Face of hope

Face of hope
Courtesy: TIffany Kay Photography

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The *Tact* of the Matter Is .....

Monday started off pretty normal for us. Up early. Kids ready and off to school.  Getting Meagan ready for PT.  Dreading the week...yet able to feed off the energy of adrenaline and a few cups of coffee.  The girls got up really well and got off to school in time.  Maura woke up in a surprisingly good mood and got herself dressed.  Meagan was sleepy, but happy and did a great job at her PT session.  I was able to get two loads of laundry put away, two more in to the washer and dryer, and was able to clean up a bit around the house.  All in all it was a great day up to the early afternoon.

I left around lunchtime to go pick up Anna from preschool and realized we were out of a few necessities for the week.  I didn't want to do a huge grocery trip that day, but, I did need to pick up a few items.  The few items we needed were silly to buy at our regular grocery store because they were so pricey and we went through them quickly (bread, almond milk, fruit, peanut butter, etc etc)  so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to run into one of the warehouse wholesale stores we belong to and grab the items we needed in bulk.  One such store where we are members happens to be near  the school so it would be perfect timing to grab Anna, run into the store, and then return to pick up my older girls.  So off we went.

Of course as soon as we walked into the store, Anna was thirsty.  She had just come from school, so I decided to get her a drink.  I had the big warehouse cart with Meagan sleeping in her car seat in the back of the cart, and Anna and Maura sitting in the front double seat.  We pulled the cart up to the concession counter and ordered two teas.  I had quite a number of coins in my wallet, and so I decided to get rid of some of them and use them to pay.  I used my right hand to set my wallet on the counter and open my change pouch to start counting my change while my left hand stayed on the cart handle in front of Maura.

At this time, Maura had readjusted herself to pull one leg up underneath her to sit.  She still had one leg through the cart seat and the other one underneath her, comfortably sitting on one knee and watching me count change.  Out of nowhere, a store employee came up on my left side, and with her hand in the air, bluntly said to me, "You need to watch your kids.  She could fall out of that cart and hit her head."  With all my might, I ignored the brashness of her tone and replied nicely "Oh, thank you, I'm watching her, it's fine." (all the while my left hand STILL on the cart handle in front of Maura touching her side).  I turned back to count my change when the woman came closer and continued... "You really need to watch her.  She could fall out and get a concussion, and you need to watch your kids."  Again, I mustered my strength, and once again decided to chalk up her snotty tone to an overzealous concern and again turned to her.  "It's OK. My hand has been and is right here. I know how to watch my children. It's really not your business at this point. She's fine, thank you though. "

I finally received the girls' cups to get their tea and put my wallet back into my diaper bag.  I put my right hand back onto the cart to push it forward to the drink fountain when a customer... yes, a customer, came up behind me from the line.  She circled around the employee on the left side of my cart, pointed her finger at me, and with a circular motion pointing at my girls said "Honey, you are in public, and when you are in public, these (I'm assuming referring to my children, although I'd never use the term "these" to describe little kids) are our business."

At this point, I had gone from trying to be understanding to fuming inside.  I had no clue why these women approached me in this way, and even worse, continued to go on and on.  Perhaps I looked young? Inexperienced? Perhaps they couldn't believe someone could actually handle multiple children? Perhaps they felt the need to be righteous and when I politely dismissed the original comments they felt the need to perpetuate? The reason I will never know, nor understand. But I did know one thing. I was getting mad. I felt completely harassed!

I turned to the customer and the employee and said "I'm sorry, but these are my children.  They are no one's business but my own.  I can understand being concerned. But I addressed that initial concern and now you are being nosy.  I do not appreciate people nosing in to my business and dictating to me how I should be around my children - most especially when there is no problem or no danger to them." With that I continued to push my cart forward.

