To The Mom With The Screaming 10 Year Old Boy At Trader Joes

This post contains affiliate links. We may earn compensation when you click on the links at no additional cost to you.

It’s been a ling time since I’ve written one of these letters.

But I had to. Last Sunday was my birthday. It was also the first day that I was out of the house for an extended amount of time after my surgery and subsequent complications. My husband wanted to do the grocery shopping for me and let me rest more, but I chose to spend my birthday and first day out and about grocery shopping. Judge as you please but I am happiest knowing that we have all the groceries that we need especially since all three of my daughters would be back to school the next day. 

Towards the end of our shopping trip I was feeling it.

I was getting very uncomfortable and my head started to pound. I knew my time was getting limited to finish shopping before I’d need to go sit in the car. We were in the produce department when I first heard your child. I immediately grabbed my little one and tried to access what was happening. I could hear yelling and some shouting and as your 10 year old got closer. It got louder, much louder before it seemed to stop for a moment.

That is when he came within a couple feet of us and was flailing his arms and jumping sporadically every which way.  My youngest gripped my arm and her eyes showed terror. It was a very crazy situation. She really thought she was going to get hit in all the commotion. 

I looked around for you. I could see this boy seemingly acting out with his words and actions but I didn’t see you parenting him. You were not yelling back at him.  You didn’t try to calm him down. There was no punishments given or even threatened. When I finally saw you… a few feet away you were just doing your grocery shopping. You did look a bit hurried, but you were not too concerned by the scene that your son was creating. I was confused. I wanted to judge you. Every which way I went you seemed to be there with your son creating a commotion.

I was getting tired. I needed to leave.

I headed to checkout counter just to have you do the same. We were a couple lanes away from each other. I looked around and hoped that we both would get to pay and leave quickly. It didn’t happen. I continued to listen to your sons tirade for a few more minutes. His complaints seemed to stem from the fact that he really wanted to be at CostCo. I could easily hear it all since he was yelling so loud. I even found myself agreeing with a lot of what he had to say, which made me laugh. He is a very smart boy.

When it finally got time to pay I had to focus on my transaction.

I looked up just in time to see you looking down but still talking to an older lady. You said something like “I am not letting him do this”.  And then I heard her say some sort of apology. Her apology was more from embarrassment than from really understanding the situation. I tried to make eye contact with you. I also started to walk over but at that point a couple Trader Joe’s Employee’s swooped in and I heard one of them say you were a good mom and they gave you a bunch of flowers. I decided to finish paying and then I’d go over to you.

You see this whole time I knew what was really going on.

I could tell by the look on your face and that of your daughters that this wasn’t the case of a spoiled child not being disciplined. Your sweet daughter looked like she was preparing for the backlash. You looked exhausted. I could see the lack of sleep, the worry and the constant scrutiny by others all by looking at your face. 

I knew what was really happening way back in the produce isle.

We didn’t keep bumping into each other in the store randomly. I was trying to create a buffer. I wanted you to know you were not alone. I wanted you to know that I knew you were a great mom. I also wanted you to be able to just get your groceries in peace. I thought about saying something, but really, you didn’t look like you wanted to talk so I just decided to do the best I could to block the people who where saying critical things about you from getting close to you. I tried to create a safe zone but I failed. Someone still was able to get to you in the end. Instead of them looking at what was happening, and how you must have felt, they judged you. Instead of trying to help, they chose to use hate filled words and make your day even worse. All the signs were there that it wasn’t a parenting issue. Your daughter was very well behaved and your son wasn’t throwing a temper tantrum. He was expressing his opinion in the only way he could. It might have been in a way that was different than how others would, but that should have been their biggest clue. You are a good mom. Good moms make sure that there is food for their kids. Good moms do their best and you most certainly were doing your best.

When we got into our car I cried.

The tears rolled down my cheeks. I cried for your son, for he will forever have to deal with uninformed people passing judgement and I cried for you. I can’t imagine how tough that kind of criticism is on you.  I cried for me because I was upset I hadn’t done more.

 It’s not my job to judge. It’s my job to help.I know that next time I will do more. 

Have you ever been in a situation like this before?

Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog, It's a Lovely Life®! For the past decade, she has vacationed over 150 days a year with her family. She is a vegan, and loves being by the water, spending time with her children, husband, 2 Shih Tzus and Cat.


  • As a mom I try to never judge. If I see a mom struggling I offer a smile or a simple your doing a great job. To easily we make an assumption and know nothing about what is going on.

  • Nice of you to try and help. I think people need to just relax and realize that all mom’s are doing their best. It is not like we love our child making a scene.

  • It’s hard but we simply don’t know what kind of emotions this mom was having inside. It’s easy for other people to be outside trying to look in but really I think we just need to try to place ourselves in their shoes.

    Hope you had a good birthday day! And a happy belated one!

  • As a mom it is never my place to judge because I have had those days when my toddler has a meltdown in a store because she was too tired or because it was not the store she wanted to go in. It doesn’t make me a bad mom and as long as you’re doing the best you can for your kids, that makes you a good mom in my books.

  • Tears rolling down my face you did a good thing. even if you weren’t able to help her. maybe she felt like a friend was there somewhere in the trenches with her.

  • I try not to judge either. I actually have a really grain out tune out mechanism that helps these things not bother me. I am sorry that it upset you so much and that poor mom having to deal with it too.

  • I have been in the grocery, all too recently, with my 5 year old son throwing a temper tantrum. It seemed like everyone in the store was staring at us and I couldn’t get him to calm down. And guess what, he doesn’t have autism, just a case of being overstimulated and overtired. It happens to the best of us. I’m just thankful, for us, it’s not a daily occurrance.

  • Compassionate and non judging is what we need to strive for. Over the years I have learned that things might not be what they seem and it is better to reach out and offer help rather than offer criticism through stares.

  • I can’t recall a similar situation in particular, but whenever I see or hear anything like this happening, I try to remember my little sister and how impossible she could be at times.. not to mention me when I was younger. My poor mom!

  • While I don’t know the child you wrote about I’d be willing to bet he has some form of Autism. I know because I’ve been that mom in the grocery store more than once. It’s difficult to say the least. And often embarrassing.

    • Erica I believe that he did have some sort of invisible disability, in my uneducated opinion I thought it was Autism, but since I didn’t know for sure I didn’t want to say that outright. I’m sorry this has happened to you… hopefully we as moms can all band together and help out so that nobody has to be embarrassed.

  • The beginning of this article had me all riled up, upset that you would judge another mom without knowing the situation as all too often I’ve been witness to this same kind of scenario. I was very happy and relieved when I realized that you weren’t criticizing her and were instead trying to lend your support, and for that I thank you very much for this post! We need more people like you out there.

  • People often see situations like these and make assumptions and judgment about the children and the parents involved. They shouldn’t. From the outside looking in, you only see a moment, perhaps a bad moment, but only a moment in the life of the parties involved. The judgments and pity should be kept on hold and kept silent.

    • Totally agree. I was really surprised at how many people actually said things to this poor mom. Either straight to her face or muttered it to other people loud enough for her to hear. So sad.

  • I was a bit worried about which direction this post was going as well. I’m glad I finished reading though. I wish there were more people like you in this world. It is sad people are so quick to judge. You cannot judge another person on a short passing experience. This world needs more compassion and less criticism.

  • If only she could read this. I try not to judge at all…it’s just not my place. We don’t have all the facts, we don’t know what people are going through…we don’t have the whole story. Our judgement is based on our own views and thus it is usually one sided. It’s not fair, not kind and not our place.

  • I’m that mom, too! Only without receiving flowers … that’d be a nice treat for sure *lol* This is my family down to the daughter, who is younger and has grown more mature than should be necessary for a child her age. Depending on the day and her mood she is either right with me and behaving or in her mind occupying her brother so I can shop (although I’ve explained running up and down the aisle or pushing their mini-carts into one another race-track style is not a good thing and draws more attention and creates more fodder from those that seem to be in judgement of others) but we deal and get our shopping done (usually … as yes, I have left before; mainly when he was younger and the over-stimulation was way too much and then returned later in the day or another day and ended up making an alternative decision on dinner or whatnot).

    People assume too much and enjoy parenting others instead of their own or feel if over such an age they know more than the actual parent does. My kids are 15 months apart and when they were one and two for instance I would get a lot of “wow, you have your hands full!” or other quips that in the tone were not meant nicely, to which I always replied in a happy sing-song voice or with lots of gusto “yes, and so is MY HEART!” and that always made them pause and regard me with an eyebrow up but I meant it and still mean it. It has become quite a sad state that happens (the parenting of others or the comments/stares etc).

    Most know us by now in our small town and where we shop – when we were newbies here I carried cards that I would just hand out explaining that autism was a neurological disorder and that helped (although one man wanted to take it outside and threatened me at a local pizzeria once when my son and his playdate were being loud and giggly and having a blast, so I handed him and his group a couple cards (scared to death to do it as this group of guys were huge and SCARY an ‘assumption’ on my behalf) and left with my kids, a friend and her special needs child (aka the playdate *lol*). While loading up her car the man came out and I was thinking “oh no, he’s going to shoot me”, however, he actually apologized. That gave me hope. Hope of and in all people, and I hung onto those cards like a life-line and still to this day have them for those rare occasions when they may be needed – awareness and then acceptance, I’ve seen that happen magically. I even handed those cards out in restaurants and groceries in the larger metropolitan area we moved from. Being demeaning, hypocritical, and just mean, knows no boundaries.

    I also commend you for not assuming this young boy is on the spectrum as there are a ton of disorders/diseases etc that have similarities to Autism Spectrum Disorder, and that, again, would have been an assumption. If I had been in the ladies place though and kept running into you, I most likely would have waited a beat, skipped an aisle or something, as I would have viewed you curious and not as a buffer (my opinion and unfortunately my ASSumption *lol*) as that’s what I’m use to happening – curiosity and those that perhaps want to ask or say something (if by doing things mentioned or other things and the person or persons still happened to be ‘around’ I would somehow manage to say a simple hello or ask a question/make a remark about something in their cart or looking at – to see if I could gauge a response or get them to say something to try and create a dialogue so the person may feel comfortable enough to ask a question … sometimes that works sometimes it doesn’t as they were just wanting to watch or even video I guess so they can show their friends how this young boy was flapping his hands in the local grocery saying in his ‘old man voice’ something from a tv commercial or repeating a fave of his (again in his ‘elderly voice’ as he calls it) “I don’t eat that woman, I’m allergic to it y’know”; which of course he’s not (I’m just wanting him to try something ‘new/different’), but … I never know what’s going to be said (as we’ve had the lovely experience of a tv infomercial that he was hooked on years ago about the jeans that were really pajama bottoms and we happened upon them at a store when they began selling ‘as seen on tv’ and he happily exclaimed “MOM, now you don’t have to worry about buying ONLINE they’re here! they’re here! you can “NOW HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS WITH JEAN PAJAMA PANTS AND THEY’RE HINEY-LIFTING TOO” … *ahem. hiney used in place of ‘butt’ as at their age it was not an appropriate word for them to use *lol* so the little spiel went through various parts of the infomercial in an extremely loud, high-pitched voice) I honestly thought the clerk would stroke out right there and some man close to my age eyed me curiously (I’m sure he was thinking “wow, she does need her hiney lifted alright and those bags under her eyes too” haha) … it’s always an adventure and as my son has aged it’s actually easier to navigate this world, although we still go through things – but, I am lucky in that regard and I know it and I do my best to never complain or judge and in some ways it has helped me in knowing if I need to be a buffer or offer a hand to another family I may cross paths with on an outing as I feel being in their world a little I’m able to pick up on more subtle cues.

    So thank you, thank you for making me shed tears this morning with what you wrote. Thank you for trying in your way to offer assistance to that mother. Since they gave her flowers perhaps TJ’s employees know her (as a lot of us shop at TJ’s or WF’s and others of the same ilk) and maybe you could print your article out, place it in a blank card/envelope and ask them to give it to her the next time she’s there? It may just make her day and/or really lift her inner-spirit, which we all need sometimes, plus, it won’t wilt like flowers *hehe*!

    **Sorry for writing a novel!!!**

  • What a lovely and compassionate post. It always does my heart glad when someone is willing to share about how they turned the ordinary into the extraordinary.

  • I try my best not to judge anyone because you never know where they have been or what they are going through. I think it is great that you tried to help. That was very kind.

Comments are closed.