We all know the saying “Don’t judge a person before you walk a mile in their shoes.” It’s basically the adult-version of the Golden Rule (though that should never have an age cap on it either).
Unfortunately, this age-old saying sounds nice coming out of our mouths, but isn’t always displayed in our actions—especially when there’s an obnoxious child and a limited amount of personal space involved.
Taylor Myers often wishes others could walk in her shoes.
The single mother of two has her hands full with her 4-year-old daughter, Sophie, who suffers from severe attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and a young son.
So you can imagine that Taylor’s trips to the grocery store aren’t like what you’d see in a movie script.
Rather than being able to put her kids in the cart, strap them in and mozy around the store at her leisure, Taylor’s grocery runs are more like a Tough Mudder half-marathon. Get in and get out as quickly as possible, and make sure to complete each of the obstacles along the way.
But last week, Taylor finally hit her breaking point.
In an honest Facebook post following an emotionally draining shopping trip, Taylor broke down and shared her Walmart experience.
“It finally happened,” she writes.
Taylor explains how she’d done her dance around the store, managed to fill her grocery cart and make it to customer service with both kids in tow to cash her paycheck.
While waiting in line at customer service, Sophie “sat, stood, did head stands in the cart” and whined at her mom for taking away a bag of chips after she called her a bad name.
“She’s relentless. I know this. I live with it. Her ADHD and obsessive little heart gets on these subjects of things she finds unjust and wrong and it doesn’t stop until she eventually falls asleep or something very dramatic happens to snatch the attention off the obsessed about subject.”
In the past, Taylor has always fled the store because her daughter’s behavior was too much to handle. But this time she was committed to sticking it out, no matter how uncomfortable things got.
“We stood in line for several minutes, me ignoring her whining and refusing to give in. What’s giving in to bad behavior going to do but reinforce the bad behavior? I’ve walked out of stores hundreds of times because of her. Almost every time, actually, I end up leaving with nothing I came for and a tantrum having a four year old attached to my hand and a baby on my hip, but this time I had to stick it out to get the groceries.”
But it wasn’t just Sophie’s behavior that put Taylor to the test. The longer they waited in line, the more impatient other shoppers around her started to become. Taylor received dirty looks, frustrated grunts, and one woman even spit out some cruel comments that did nothing but make matters worse.
“I tell her for the tenth time to sit down so she doesn’t fall and the next thing I hear is a woman behind me in line saying, ‘oh, for Christ’s sake give her a cookie so she’ll shut up!’”
Taylor couldn’t take it. She admits she could have responded in a kinder way, but the pot had boiled over at that point, and steam was flooding out of her ears. She turned around and angrily told the woman to mind her own business.
Embarrassed of her outburst, Taylor quickly cashed her check, then moved to a different area of the store, knowing that everyone had already labeled her as “that person.”
“The person with the misbehaving child. The person who seems lazy because they’re ignoring the behavior. The person who knows doing anything but ignoring it is only going to make it worse.”
She recomposed herself and held it together as she grabbed a few more things and jumped in the self-checkout. But it wasn’t long before the emotions came flooding out of her.
“By the time I made it to self check out, tears are pouring down my face. I’ve lost it. I’m angry, my feelings are hurt, I’m offended, and I’m just freakin sad that I can’t have one good experience in a store with my children.”
Much to her surprise, this time at the register was different. Where someone had just scolded her for her parenting minutes before, a compassionate woman took it upon herself to comfort the overwhelmed mother as she scanned her groceries.
“As I scan my things, a woman walks up and begins to talk to Sophie. She asks her questions to distract her, but backs me up when Sophie begins to go on about wanting the chips. ‘No, you can’t have those today. You have to be good for your mommy. She needs you to be good for her. I have a little girl just like you. How old are you? How old is brother?’”
The dialogue had changed, simply because somebody—a stranger—decided to care. Taylor says she was beyond grateful for the woman’s kindness and compassion—something she doesn’t receive a lot of when she’s in public with Sophie.
Taylor reminded others that you don’t always know what’s happening in someone else’s world.
“It only takes one comment to break someone down. You never know what someone’s going through. You never know the problems a child has that causes them to misbehave and unless you know the struggle of being a parent to a child like mine, you cannot judge me.”
In our humanness, we form judgments based on brief snapshots of a screaming toddler or an “ignorant” mother’s inability to control her child. But that’s not what we’re here for.
We have a duty to lift each other up and to extend kindness and grace. Taylor says it was those qualities in the woman at checkout that restored her faith, and encouraged her to keep pressing on.
“But It also takes one small act of kindness to make a mama feel comfort and validation. Thank you to the woman in Walmart today, for showing that kindness to my children and I. Thank you for walking us out. Thank you for backing me up.”
She closed by saying, “Mamas have to stick together.”
I’d only add that people have to stick together.
Be kind to one another. We can’t know the depths of things that someone is swimming through. But we can tell when someone is struggling.
Chances are, the mom whose child is driving you batty in the grocery store line has already spent her last ounce of energy trying to correct it.
May we be a community of people who doesn’t judge others by what we can’t see, but rather, helps others by what we can see.
If you see someone struggling, help them. It’s as simple as that.