I took William to the shoe store today to get some new shoes. (A big FAIL, I might add.) We went at a time when I figured the store would be mostly empty, and sure enough, it was deserted when we got there. Of course, within five minutes of our arrival, a passel of moms arrived, with their lists of shoes to buy in their hands. And unfortunately, William did not much behave like a gentleman there when all those people were milling around. Quite the contrary. We didn't have to call Mall Security, exactly, but maybe if we'd stayed there another ten minutes...
But one thing did make me feel better about the less-than-perfect shoe shopping expedition. One mother, who had her baby in tow, reassured me that William couldn't do a thing to bother her. When he approached her son in his stroller and growled at him like a dinosaur, she waved her hand to dismiss my concerns. She added about her son, "He has a four-and-a-half-year-old brother. He's seen it all. Nothing's going to upset him or hurt him." Sure enough, she did not blink when William tore around the store like a tornado. She didn't mind at all when he leaned up against her leg and giggled. She didn't even flinch when William roared at her son (and then leaned over and kissed him on the knee).
Mind you, I was trying to control him the entire time. It's not like I was just sitting back and letting him wreak havoc (actually, he didn't mess up anything in the store itself; he just dashed around and shrieked and flopped around and growled). But it was nice to have a fellow parent express some solidarity with me when my child was acting like....well, when he was not on his best behavior, let's say.
You know how I've written about the "That Child" phenomenon? Where you worry about what other parents are thinking of you and your child because it is your child who is causing all the trouble? And you catch the looks of superiority (er, or fear) that the other parents are directing at you and your wayward child? And the parents flinch every time your child moves because they're convinced your child is going to mow down their child (and, well, he just might)?
Well, it's nice to get the opposite reaction. It's nice to hear that other parents have been there and know exactly how you feel, and you can't faze them a bit. I feel like I'm often that parent, actually, but I worry that not many other parents feel that way toward me and my son. Luckily, the women in my Disciple class at church have often played that role for me. They've told me stories about how their kids bit other children or caused a ruckus or whatever. And they've reassured me that whatever crazy thing William's doing, it, too, will pass.
It's just a good feeling, when other parents not only know how you feel at a less-than-perfect moment, but they smile and tell you they've been there too. And that it will all be okay.
So if you ever encounter a weary mother with a wild child in the shoe store, give her a pat on the shoulder and a few encouraging words. It will go a long way.
Epilogue: We came home, and I ordered shoes online. I wonder if I should send flowers or something to the shoe store ladies, though.