It had been a very long week. After struggling through a family crisis, dealing with the holiday shenanigans and ultimately caring for my sick daughter who contracted a virus that catapulted her asthma to dangerous heights, I was depleted and done. We had been trapped in this sickness for days, and I hadn’t been able to get out to the grocery to pick up some medicine that I foolishly believe can help quiet her flare.
I needed to go. My daughter begged me not to leave her alone, but I convinced her it would be a quick trip and that she would be okay for the few minutes I ran to the store.
I worried. I questioned if I should even go. But honestly? I needed to get out and be amongst the living, if only for a short while. I wanted to have fresh produce in the house and have this medicine on standby for the sake of comfort if not anything else. Perhaps I was being selfish, but I really, really wanted to go. I swear I almost felt this elusive pressure to move, to risk this moment to do a ridiculous errand at a foolish time.
My anxiety hurled itself onto my pounding heart as I drove away from the house, leaving my baby in God’s hands. I said a quiet nervous prayer for protection while I was gone on this mundane and trivial excursion. What on earth was I doing?
I simply needed to go.
As I quickly pushed my cart through the store in rapid speed, picking up the items I needed for one reason or another, I rounded the corner of aisle 8 and I heard it on aisle 9. My ears perked up and my heart had this sudden twinge, as I listened to what probably was a three-year-old beginning the workings of a tantrum. My mom radar was buzzing loudly, as I immediately felt this surge of compassion for my fellow mom just one aisle over. I paused, with contemplation to head that way and do something, anything to let this mom know I’m here and I get it. I have had many of those moments with my own kids, and I always have this incessant need to reach out a hand, share that knowing smile, or even say something to show the true camaraderie we all have in this gig we call motherhood, to any mom who struggles.
I’ve been there. We’ve ALL been there.
I dismissed that nudge soon after, as anxiety took over, knowing full well I had a sick daughter at home counting the minutes until I returned.
I raced hurriedly to the checkout and groaned at the long line I now had to stand in, as my stress level increased tenfold. As I waited in angst, I heard the sound again… only the fierceness had climaxed to a thunderstorm of screams. This little girl had spiraled out to that place of no return. I peered over the crowded lines of people to find where this mom was managing the battle. I couldn’t see her, but I knew the direction the howls were coming from, and my heart sunk with sadness for my Conrad. I could tell from the cluster of dialogue that she was trying to get checked out fast as her girl had reached epic proportions of this meltdown. The entire store could hear her, and my heart couldn’t take it anymore.
I left my cart right there in the line and walked down the check out hub toward the screeching and rumbling of the battle. I found the mom, attempting to control her daughter with one arm and pay the cashier with another… while her baby boy sat in the cart smiling. The girl had now gotten physically out of control and was hitting and kicking with all her might, as this precious mom looked desperate to get the hell out of this mess- but couldn’t because all of her attention was now in trying to control her daughter. The cashier and countless onlookers just stared in silence.
I ran up to this mom and asked if I could help. I told her in the throes of this massive storm, that we have ALL been there! As her eyes met mine, she began to let out that familiar breath of defeat, causing me to nod with absolute sympathy and reach for her with my experienced hand. She thanked me and poured out those frantic explanations- that her girl wanted a treat and she said no and she just didn’t know why she was doing this and she never has been this out of control and and and and….
I nodded and smiled and told her I get it. “Let me help?” I begged.
The girl broke free. Running at top speed toward the other end of the store, leaving this mom with the baby in the cart and the silent onlookers and cashier just waiting, waiting, waiting to check her out.
“I’ll go get her- you just check out! We got this!”
I ran as fast as I could toward the corner of the cosmetics department, as I spotted this little tiger’s beautiful hair flying in the air. She was fast, and scared, and in that crazed state of savagery. I dodged the lipstick display and rounded the corner of the lotions, as she darted through the shampoos and crawled behind the hair supplies to hide. I finally found her, as she glared at me with the look of a little innocent confused raging child. I tried to sweet talk her into coming out, but she would have nothing to do with me. I then crawled my way under to grab her as she hit and kicked and tried to squirm away… But I was able to catch her and lift her into my arms, with that super mama strength I never thought I’d have. (You know. I know you know.)
I kept sweetly singing in her little ear, “It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay. You’re okay, sweetie. Let’s go back to mommy…”
She kicked and hit and pulled my hair and screamed, as I fought with all my might to hold on to her.
I headed back to the mom who had finally checked out, carrying a fighting strong-willed adorable tyrant that almost managed to escape my grasp multiple times. I kept telling this beautiful little girl that she was okay. I knew that she was beyond anything we could salvage, but I wanted her to know that although she was out of control, I was not. I stayed calm, as my voice continued to be soft and tender. She needed no added stress from me, and I simply wanted to take her back to the safety of her mother’s arms.
I finally found her mom, who looked at me so deflated, exhausted and terrified to see her daughter so violently out of control.