I really thought I had finally put it to rest and continued to the drink fountain to get my girls' tea.  The two women followed me. Literally walked by my cart and followed me to the drink area.  I could not believe it! The employee then said to me "You know, you think you know everything, but, you don't.  It's called an accident and she could fall out of that cart.  You have no clue."  Completely confused, as I looked down at Maura in front of me who was still sitting down and politely sipping on her tea, I simply said "excuse me" in an effort to walk away and continue on with my shopping.  Before I could move, the employee said "If she fell out, she could get brain damage and you would have to live with that. Then what?"  Following that, the customer stepped in front of my cart and said "Yep, exactly. You do what you want. It's going to be your fault then one day when she falls out of a cart and gets brain damage.  Then you will have to know what it's like to suffer the emotional consequences of living with a child who has a damaged brain."

Now, in hindsight, I can't help but chuckle.  My mom and dad's advice from growing up rushed back to my head - "You never know who you are speaking with in public, so it's best to know when to drop the rope and move on.".... Oh was this so true at this point!  At that moment, I went from mad, to frustrated to fuming.  How dare she say such a thing to any parent!

I was done holding my tongue.  I turned to the woman and pointing over into the back of the cart said "I'm sorry ma'am. But do you see that child sleeping there? That is my youngest of 5.  She was born with a congenital brain problem. She was born with brain damage.  Please do not lecture me on how parents of children with brain damage emotionally suffer.  I watch her try to catch up everyday and know first hand what strong and special people children who have brain damage are.  If anything, I am more cautious than the typical parent, especially situations that carry risks of head trauma.  That's my experience, what's yours?"

She stood speechless.  What were the chances she would talk to the one mom who lives the very truth of her insult.  I could tell she was taken aback by my explanation.  But she geared up again and got defensive. The employee also joined in.   After being so nasty, backing off would make them look bad I guess?  They both repeated their "brain damage" statements and with her hands thrown up in the air, the customer finally left my cart (which by the way, was moving this whole time as I tried to walk away from them!!) saying under her breath "good luck with that..."  At this same time, the employee also walked away from my cart, disappearing off to the left towards the employee break rooms.

I was completely dumbfounded by the events.  I felt attacked, harassed, and the worst part was, I had no clue what sparked such an 'outrage' at how I 'watched' my children. Everyone knows I have heard my share of comments.  I have heard my share of rude comments. Brian and I usually brush them off, gripe about them later, or vent to friends or family and move on.  However, this was ridiculous   This was completely over the top and something I never wanted another parent to feel.  I knew I needed to go up the chain and report the woman.  Unfortunately the customer got to just walk away, but I had seen the employees name and something had to be said.

I took a lap around the store before seeing a manager because I was so furious, I was on the verge of tears.  Finally I got back to the front and asked to see a manager.  I explained to him the entire story of what had happened.  I explained about the employee's inappropriate comments, how she encouraged a customer to join in, how they followed my cart, and how they continued to harass me as I walked trying to get away.  He looked very shocked.  There was zero mystery from my face that I was fuming.  He profusely apologized, took my name, number, and email and also the name of the employee.  He said he would call me with a follow up and make sure she was reprimanded for her behavior.

That day, I received a call back from the manager.  He told me he found out who it was, and spoke with her. He said she works at the store, but actually for a separate product label.  She is a rep for a company,  so he had put in a call to that particular products' buyer, since she was their employee.  Tuesday, I received a call from the regional rep for that product.  She told me she had spoken with the employee and explained everything I had said.  She said the employee did feel badly and realized she was inappropriate.  The regional rep apologized profusely on her behalf and said it should have never happened.  She told me the woman said years ago, she had a friend of a friend whose child fell out of a cart and got a concussion.  The regional rep told me if desired, the woman could call me to apologize in person.  I politely declined, only because I wanted this woman having none of my personal information, and told the rep since she had been so prompt in calling me back and apologizing, that was fine. I said that we all have friends of friends where something good or bad happens to them or their children - but I do not wander stores or public places and reprimand perfectly good parents and adults because of a bad experience I heard about one time years before.

