Friday, 22 February 2013

My One Regret

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They say that you're not supposed to have regrets in life. That everything that happens to us in life is ultimately meant to teach us, to help us, to shape us into who we are meant to be. Well, I believe this. I really do. But I do have one regret. Maybe I've learned from it..actually I know I've learned from it. Maybe that means it's not a regret anymore.

But I still regret it.

Here is the story:

It was the day before Halloween. I was still recovering from Carter's birth, trying to keep my eyes open from the sleep deprivation of having a newborn, and realizing that Halloween was only a day away. I still needed a few odds and ends for the big night and a few extra groceries to get us through the rest of the week. So I quickly wrote out my list, packed up both kids into the van and headed out to the store.

As I pulled into a parking spot, I remember feeling slightly anxious at the prospect of going to a large store on my own with a 2yr old who doesn't like being confined to the seat of a shopping cart and a newborn who I was still getting to know. But with arms full, we made it in and got most of what was on my list with few problems. Mya ran along beside me, her little hands gliding along every item that we passed along each aisle and Carter stayed asleep, his eyelids fluttering open only occasionally as groceries filled up our cart.

As we made our way to the checkout line, it all started.

I began to hear yelling. A woman's voice. An angry woman's voice.

I all of a sudden found myself staring at a mom, her arms full of groceries, screaming at her two young daughters. Screaming and swearing at them. Words that no children should ever have to hear.

I couldn't take my eyes off of them.

Both of the little girls had long brown tangled hair that looked like it hadn't been washed in weeks. And they were both drowning in their over-sized coats, making them look even that much smaller compared to their tall mother hovering over them.  

The young girls (probably 8 and 10 years old) both had their newly picked Halloween costumes draped over their arms, as their shoulders curled up at the sound of every scream. They both looked down at the ground with fear on their faces.

The dad then started in on those two little girls as well. Screaming, swearing at them. Tears filled their little eyes as the older one started begging "Please stop. Please, please stop".

Then all of a sudden, as swear words continued to fly freely out of that mother's mouth, she took all of the groceries that were in her arms and threw them down on the floor. THREW them down. The crash of the food stopped everyone in their tracks. All of a sudden everyone at that store stopped and watched.

She then ripped the costumes out of her daughter's arms and threw them on the floor as well, while screaming at them that she wasn't going to buy them their costumes or any of the food anymore.

Tears streamed down those little faces as both girls pleaded "No mommy, please...please".

My heart dropped and I felt like I could barely breathe.

With food and costumes scattered all over the floor, the angry mom cursed those little girls and stormed out of the store.

As both little girls cried hard, they began reaching down and picking up the mess of food all around them as their dad continued to yell and swear at them.

I froze. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know if I should do anything.

Would I make it worse? Would I be overstepping my boundaries as a stranger interfering with a family situation?

My mouth went dry as I tried to find what words I could use to step in and do something. Anything.

Instead I locked eyes with both girls separately and gave them each a look of "I'm so sorry's going to be okay", then winked at each of them as I held my own daughter in my arms and pushed my cart back and forth trying to settle my now-wide-awake newborn.

I didn't do anything else.

I continued to watch as the dad angrily gathered up the last of the groceries on the floor and continued to yell at the little girls as he headed for the checkout. The oldest child gently grabbed her sister and hugged her, whispering something in her ear.

I almost cried.

She hugged her. She comforted her. She knew that she could do nothing else but try to protect her young sister and try to make it all better. They held each other crying.

I kept watching. Frozen.

The screaming and cursing settled as they followed their dad out of the store, their little hands intertwined, heads down as the cold wind hit their tear streaked faces as they walked out of the front doors.

I never saw them again.

I think of them often though.

I wonder what their life is like at home. If both of their parents think that swearing and screaming at them in a store is okay, what is happening behind closed doors? Are they okay?

I regret not stepping in. Not saying something. I've thought a lot about what I should have done, what I could have done differently. And all that I've come up with is that I should have gently stepped in with a sense of love and compassion for the entire family. I should have told them that I know how hard parenting is sometimes and could I please buy all of these groceries and the kids' costumes? It's the least that I can do. Please. Let me do this for you to ease a bit of the stress of your day.

It may have caused more anger, me stepping in. It may have caused more grief. It may not have been my place. But maybe it would have for a moment made those little girls see that someone in that moment cared about them. It may have showed those angry parents that someone cares about them as well. And maybe...just maybe, it would have made them realize that that type of behaviour towards children will change who those kids have the potential to be one day. It changes who they are.

So regrets? Ya, that's my one. My big one that I think about a lot. My regret that my fear of getting involved in business that wasn't my own left those scared little girls alone in that moment. Alone in a life that they were just born into. Born to parents who may not even realize how completely damaging those kinds of words can be to little people.

But I've learned from that regret. Learned that I won't just sit back next time. As uncomfortable as it might be, I'll step in next time to help. I won't just sit back and watch (as literally every single person at that store did, including myself).

So maybe my regret is actually a lesson in disguise. A good life lesson that I'll take with me and use and hopefully never leave a child or anyone feeling alone and helpless again.



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