Thursday, February 19, 2009

Delayed Reaction

My sister recently wrote about a heartbreaking encounter she had with a little girl who she wanted to help but couldn't. Last night I had my own similar experience which I walked away from feeling helpless and frustrated. It did, however, disprove something that I'd worried about - that if I ever do have my own child (don't hold your breath, mom) I won't completely suck as a mother. My maternal instincts are on a delay, but they do exist. Perfect example of why I had suspected my lack of such instincts:

Over Christmas I was holding my friend Ashley's son Henry and he spit up on me. My first reaction wasn't, "Is he okay?" but rather, "Did I just get spit-up on my sweater?" I guess that's more an issue of living with kids vs not living with kids? But yeah, no maternal instincts there. Hey, at least I didn't drop him! Henry, is awesome, by the way. If I ever do change my mind and have a kid, I hope to get lucky enough to get a giggly laid-back kid like him.

So, last night after work I went by a stupidly large sporting goods store to look at workout clothes because I wear my stuff until it's completely dead and embarrassing. The store is almost always creepily empty and last night was no exception. I was browsing the racks when I saw a young boy of maybe eight or nine walk by. A few minutes later, he walked by again. The third time I wondered what was up and the fourth time (a good fifteen minutes after I'd first noticed him) I actually paid attention and looked at his face. He had that look, one that I recognized from my own childhood, like he was just on the edge of panic and barely keeping it together.

I made eye contact and asked him if he was looking for someone. The relief on his face was palpable. Just to be found, even by a total stranger. Chin quivering, he told me he was looking for his mom so I took him over to the first employee I could find and asked if they could page his mom over the intercom.

I saw her coming before he did and wow, did she looked pissed. Tiny and blond, with spiked heel boots and a big designer handbag, she stomped up to the front register still pushing her shopping cart and pulling the boy's younger brother behind her. Oh lord, kid. I'm sorry. I'm sorry your mom looks like a total bitch and that her reaction to losing track of you is outright fury.

I could hear her arguing with him and later they walked back by, he in tears and whining about wanting to go home, her, tight-voiced and adamant about finishing what she was there to do. And I get that, I do. I'm sure as a parent you have days where you want to finish just. one. task. I was a wanderer as a kid and I'm sure that it drove my mother crazy insane, never getting to do what she set out to do because she was too busy looking for me again. Add to that, I'm sure getting paged over the intercom was really embarrassing, but that kid was nearly in tears looking for her and maybe a hug would've been a better way to resolve that situation?

I'm not a parent, so I don't want to judge too harshly, but I left that store feeling like I'd let him down somehow.


  1. Ugh. Poor kid. No, your reaction was right - maternal or simply HUMAN. That kid does not deserve the mother he's got. So many of them are in that situation and, sigh.

    Also - my reaction to spit up is always: "Ew, did that get on me? Damn. Not again." :)

  2. Oh, that's sad. I once saw a boy -- maybe 2 years old --climbing around the back of of his mother's empty shopping cart while his mother was facing the other way looking at clothes. The cart started to tip and I grabbed it and told the mother what happened. My thinking was, the mother would want to keep an eye on her kid so that he wouldn't fall on his head on the cold tile floor. But no, she started screaming at the kid and hitting him. And I was really sorry I said anything and wondered if I should just grab the kid and run.

  3. All right, you and Claudia are no longer allowed to post depressing kid stories. I want to hug them.

  4. Really, me too. Those poor kids.

  5. I used to hide in store clothes racks as a kid. My mom wouldn't even notice I was missing until she was leaving the store. Some people are meant to be mothers, others aren't. You did the right thing...bitch-mom didn't.

  6. That poor kid. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut in situations like that but you have to because A) you don't want to make it worse for the kid and B) You don't want some irate bitch in your face. All you can do is send out a silent prayer for better times for the kid. It sucks.