To The Lady Behind Me at Target

I knew it was going to be a long day. I warned my Facebook friends to that effect.

Ryan, my precious little peanut, has a canker sore the size of Texas on her tongue. She chewed the dickens out of her mouth after having a cavity filled. And now the bugger hurts. Bad.

First thing this morning, she was (what my mother would call) caterwauling. Howling and sad, she slammed doors and threw fits.

This is entirely out of character for her.




Add to that, sometime in the last few months she decided she wouldn’t be a good sport about taking medicine. Apparently, roughly 37,000 pleasant doses was her limit. (After one particular surgery she needed medicine 22 times each day.)

So it was a necessary battle to give her something for the pain and rinse her mouth out in an attempt to help her sore heal. You see, next week she and I are boarding a plane to fly across the country to meet with a speech therapist who specializes in oral motor placement therapy. We are investing time and money on the chance someday she might be able to talk, and a wounded mouth is something we desperately don’t need.

For special needs families there is often a tension. The risk of hope is the fear of disappointment. The dreams I have for my daughter make me incredibly vulnerable. That insecurity can follow me around, creating its own place in my world. Today, you stepped into that space, uninvited.

So my daughter poked your bread. Was it so important that you needed to correct her? We were checking out, almost through our shopping adventure. It was Target for goodness sakes, not Mr. Holme’s Bakehouse.

Although my response of, “The next time a friend of yours talks about the difficulty of parenting kids with special needs, I want you to remember how important your bread was to you that day at Target,” was not my finest moment, it was actually proof that I have grown.

Truly, it’s only because Jesus lives that your bread didn’t look like this:


That talk about fits of rage in Galatians? It is aimed at me. And through the grace of God I struggle much less than I used to, yet I still am not perfect. Telling my daughter to stop poking your bread almost made me forget I don’t like to lose my temper.

Now…I am not saying it is good behavior for a child to poke a loaf of bread, but telling someone else’s child what to do is to enter into sacred space. In our world there are many people allowed in that place; staff at school, friends and family, people at church. I don’t believe your loaf of bread gave you that right, with my daughter.

What should you have done? I am so glad you asked.

  • You could have let it go. You’re a mom. You’ve heard the song. It’s good advice. The truth is I am a fairly strict mother. While I was busy swiping my card to pay and didn’t see the infraction, I certainly wouldn’t have let it continue once I noticed, had you just given me the chance. The statistical odds of Ryan having poked your bread more than once or twice without me noticing are slim…In all likelihood the bread was going to survive.
  • You could have moved the bread. Problem solved. Move it away from the curious finger of my daughter without bossing around someone else’s child.
  • You could have distracted her. You say you take care of special needs kids? Then certainly you have learned the art of distractions. Sometimes a pleasant, “How are you?” can interrupt harmless, inconvenient behavior.

There were many choices, but your choice made one thing clear: Your bread was more important to you than my daughter’s feelings or camaraderie with another mom. Seriously, I hope the sandwich is good.

To be clear, I am not a helicopter mother who protects my kids from everything, and ignores the world around me for fear of interfering. That’s not my style at all.

I have stepped in front of stranger’s kids when they were clearly misbehaving and about to run in the street. Once, at the community pool, I heard a mom say, “It’s time to go.” And a boy yell, “No!”

Then that boy, with the body language of naughtiness emanating, walked into the middle of the kiddy pool.

I had my sundress on and was gathering the towels and snacks of my girls when I turned to see his mother. She was in a wheelchair. Without a moment’s hesitation I asked, “Would you like me to go get him?”

“Would you?” She pleaded. I said I’d be happy to.

I walked into the pool, grabbed his hand and returned him to his grateful mother. Solidarity, people. But here’s the gig: I would never interfere with someone else’s child for the sake of my own comfort. Never.

Safety first, always. I don’t even think–it just happens. And if a mom clearly needs a helping hand I can give? No problem. I am happy to have her back.

But to interfere with parenting without allowing the mother time to speak, over something so trivial, is yucky. Your bread was clearly more important to you than I hope any loaf of bread ever will be to me.

I hope tomorrow is a better day for both of us.

6 thoughts on “To The Lady Behind Me at Target

  • August 12, 2015 at 2:18 am

    I wish I would have been the lady behind you at Target. I happen to love poked bread! Hugs to you and your sweet girl.

  • August 12, 2015 at 4:22 am

    I sympathize with your day, you and your situation in Target. I don’t think I would have been as tactful as you with how shot your nerves already were with canker sores and what led up to Target. I resonate with your 3rd paragraph! What an insightful and eloquent way to state what I feel repeatedly with Cayden. Thank you!

    • August 12, 2015 at 4:23 am

      Sorry, not 3rd paragraph, but the paragraph that starts with “For special needs families…”

  • August 12, 2015 at 4:39 am

    My dear robin, this story makes me think of the day that jake, Kelsi and I were walking the embarcadero in Morro Bay. Some young boy had a large lollipop that Kelsi thought she needed right that moment. She grabbed said Lolli and held on for dear life. Needless to say, said lollipop was destroyed and through my laughter I offered to buy a new lollipop. They did not take me up on my offer and poor jake was mortified about the encounter. I told him we had no reason to be mortified, it’s ok if they don’t get Kelsi because we get Kelsi and that is all that matters. Love you dear friend


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