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

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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®! In addition to traveling 150+ days a year, she also helps new bloggers build successful blogging businesses.

139 Comments

  • What a great post and thank you for sharing. It is wonderful that you tried to help even though you were not feeling well. I hope u are feeling better.

  • I’ve been in both seats – and its always hard. there should be no room for judgyness, and though you may not feel it, the LACK of judgement was more than most did. good job 😉

  • I have to admit you had me nervous with this one. I thought you were going to judge. I’m glad you were understanding. There’s often so much more going on than what we see.

  • I try to never judge. You don’t know what the other mother is dealing with and yes, I have had the same experience.

  • I’ve been in both places as well, but I’ve never been the one to judge… more like, “you’re not alone..” I would tell them..

  • Before I had children was a judgie, I admit. Never again, we all have our struggles and they aren’t that obvious to everyone. Being a parent is tough.

  • What a great and caring post–I think if people we just a little more understanding the world would be such a better place–thanks for raising awareness that we are all dealing with our own issues
    hope you are feeling better too!!

  • I admire your awareness of the situation. I still am the judgy person. If I’ve made it out of my house without my kids I want peace and quiet. I have my own yelling screaming kids at home. However – you’re absolutely right, and I’ll be doing a little more reflection from now on. I know I appreciate the people who HELP when I have my hands full with cranky children. They’re a breath of fresh air, and all tired, stressed parents deserve that.

  • I’ve been in both places. It’s not fun when your child is screaming and there’s nothing you can and then some people judge. Kudos to you.

  • It’s a tough situation. I find myself thinking things about parents and kids while I’m out and then I stop myself and think: I don’t know the situation, I don’t know what’s really going on. Then I keep my thoughts in check and stop judging. I think you did okay.

  • it’s hard not to judge during times like that so it’s a great thing to know you were able to understand the situation far better than most people would have in that grocery. 🙂

  • I agree, it’s no fun. I ignore my kids when they act out. I feel sorry for everyone around me but when my 2 year old is crying because he can’t have a toy I won’t yell back. I want him to realize his crying has no affect on me. I don’t want to let him see me react. I bet you felt a lot better after writing this post.

  • Having friends that have kids with disabilities like Asperger’s and Autism, I am not so judgy anymore. It’s sad when people say mean things instead of trying to help the situation.

  • I was at Kohl’s and this lady was talking on her phone loud, plus yelling at her kids and her son felt horrible, she just kept getting louder, I ALMOST said something, she finally moved on.

  • Heaven knows why kids act out sometimes. You’re right. It seldom results from bad parenting. I usually say something if a child is in danger.

  • That is a tough situation to be in. Sounds like you done a great job of helping this mom out to the best of your ability. Hopefully your next trip to the store is less eventful

  • People are usually so quick to judge. You never know what goes on in other people’s lives so show some grace in these situations….the same as we would want for ourselves

  • I totally try not to judge, but sometimes I do. It’s gotten so much better over the years.

  • That’s so sweet. But I like to believe that everyone has rough days (kids and parents). We all get through it and (hopefully) aren’t permanently damaged for it. I also like to think that those bad days are just blips on the radar for most of us 🙂

  • Good for you! Among the most meaningful moments of my life were when strangers, seeing me calmly try to deal with my son in full tantrum mode (including in the airport several times!), said, “You’re a great mom and you’re doing your best.” WOW. Sometimes that’s all a mom needs! Just knowing you’re not alone is enough. I find the people who do complain the most are not parents or don’t remember what it’s like.

  • You never know another person’s life or struggles unless you are in their shoes. It’s never good to judge – because you don’t always have all the facts. I’m like you – I try to acknowledge that they are good moms – and I’ve appreciated that same gesture myself.

  • Oh wow, good for you! Admittedly, I braced myself when I first began reading this article. I thought it was going to be a lash out at the mother. And that, unfortunately, is because there is so much judgment flying around towards parents. It’s brutal, and you are right. We need to help, not harm.

  • What a great post. We all have been in situation like this one. We should all think twice about how the mother feels etc. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ah, nice attempt on the buffer. I do my very best not to judge. With four kids, it’s likely I’ve been there already too (or somewhere similar).

  • I enjoyed reading your comments on this situation. Some children have melt downs that are difficult to control or reason with . Your sympathetic kindness was helpful, I’m sure for this mom.

  • What a sweet post! I try to never judge Moms, we never know what the other is going through. You have such a kind heart 🙂

  • Although it’s hard not to judge, I really try not to because I have 6 kids and I’ve been through everything out in public with them, and honestly I don’t care! Usually I sympathize with all of what I see because, at some point I’ve probably been there and done that.

  • I enjoyed reading your post, and your storytelling of the situation. You don’t see too many people trying to actively make it easier for a parent like you did.

  • What a great read! Other parents are the ones who can easily say “Been there”, it’s the non-parents who don’t quite understand or get it.

  • Such a sweet touching post. I came back to pull it up and read it to my friend on the phone, lol. We’re both crazy in love with the sentiment you showed. It would be so wonderful if everyone could do the same. The lady might not have known your empathy, but I do; we all do reading, and I think it’s wonderful.

  • This is such a beautiful post. It really shows you should never judge anyone because you don’t know what they are going through.

  • I admit to feeling a little angry at the first of this post because I thought you were judging. 🙂 I’m glad you weren’t. My kids have pointed out when something like this happens and I explain to them the best way I can what is going on so that they won’t ever be those judging people either.

  • I try hard not to judge – being a parent must be the hardest job in the world sometimes. x

  • No but I can relate to your experience. Being open minded and understanding is key to any situation.

  • Maybe the mom thought if she ignored his actions and didn’t give any credit to it, he’d stop. Sorry for your experience and I think I would have told the child to stop it and behave himself. lol And I know I would have made a comment to the mom.

  • This story really touched me. One of the hardest lessons in life to learn is patience. It seems as though this lady has some experience.

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