Let me set this up for you. See, I rarely take all five kids anywhere these days. I get my errands done on the weekends or evenings, when HH is home, and even then, I simply take one or two children with me. I guess it had been a while since I had whole crew with me, and I should have expected the responses that I got yesterday, I just wasn't used to it anymore.
I guess I didn't think too much about it, because my kids are really well behaved when we run a few errands. They trudge in and out of stores with me, finding new and interesting things to look at or play "I Spy" when waiting in lines. I no longer fear taking my crew with me places, as their ages allow for much more flexibility when out and about. The older children hold the younger ones hands in parking lots, they start the game playing when the little ones patience are running low, and they make up fantastical stories in order to entertain in the car. Having imaginative 9 and 10 year olds make for a really smooth errand day.
First, we had scheduled haircuts. The boys desperately needed a trim, and with Knight serving more and more on Sunday mornings, it was something we had to fit in, when our hair cut lady would be available. As we made our way into the salon, we were greeted happily by another customer, a tall gentlemen, greying hair and smiling big. He said, "All four are yours?"
I looked around, mentally thought, Oh no, I forgot someone in the car! Thankfully, he just couldn't count. I replied, "Actually, all FIVE are mine, Yes."
He laughed, and looked at each face intently as if to confirm my genealogy, "Yep, they all look alike."
I couldn't help but to laugh, and as I patted my Babe on the head, I said, "Well, I guess they should, right?"
He mentioned how beautiful they all were, and how blessed we were, as he walked off to his salon chair to get his cut. I smiled, thankful, that we started the day with such a kind person to chat with.
Hair cuts went quick and smooth, as children read their library books as they waited, and even Babe played "I Spy" pointing to the brightly colored shampoo and conditioner bottles shelved for sale. Errand day was going great: My first 'to do' on the list was checked off. Hair cuts: DONE.
Happily we went on to Target. I had a swimsuit for Entertainer that was too big for her, and I needed to return it and get a new size. We walked into the Customer Service and with no line and we were helped by a older woman, who asked us again, "Are they ALL yours?"
What is it with THAT question? I thought, Well, I guess it's better than, 'Do you run a daycare', which I have heard a few times.
I laughed even louder this time, and answered, "Yes, they are, and we have a return please."
She happily chit chatted with my Entertainer, telling her what a nice swim suit she picked out, and as Entertainer explained the reason for the return, I was proud that she was comfortable enough to speak for herself, as my other children waited patiently. When our return was complete, we turned to leave, and this lady behind the counter, complimented the behavior of the children, and again, I was told just how lucky I was to have this family. Mentally, I said, Yes, I know it. Lucky means blessed. Lucky means blessed.
Now into the main store of Target, we quickly saw many children's shoes and sandals on clearance. Making our way in that direction, I noticed just how many people not only glanced our way to mentally count the number of children in our group, but I saw these individuals actually crank their neck in our direction in a kind of stare, that I wasn't quite ready for. I've seen this before, trust me, it isn't new to me, however, it seemed more blatant or perhaps it had just been a while since seeing it. I am not sure, but it struck me just how ill-mannered some people can really be.
Yep, we stopped at the shoes and the children took turns trying on sandals, sneakers and finding their favorites. They had done so well up to this point, and so I offered to buy some new summer sandals if we could find their right size.
Two older ladies were stocking the shelves in the two aisles where we were stopping to investigate. I noticed they gave each other these side glances, and exaggerated faces, which I took to mean: Oh, great, they'll be here ALL day, and ALL THESE CHILDREN IN MY WAY!
Clearly seeing their distress, I brought it to the forefront to address it, "I am so sorry, ladies, we'll be out of here shortly and out of your way."
They laughed, and one of ladies decided to be a tad snarky, "Ya, know there IS more clearance THREE aisles in THAT direction," as she pointed to her left. She repeated herself, even louder now, "Ya, know, ma'am, THAT way, OVER THERE."