I also told her perhaps the company could clarify for employees in what situations it is appropriate to approach a parent, and when they could be interpreted as being harassing. (For example, if a parent is there and obviously present with the child, leave them alone. Or if there is a concern, after one comment, if the parent dismisses the employee, know to walk away...etc.).  We chatted for a bit longer, she apologized a few more times, and told me she would absolutely take my suggestions and put them into an employee memo that was going out later that day. I told her that was great, and I wanted nothing more than an apology and to make sure no other mother was ever made to feel the way I felt that day.  She agreed and left her name and number if I thought of anything else and needed to contact her.  I was glad the situation was addressed and closed so quickly.  The managers and regional rep did in fact do a good job getting the information up the chain and were truly concerned about what had occurred.

By no means am I a perfect parent.  At one time, at some store, at some point, one of my kids I'm sure has stood up in a cart, or tried to sit in a funny position, as any parent can say.  But I have been there to correct them. The confusing thing about Monday was that the girls weren't doing anything wrong or dangerous. Perhaps they had a problem with Maura sitting on one of her knees, but she wasn't hanging over the cart or dangling by her waist... and more importantly, my left arm and hand were on the cart right in front of her and touching her side.  I was obviously present in the situation and to the onlooker would seem completely aware of what my children were doing.

 I was truly so taken aback by the behavior of those two women on Monday, especially talking like that in front of my children, and continuing to follow my cart. My only guess is that the employee's "story" of the child who fell, along with the fact that they were older than me, and me standing there in my workout clothes and a ponytail with multiple stair step children sparked some sort of compulsion in her to tell me how to do my job.  When I dismissed her, it probably made her angry, and gave an opening for the like-minded customer to join in by ganging up on me.  Unfortunately by doing so, it earned them a ticket on to the righteous train, instead of actually surveying the situation, listening to me, and then realizing I not need their advice nor deserve their insults and lecture.

As bad as that experience was on Monday, there is certainly a lesson to take from it. One word. Tact!  I get that people can show concern for others in public. This in and of itself is not wrong. But it is wrong when it is done rudely, with ill intent, or when the situation is not prudently assessed and the "concern" crosses the line into being nosy or even harassment.

I get it. I have seen kids hanging out of carts by their nostrils or shoelaces while parents are down the aisle talking with a friend.  I've seen the kid trying to climb out of the back of the cart while the parent is completely occupied by some other object or item in the store and doesn't even have the cart in arm's reach.  However, that's not every parent.  And even those parents, I'm sure, are not that way every time.  If there is a true concern, even if questionable, tact is always of utmost importance.  And when the parent kindly says "Thanks but no thanks" know to walk away. There is no possible situation or experience that excuses the behavior the employee and customer showed to me that day.

It is human nature to be loving and show concern for others.  God made us in his image, and therefore we care about other humans and living things. However, that care and concern does not also mean the right to harass or butt in.  It doesn't mean the right to judge.  And it doesn't mean the right to let words fly that are so awful, you can't take them back fast enough.

So to the employee and the customer, sure, I forgive you. But back off.  I tell my kids all the time, "mind your business.... you never know what someone's story might be...."  And always remember the fact of the matter is.... tact does count...."


  1. You handled this much better than most. Your strength continues to amaze and inspire me. God Bless. :-)

  2. I have been following your blog for awhile now. I can't believe what people feel is "their right" to say or do to others. A couple of years ago we were walking out of a warehouse club (my husband, myself and our 6 children) and the person at the exit that looks at your receipt "lost her mind". At the time my then 9 year old son had an ng tube and the lady said, "Oh my gosh what is that horrible thing coming out of your sons nose. He scared the crap out of me." I almost fell to the floor. We all heard it. I was outraged.

    1. Oh my gosh! That is awful!! Yes, some people can really put their foot in their mouth. We hear comments all the time because of our 5 kids, or that we have (sigh) "all" girls.. haha.. but this was horrendous because she kept following me... I've never had this kind of thing happen before! Utterly outrageous is right!