Last week I was at the grocery store and noticed a young mom and her three children. Her daughter appeared to be about two years old and sat in the grocery cart. Her two sons were walking next to the cart and son Jack who appeared to be about four or five was “helping.”
“Yes, Jack, we need the cheese. Go ahead and put that in the cart.”
“No, Jack, we are not going to get chocolate milk today. Please put it back. Please put the chocolate milk back, Jack.” “No, Jack we are not getting chocolate milk today. Put it back.” And so it went up and down three or four aisles until the moment that all of us in the store could hear coming.
“Jack!” “Come here.” It was said sharply. She grabbed his hand.
Memories of my own “Jack moments” flooded back. One in particular. We were in church and my youngest, would not behave. He was poking his sister, kicking the seat in front of us. Anything to be a distraction. I had taken him outside for disciplining and promises of bribes twice already. In my fatigue and despair, I started crying. Sobbing actually. Big wet tears running down my face and my shoulders bumping up and down with my ragged breaths.
Then the lady who sat behind us every week, and had watched our ongoing church struggles month after month, put her hand on my shoulder and left it there for the rest of the service. It was one of the kindest things another mother has done for me.
My attention is back in the grocery store and Jack’s mom is squatting down in front of him and I think he is going to catch it now.
“Jack,” she says, “Look at me. Look at me.”
“Calm down. Take a deep breath with me.” They suck in air noisily through pursed lips and clenched teeth.
“OK. Take another breath.” Another noisy breath. “Are you calm now?” Jack nods his head. “Can we finish shopping now?” Jack nods his head.
I remember the woman who put her hand on my shoulder in church. I turn to Jack’s mom.
“Mam.” She looks and me and Jack starts to get distracted by the spaghetti noodles. “I think that is great that you are teaching him calming breaths. I wish I knew about that when my kids were little.”
“It’s not working.”
“You are doing great.”
“Jack, put the spaghetti back.”