | June 26, 2016

(My parents meet my husband and me in a neutral destination for my son’s second birthday. Our relationship has unfortunately always ranged from rocky to non-existent, and this particular visit is going as poorly as expected. My father is driving a rental car, and refuses to stop for food or bathroom breaks all day long. By the time he finally selects a restaurant, it is almost nine pm, we are all exhausted, my two-year-old is at the end of his rope, and I am silently seething. We walk in, grubby in our vacation clothes, and realize my father has deliberately selected the type of restaurant that an overwhelmed, hungry, and tired two-year-old should never, ever enter. The tuxedo-clad maître d’ escorts us to the only open section of the building, next to two older couples. I don’t know who groans louder, the two couples, or me and my frustrated husband. As we wait for our food, my husband and I do our best to a) ignore my parents attempts to make our son cry and their pointed criticism of our parenting choices and b) entertain the kiddo very quietly while we c) slink down in our seats further and further as we realize that one of the two couples next to us is on their first date, and thanks to the fact that we have no transportation of our own, we can’t even leave them to eat in peace. Halfway through our dinner, the other two couples finish their meals and get up to leave. The gentleman on his first date excuses himself from his group, steps back over to our table, and taps my husband on the shoulder.)

Diner: “Excuse me, sir,” *I cringe and hold my breath* “I know you can’t help overhearing that I’m on a date here, and I want you to know that I was so upset when you and your child were seated next to us. But I also want you to know that this is the best-behaved child I have EVER seen, and whatever you and your wife are doing, it’s working. Keep doing it!”

(The look on my parent’s face was priceless! And over ten years later, I still tear up when I remember how his words completely changed our evening. I’m pretty sure he was an angel in disguise… Whoever you are, kind stranger, I hope that you went on to have many more amazing dates with your companion!)

One Man’s Garbage Is Another Man’s Kindness

, , , | IN, USA | Hopeless | June 13, 2016

(I am driving with my three kids, running errands on my rare day off. Suddenly, my four-year-old son starts vomiting all over the back seat (no previous signs of illness, no history of motion sickness). I pull over at the nearest gas station and start trying to clean up my son, the car, and the car seat with the only thing I have available, a pack of baby wipes.)

Me: *to my seven-year-old daughter* “Go into the gas station for some plastic bags. I’m hoping for one to use as a garbage bag and one for [Son] to hold in case he needs to be sick again.”

(My daughter comes back a few minutes later with an entire roll of garbage bags.)

Daughter: “The lady at the gas station just said I could have these.”

(I am able to cover the car seat and put the soiled clothes in another.)

Me: *to my seven-year-old daughter* “Here, return the remaining bags.”

(As I buckle my son back into his seat, my daughter comes back with three bottles of water.)

Daughter: “The lady at the gas station these are for each kid, as it’s hot out.”

(I am grateful, as it is over 90°. I go in to pay for the water and the wonderful gas station attendant refuses to let me pay.)

Attendant: “I’m also a mom, and know how hard it is to have a sick kid.”

(She asked if I needed anything else and sent me on my way. If you are reading this, thank you for helping a mom and her sick kid on a hot day!)

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