I can't remember now what the little thing was that set him off that day in the checkout line at A.C. Moore. My (normally well-behaved and reserved) four year old was pitching a holy terror of a conniption fit right there in the middle of the checkout line as the cashier was ringing up the flowers I was going to use to make two arrangements for his daddy's new headstone.
I can't remember what it was now because it wasn't about that little useless, insignificant, material thing he suddenly thought he wanted more than anything...the thing I had just denied him...and I knew it as well as he did. But nobody else in that store that day knew it, least of all the cashier. I could feel their condemnations piercing me in the form of judging stares, disapproving nods, and breathless whispers.
I knew the kinds of things they were probably thinking and muttering under their breath. I knew because it was the same kinds of things I would have been thinking just a couple of months earlier had I witnessed a child behaving that way in public...
Somebody needs some good old-fashioned discipline! Well, if that were my child I'd...
It's all so easy to do when we're not the ones in the midst of the sh*t storm. I wanted so much to stand up on that checkout counter and scream and shout...
"STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT!"
I wanted to pitch a holy terror of a conniption fit myself...to hurl those flowers at every single pair of those judging eyes and explain to them that this was not a simple case of the spoiled child who'd never heard the word 'no' before. This was about grief...
Big, fat, nasty, horrific GRIEF...the kind no four year old child should ever have to know.This was about a grieving child releasing his pain, anger and overwhelming emotion in the most childish way imaginable because hey, guess what?! He's only four years old! And his daddy died!
I wanted to scream those painful, angry explanations at all those silent, judging stares and end with..."So put that in your judgy pipes and smoke it! And STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT while you're at it!"
But of course I didn't do or say any of those things. (Not out loud anyway) Instead I gritted my teeth, fought back my own tears and tried desperately to calm my inconsolable child as I simultaneously swiped my credit card before taking my receipt and finally making my way out the door and across the parking lot with my bags of flowers and fit-pitching child.
I can't remember what that thing was he wanted. I can't even remember if he finally stopped when we got in the car or if he cried all the way home. But I will never forget those looks of judgment cast upon us by total strangers who had no knowledge or understanding whatsoever of our reality or station in life.
I remember it, after all these years, every single time I find myself tempted to cast a stare of judgment upon a total stranger in a similar situation and so I smack my inner Judgy McJudgerson right down and keep my eyes to myself...
Written in response to Writer's Workshop prompt: Incorporate the phrase “stop looking at me like that” into your post.