There’s a million ‘open letters to strangers’ out there in internet world but I wanted to add my own.
This is an open letter to the lady who stopped me yesterday and hugged me.
Normally I would feel a bit weird about a stranger stopping me at the shops and hugging me. But yesterday it was all I needed.
I know that our meeting was only brief but I wanted to explain to you what happened before you found me, crouched down on my hands and knees mopping up spilled coffee, hoping that I could hold my shit together long enough to get back to the car and cry in peace.
My kids needed new shoes. It’s a necessary evil that you need to take them to the shops in order to measure their expanding feet. Usually I try and avoid having three of them at the shops because without fail, everytime it’s a monumental nightmare.
Yesterday was no different. As I policed fights and tantrums I gritted my teeth and dragged them to the shopping centre after swimming lessons. The shop was busy so we waited. And waited. And waited. They were pulling stuff off shelves, the baby was kicking off. They were play fighting and generally being difficult.
Finally it was our turn. I knew that I was on borrowed time because the baby needed a sleep and hates being in the pram.
As I mentioned the shop was busy so I was trying to determine sizes of shoes while avoiding nasty looks from the shop assistant. I’m pretty sure it was her job to be measuring and checking shoes given that I was in a children’s shoe store, but I was there doing it.
Each time I asked to try and different style of shoe on it was like I was asking for her first born child. She was no doubt getting frustrated by the screeching that my daughter has developed a habit of doing. It’s ear piercing and I’m doing everything I can to stop her but she’s a baby! I could feel her stares every time she did it so I passed her the only food I had on me to keep her quiet. It happened to be one of those squeezie yoghurts.
Tantrums left, right and centre. Image: istock
She's had them before but this time, while my back was turned, she decided to squeeze it out all over the floor. I turned, horrified, as other people watched. As quick as I could I grabbed the wipes from my bag and began cleaning up the mess, all the while my other kids were running around like lunatics. I was THAT mother. Clearly the shop assistant wasn't impressed because she walked over to me, threw a roll of paper towel at my feet and said "I'll leave that with you to deal with. We have a no food policy for a reason."
Jesus, lady. I'm doing my best here.
I was mortified. I went to the counter to pay for the shoes only to find that the baby had pulled everything out of my wallet at home and I had nothing but a bakers delight card, some receipts, a few coins and a credit card that I thought may have been cancelled. Luckily it wasn't as there were about four people in the line behind me, no doubt getting more and more frustrated at me.
As I walked out of the shop I got a call from my father. As a long sufferer of depression he is not in a good way. I balanced the phone on my shoulder as I pushed the pram and tried to wrangle two other children to stay by my side. I apologised as people walked in front of my pram, basically just apologising for my existence and the space I was taking up. Why do I do that?!
I tried my hardest to give him the emotional support he needed as he spoke about wanting to end his life. I've been there a hundred times but today I was standing in the middle of the shops. People probably walked past me thinking "Look at these mums, too busy on the phone to properly focus on their children".
Having dealt with that mini fire I could feel the familiar pangs of migraine pain creeping in. Long ago I discovered that caffeine helps so I got to the nearest cafe and ordered a strong one. I paid for it and put it in the cup holder on my pram. As I put my wallet away my son started running around and in the process, knocked over the coffee. It went everywhere.
I'd used my wipes at the shoe store so I started grabbing napkins. As I crouched down all too aware of the eyes watching me, I saw your feet next to me. I was fighting the tears back, hard. It was just one of those days where nothing went right. You passed me some napkins and walked away. It was a lot more than anyone else had done.
But what you did next turned it all around. While I tried to restrain my kids and clean up yet another mess you walked over to the register, asked what I had ordered and bought me another coffee.
I was about to leave when you came back to me, handed me the coffee and offered a hug. "We've all been there," you said. As I let a stranger hug me, I fought back the tears that were just beneath the surface. "Thank you" was all I could manage to say without losing it.
But now that I am home and rested I did want to say thank you, properly. You have no idea how much your kindness affected me. I felt like the worst mother in the world that morning, like the judgement of others was so harsh and couldn't do anything right and you alone made me feel like I wasn't so isolated.