I told her I would help her outside to the parking lot to get the kids in the car with the groceries. Her little girl got a good grab of my hair and the mom kept apologizing and thanking me, with a horrifying gasp of humility. I kept telling her over and over that ALL kids do this, and she is a good mom and I am here to help…
I handed the little warrior over to mom’s arms to continue the battle, knowing full well this wasn’t mine to combat, but hers. I was just her aid, so I pushed the cart with the adorable baby boy smiling and babbling with me, as I tried to keep his normal world at bay. We reached the parking lot and worked tirelessly to get her daughter into the car as this little girl had more power than the two of us together.
It took us nerves of steel and the strength of an almighty warrior to get this girl buckled into her car seat as she continued to kick and scream and pull our hair as we got close to her.
Oh, this poor mom. She kept apologizing and I felt the immensity of her momma heart so sunken and soaked in utter embarrassment and overwhelming angst. We were a good team, taking turns with the baby boy and the cart and managing the little fireball who wouldn’t quit.
After a good 30 minutes, the kids and groceries were in the car and we fell into each other’s arms and cried.
She thanked me over and over again. And I told her over and over again, that this is what mothers do- they help each other out. They dive into the trenches because we are ALL there at some point. I told her she is not a bad mother, she is an amazing mom and all kids -ALL kids have meltdowns. I told her that I was there for a reason, and I went against my natural instinct to stay home- for THIS. God had sent me to this place in time to help her out. It was so clear to me. So very clear. I had a Divine appointment waiting for me at this grocery store.
This precious mom cried more. I cried more. She kept thanking me and sharing how she feels like such a failure and how this has never happened and how she would have never been able to manage this scene without me. She told me I was her angel.
It was so raw and real, and beautiful. Two moms crying and hugging in the parking lot… bearing our souls while the screaming continued in the car. What a scene. What a glorious guttural moment of motherhood we both shared…
Of deep, profound, compassion.
We stood in that beautiful connection of pain, of strength, of utter defeat and complete victory. We laughed at the unbelievable fight her girl had. We talked about the looks and the stares and the awful judgment had by everyone else around us. I continued to convince her that this is totally and completely normal- ALL of it.
We exchanged numbers. I told her to drive and cry and let it all out and don’t stop until both kids fell asleep.
I waved goodbye with tears still in my eyes and my heart ablaze with love for this new friend and precious mom. This matters. THIS.
I ran back into the store to see if my cart was even there, and once again had this surge of panic that I had pushed down over and over again while helping this new mom friend. I kept secretly praying that God would care for my daughter while I was carrying out His mission. I forced the peace of His Protection into my heart, with the confidence that He would indeed hold my baby with His Hands, while I did His work with mine.
I found my cart, placed out of the line and off by the service desk. I grabbed it to once again, get back in the line to check out and race home.
Once in the car, I began to sob. I cried all the way home, not tears of pain but joy. I rejoiced in the most amazing passionate praise that simply illuminated my heart as I thanked God for his call. I thanked Him for picking me that day, to carry out His work.
I came to this store defeated and depleted. Little did I know, God can still use me in my weakest state. Little did I know that I would be infused with great strength and stamina and be presented with such a merciful gift.
Oh, what a marvelous plan He weaves through us all. Oh, what a miraculous day it turned out to be.
I got home to find my daughter immediately exasperated and questioning my whereabouts. It had been two hours. She was frustrated but she was fine.
“Oh, honey… do I have a story for you!
The beautiful thing about this is that I knew my daughter would understand. I felt completely confident that she would join me in the joy of it all. And she did.
I prayed for this mama all day. I knew the place she was in… I had been there many times with my own kids. I decided to text her and follow up to make sure she indeed made it home and her baby girl was fast asleep by now, and she- this dear mom who had been through the toughest battle of her motherhood journey… had recovered.
“Praying for you! You are NOT allowed to feel any shame or remorse. Only love and goodness and light! Promise? Just had to send a quick text and tell you how blessed I am to have met you today. Hang in there mama! (Chris Carter, your new bff. LOL) Coffee date in the coming year!”
“Chris, you saved me from a nervous breakdown (or worse!) today!! I am the one who is blessed for having met you. She finally stopped crying once she realized I was crying and the poor girl felt sad for me! Thank you sincerely for your help and hugs and for being my guardian angel during one of my most challenging periods of motherhood ever. I hope God smiles on you and your family as He has on me by bringing you into my life. Let’s definitely get together soon under more calm circumstances so that I can get to better know my new bff!!”
I share this story to exemplify what happens when us moms tune in and sometimes dive in, to help another mother out. I share this story as a testimony for all the moms out there who do this, often. I share this story to remind ME that I need to listen to my heart and sacrifice parts of my own self in order to step out of my comfort zone and reach more willingly toward those who are in need. I share this story to offer encouragement to us all, and inspire us all to be moved into a purposeful mission when called.
I share this story because it is one of compassion. Deep compassion, for another struggling soul who just needed a hand, a heart, and a hug. And in the end, we both got that very same thing.
Compassion does that, you know. When we act on it, it fills both the giver and the gifted.
I was both that day.