I made a mental decision right there, as her sarcasm was thick and irritating. I decided to stay as long as it would take. I am in no hurry. My children aren't acting up, I'm not leaving. Faking a big smile, I responded, "Thanks so much, I will have to check it out, when we are done here."
During the shoe investigation, I heard many a loud sigh by these two ladies, obviously irritated by our presence, to which I smiled happily, minding my manners, saying, "Excuse me" and all the rest. I WILL be a good example to my children, should they notice these two women out of line here.
We finished up in the aisle and began to walk away. Then, my Knight saw some boys shoes nearby, in another aisle. We meandered our way down the boys aisle, and clearly these ladies thought I was out of earshot, as they condemned not only my presence in the clearance shoe aisle, but the number of children I had brought with me. I heard the other lady's response, "Well, get used to it, it's back to school season, and people will bring in ALL the kids to get supplies."
I stepped out of the aisle, hoping to make eye contact with one of the ladies in order to tame their gossip, however, I couldn't see their eyes, and therefore decided to move the children along, in order to spare their ears from any more negativity.
I took a deep breath, and reminded myself that each one of these little ones are a gift from God. From. God. I will never be embarrassed, ashamed or regretful of these precious, precious, mind you, well behaved, children. They are my life, my blood, my way to Heaven. And these two snarky Target employees will not get the best of me. I exhaled slowly and made a decision to praise my children's behavior, loudly, just in case anyone in ear shot could hear me.
"I am so proud of you guys. You all found something new, you took turns, you helped each other with the shoes. You are a great example of great kids!"
I stopped the cart, and I made a mental note, Get used to this, woman, why is this such a surprise?
As we checked out, I was asked a third time by our cashier, "Are all these kids yours?"
Smiling bigger now, I answered, "They sure are."
We left Target, amidst more obvious stares, and I mentally left the whole experience right there at those automatic opening doors. Older children grabbed the little ones' hands in the parking lot and we all loaded up in the van.
Taking that mental moment to leave it all at those doors, actually had me forgetting about the whole incident, all day. Then, late last night, I remembered suddenly, and then told my HH about it all, laughing at the absurdity of what appeared to be just lack of good manners.
The look on my husbands' face told me something quite different though. He was disturbed by the treatment of his wife and children and it visibly showed. He told me he would call the Target manager the very next day, to inform him/ her of the treatment I had received in the shoe department and to praise the Customer Returns gal for her service.
Quickly, I objected. "Honey, this stuff happens all the time. I had forgotten it all day. It hadn't bothered me at all, I just thought of it now, to tell you."
He was adamant. "Customer service is paramount", he told me, "People won't go to a store where the employees are that rude. They can't treat my wife this way. That is ridiculous."
Knowing how important it is for HH to be my hero in these big and small ways, I relented, "Okay, honey, do what you think is best."
He did call this morning, by the way, and the manager offered a sincere apology for these two ladies in the shoe department. While that hardly makes a dent in the whole affair, I will say that it brings me joy to know that we can make small differences when we can, in order to teach acceptance to others. Who knows what that Target manager will do with this new knowledge of her staff. Perhaps nothing. Perhaps something.
Perhaps, my HH did something beyond being my hero, perhaps he's a hero for any other child or mother that find themselves in the shoe department of our local Target store. Maybe, just maybe, those ladies will learn a new acceptance and appreciation for customers who help to pay their salary. Who knows.
As much as I can't stand the stares and the ill treatment, I accept how God just might have a hand here. We have five children. They came from God as gifts to an undeserving man and woman. They have needs, and we fill them, and it will require a trip to the store every now and again. We live in the world, and each of these types of errand days, are opportunities. They are moments that we can reflect the joy of children, of family life, the joy of accepting God's plan in our lives.
And I won't shy away from it. I won't hide away my children in order to please anyone. We are, who we are, and I hold my head up high, for the world may not understand. We are not of this world, we are in it, but we are not of it.