I spend a lot of time at Target. It's my 'go-to' place. When the girl was first born, she cried all day, every day. She would cry sometimes for over 10+ hours a day. I was sure that I was doing something wrong (stay tuned for that story!). I didn't get out of the house with her until she was almost 3 months old. She just wouldn't stop crying. So, when we finally did venture out together, Target was where we went.
The girl loves it there. I don't know if it is the lights, the people, the bright displays or what, but she loves it. Now that she sits up in the seat, she is easily entertained just by walking around the store. This is great for days we don't have a lot to do - we walk around and point out people and things we see. Not so good for trying to get multiple errands done, as she likes to eat my list and credit cards.
But, Target is a great place to observe and people watch. Before the girl was born, I had lots of ideas about how people should be raising their kids. Now that I am a parent, I find myself biting my tongue a lot more and reevaluating what I think.
A few years ago I was given a book copy of David Foster Wallace's commencement speech to Kenyon College class of 2005.
One of my personal take aways from reading this speech was to really try and think differently about every day (especially boring/aggravating) things. While I certainly don't pretend that I do this well, I try.
I remind myself that who am I to judge? When the lady in Target has 3 kids that are running through the aisles screaming at each other, I would normally think that she just has no control of her kids, but I try to think differently about it. I imagine that perhaps their father is at home very ill and they have to be quiet all the time, as not to disturb him. So, running around Target is the first chance they have to actually be kids. Would I blame them for acting like kids in that situation? This thinking usually reminds me to have a little more compassion and a little more patience with people. Besides, for the most part, people are doing the best they can. I know I am. Hopefully, others are having the same patience and grace with me.
But, let's be honest, for all my wanting to be a good person, I do judge. I try to limit it to people who I think clearly deserve it (and after all, what do they care what I think?) but I do find myself judging people out in the world.
The girl and I were returning to our car, after a particularly fun trip to Target, when I noticed a woman and her son (approximately 11-years-old) returning to their car. They had made the choice to park in the farthest away aisle from the store (there were many closer spots available) and were unloading their bags.
When all the bags were loaded, the mom pushed the cart over into the next parking space, climbed into her car and drove away. This incident (which happened more than a week ago) has stuck with me because it seems like such a missed opportunity for this mother.
I will be making a grand assumption that her son did not possess any physical or mental disabilities that would make it difficult for him to return the cart 100 feet to the nearest corral. I realize it is impossible to know this family's situation, but as I have seen this exact episode happen more than 30 times, I am going to make a sweeping generalization that he was of sound mind and body.
All I could think was what a lost opportunity to teach her child responsibility this woman had just given up. Not only had she lost the opportunity to teach him about being responsible, she has actually taught him that it is okay to be irresponsible and expect someone else to clean up after you. This boy was old enough to be sent across the parking lot to return the cart to the corral and now he has learned that if you just leave your stuff lying around, someone else will clean up after you.
Of course, it is easy to imagine that I'll remember to do all these things correctly, but I know that is not realistic. But I do know that the girl is constantly watching everything I do to find out how the world works and her place within it. I hope I'm providing her with a consistent model of being a responsible citizen and community member.
Books that I think will be good for a discussion about responsibility:
Pigsty by Mark Teague
Piggybook by Anthony Browne
David Goes To School by David Shannon
The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey