Carly and I met in the wide open spaces of Twitter before getting to talk and laugh face to face at Faith in Culture, in Portland, OR, this March. I appreciate Carly's bravery in writing, as well as her willingness to have conversations that cost something. It's been a pleasure getting to know her this year. (She even let me write a guest post for her fabulous series From Grape Juice to Red Wine). I think many of you will relate to the de(tale) she is sharing here today.
Standing over my daughter as she screams and flails around on the sidewalk outside the grocery store, I wonder if motherhood isn’t for me.
“Please, Georgiana, just get in the cart,” I say, weak and surrendered. It’s one of those mornings I washed my face with a baby wipe and put shoes on over Georgiana’s footie pajamas in a desperate attempt to leave the house.
An especially strong-willed child, my daughter has entered her Terrible Twos early, which could just as well be called the Delightful Twos because the stage is so full of wonder and excitement and life. But they are not easy.
Her newest antic is to refuse to sit in the grocery store cart by arching her body and kicking her legs and collapsing on the ground.
I look around, and ascribe judgmental thoughts to everyone who walks by. Because I’m a mind reader, it is obvious they are thinking I am the most incompetent parent in a three county radius, and I know at least a few people will get out their phones to dial Child Protective Services as soon as they are in their cars.
What kind of mom can’t get her kid inside a grocery cart? I think.
Georgiana continues to thrash and yell and I hang my head on the cart’s handle.
I think about turning around and leaving. But we are out of milk, grapes and Cheerios at home—the three essential food groups for a toddler—and going home without those items could inflict suffering on everyone under our roof.
“NO NO NO NO NO NO,” Georgiana shouts, standing up and clutching my leg.
I can’t do this anymore, I think.
“I’ll get you a snack when we get inside the store! Don’t you want a snack?” I say.
“’Nack? Nack?” she says, stopping her tears abruptly.
“Yes a snack! Just get in the cart,” I say.
“NO NO NO NO NO NO,” she says. And she’s rolling on the concrete again.
I should have packed a snack. A more together parent would have packed a snack, I think.
A girl and her mother walk out of the store, but I’m so lost in my internal battle, I barely notice.
The girl, with luscious curly hair and caramel skin, is probably about two years old. She walks up to my daughter, bends over, tilts her head, and watches her cry.
“Mama!” she says, and points to one of her mother’s shopping bags. The woman shuffles her bags around in her arms and opens the one her daughter is motioning to. The girl pulls out an old-fashioned maple doughnut from a small paper bakery bag and hands it to Georgiana.
Georgiana looks up, sees the doughnut, and flashes the girl a giant smile.
“Are you sure?” I say, looking at the woman. She nods, grinning.
“Thank you. Thank you so much,” I say.
Georgiana grabs the doughnut and I pick her up and she willingly slides into the shopping cart. She puts her hand up to her lips, in her own version of baby sign language for thank you.
The girl waves goodbye and they walk toward their car.
As I shop the store’s weekly sales with a happy toddler in the cart, I think about the small ways we are saved everyday, how a mother is saved from her despair and self-focus in an act as unassuming as a child’s hand reaching out with a doughnut.
Untainted by ego or personal glory, the little girl saw another little girl who was sad, and found a way to make her happy. I’ll remember it as one of the purer acts of love I’ve seen.
Carly Gelsinger can almost never drive by a yard sale without at least slowing down. She chases a toddler around most of the time, and if she's not doing that, she's probably loitering at her public library. She is tackling writing her memoir, Backslidden. In the meantime, she occasionally writes about spiritual abuse, anxiety, and the intersection of faith and motherhood on her blog.
You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.