Yesterday I took the girls to one of our favorite places on the whole wide planet - the Costco. Oh, how we love the Costco, from its smoothies and gigantic Diet Cokes to its big ole tubs o'hummus. And the samples? Oh, glory to the samples! Free lunch at Costco!
I was especially enjoying just having the girls out by myself, which doesn't happen very often. It's fun to be a "normal" mom of just two kids every once in a while.
After chatting with a neighbor over the new pancake mix in a aerosol can (and it's organic!), I preceded to the checkout lane. The palpitations commenced and receded over my always huger-than-intended bill from the Costco - because 30 rolls of toilet paper and 40 AAA batteries do add up.
Then I noticed that my giant tub o'organic spring mix looked a little sad and ucky. I asked a smiling Costco employee to exchange it for a fresher version, pulled my buggy and my daughters off to the side, and waited.
During this time Maggie committed the egregious sin of stepping a few feet away from me, and stood about halfway between me and a flatbed cart that was on her other side. I looked up to see that there was a woman who could not get around her, due as much to the large flatbed as to my tiny daughter. My tiny daughter who, along with her sister, had garnered at least a dozen smiles from admiring Costco shoppers and sample ladies during our shopping.
I said, "Oops, come over here, Mags," and Maggie obeyed.
Then the woman, who had been delayed by this point an unconscionable eight seconds or so, said loudly, "Could you please control your children? This is a public place you know!"
Oh, the tempest this caused in my brain!
Hello, Rude Costco Lady, these kids are controlled beautifully!
These are only half my kids, and trust me, you want to see uncontrolled kids? Come over any afternoon between four and five pm!
Instead I said the only coherent words I could assimilate amidst my shock, which were, "Wow. I bet you are really fun to live with."
I gazed lovingly at my sweet girls' faces, completely perplexed at how anyone could not see them as precious and adored and as cute enough to eat as a spinach tortellini on a toothpick. Instead of the way Rude Costco Woman obviously did: as uncontrolled inconveniences.
Was she blind??
But I was also embarrassed. Very embarrassed. Was I really not controlling my kids? Did all the other shoppers think so? Were they all silently cheering Rude Costco Woman? Had my neighbor heard her say it, thinking, finally, someone told Missy what we've all been wanting to say for years?
I told myself over and over, why do you care what complete strangers think??
But I do. I care.
Later that night I laid in bed still thinking about Rude Costco Woman. I wonder how she came to consider herself an officer with the Criticism Police, handing out verbal tickets with her barbed tongue? If she had no compunction with criticizing a complete stranger in the middle of Costco, can you imagine what it must be like to be her husband, or her daughter or - oh my skull - her daughter-in-law?
How can she dare to talk like that to someone she doesn't know from Eve? Is it not obvious by the ages of my children that I am new at this whole mothering thing? From whence might she suggest that I get my Child Control Certification? Is there an online course she could recommend?
Has she never been around a small child? Does she not understand that children are free agents, often flat out impossible to control?
Since when does a perfect stranger have a right to demand that I be the perfect mother?!?
And then The Voice, the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit, said to me, people who don't know grace --- don't show grace.
I got it.
I have made every single mistake in mothering, three times over. I have done everything that I said I would never do and hardly anything that I swore I would. I have broken every rule. I have become frustrated. I have been impatient. I have criticized my own precious children, as harshly as that women criticized me.
I have been on my knees in the dark asking my Father why on earth he thought I could handle four children in three years and begging him to make me into the mother they deserve.
And every single time, every single day, my Father has given me grace. My Father has forgiven me and encouraged me and provided me with wisdom. My Father has given me so much grace that I am drowning in it.
I pray that Rude Costco Woman will discover that grace herself.
And if your child is having a meltdown in the grocery store, or throwing a tantrum in a restaurant, I promise that all you will get from me is simpatico. If you lose your temper, I will pray for you. If you need help, I will offer it.
I promise I will never, ever purposefully humiliate you in public for not being perfect. I get it, Momma, I get it. And I will show you grace.
Because I know grace.