And I think it’s wonderful that society has abandoned the repressive injunction that kids should be seen and not heard. But sometimes I wonder if we’ve pushed the pendulum too far in the opposite direction.
I was at Walmart the other day, contentedly perusing 156,000 brands of shampoo, when I became conscious of a child crying somewhere in the 72-acre store.
The thin wail continued for 40 minutes as I maneuvered my shopping cart through the aisles. In fact, I vaguely wondered if a smoke alarm had gone off in its box.
I continued shopping, my attention occupied by deciding between coconut-aloe or pomegranate-axle-grease hand lotion. But the incessant crying gnawed into my concentration.
Soon, my curmudgeon factor was in full arousal. I irritably heaved toothpaste and dryer sheets into my basket as I moved toward the source of the crying and the wailing increased in volume.
“Why doesn’t someone shut that kid up!” I muttered ungraciously.
A motherly shopper glared at me, indignant flames shooting from her eyes. I scooted away before she could stone me with the Playskool blocks in her basket or pull out the Star Wars light saber and yell “En garde!”
I scurried toward the grocery section, slipped into the canned pasta aisle and came face to face with the crying culprit.
A kid about 2, with parallel wet tracks down his cheeks, sat in the passenger seat of the basket, his mouth a gaping grimace. He appeared uninjured and wasn’t being eaten alive by grizzly bears, so I had no inkling why the boy was wailing.
Meanwhile, his parents seemed oblivious to the yowling and were calmly dropping Spaghetti-O’s and Beefaroni cans into the back of the cart. Shoppers hurried past the siren-emitting kid, pressing hamburger buns and tortillas to their ears.
My first reaction was to want to stuff my dryer sheets into the kid’s mouth. Or brain the parents with the whole box. But my better self checked my inner curmudgeon by reminding me what it’s like to be a mother to an unreasonable youngster.
I recalled my sister trying to run necessary errands with her baby. She would feed him, change him, load a suitcase with diapers, wipes, snacks, several changes of clothing, blankets, fluffy animal and sippy cup, strap squeaky toys to his wrists, and plug a pacifier into his mouth before daring to take him one step into a world with baby-less people.
Regardless, as soon as she stepped into line at the bank, filled her basket at the grocery store, or piled suits on the counter at the dry cleaners, her son would start bawling, to disapproving glares from people my present age.
So my hand retreated and instead, I crammed the dryer sheets into my own ears, smiled, thanked my lucky stars, and headed toward the light of checkout aisle one.