Yesterday I went to my favorite health food store. Feeling a little run down with a cold, still not 100% from dental surgery and not getting the best sleeps because my twins frequently nurse through the night. I went to dispense the organic, dry roasted almonds and was startled as I heard them clatter to the floor. Oh no! At some crazy price like $4.50/100 grams, these almonds are kind of precious. I checked to see if the bottom of the bag was faulty or gave out. Nope - just me not paying attention. In a flash, the sweet young cashier that I often talk with from the front came with broom and dustpan in hand, ready to clean it up. She reassured me that accidents happen and that it was no big deal. There was somebody up at the checkout, so she had to go ring them through intending to and come back to clean up my mess. In the meantime, another employee came by and she was visibly upset. She groaned, grumbled and sighed loudly, saying, “Who did this? What a WASTE,” directed under her breath in my direction. I whispered an apology and tried to nimbly extricate myself from the scene without crushing any almonds under my boots. I skulked away with my feeling awful, questioning whether I could come back to this store. Was I blacklisted? Maybe I should just send my husband in the future? Should I just drive further to another location? Luckily, the young cashier was equally cheerful when I came to pay for my groceries. I insisted she tack an extra $20 to my bill to cover the almonds and she insisted that we could not weigh the almonds now, so to just forget about it. I felt bad, but because of her good nature, I felt redeemed and I will come back… and we buy the majority of our groceries there, so I’m sure they do want our business!
Fast forward to today in the shower (because that's where all our best thoughts come to us!), I realized that the cantankerous employee bothered me so much because she was holding up a sacred mirror for myself. Not all the time and not with everyone, but sometimes... Sometimes when I'm feeling like a martyr weighted down with responsibility. Sometimes my four year old spills her cup because she's happily dancing around the table and not really paying attention, or sometimes when one of the babies throws a bowl on the floor because she doesn't understand and it shatters everywhere forcing me to break out the vacuum for the second time that day. Sometimes when my seven year old asks me for a messy, complicated craft for the 11th time that day and I feel like it's just one more thing to clean up. I usually don't yell, but I do find myself muttering, shaming and generally directing my unhappiness in their direction. As though their actions are intentionally trying to add difficulty to my day. As though they have already developed the hand-eye coordination that I have (on a good day - lol). As though they have the mental capacity to understand that a bowl tossed onto the hardwood could break.
Thank you, universe, for creating a situation that so masterfully demonstrates to me the feelings that most likely come up for my children when they do something wrong and are then made to feel even worse about it when I grumble. It only serves to drive a wedge between us, cause anxiety and make them want to hide these actions instead of fostering an honest parent-child relationship, which is what I really want. Thank you, cranky employee, for showing me the kind of mom I don't want to be. And thank you sweet, chipper cashier for showing me not to take myself so dang seriously all the time, to have a little more patience for those around me and perhaps most importantly, more patience for myself.