(aka unwanted advice in a shopping centre)
I’m going to share with you an incident that happened to us in Cribbs Causeway a few weeks ago. I want to share it as I feel I can now – the red mist of anger has dissipated and I’m now comfortable in the air of “really? I mean… really?” which is frankly where I seem to spend much of my time. It’s the place where I look at people from, mildly confused as to why they are offering me unsolicited advice on just about anything.
It’s been a while since it happened to me, or maybe I’m so sleep deprived most of the time I’m not really registering what people are saying to me. I usually look at those around me with a vacant expression while I picture them as a huge mug of steaming coffee.
But on this particular day I had gone past exhaustion to a whole new level of consciousness. Small Boy had woken up just after midnight and refused to go to sleep until after five in the morning. I had reached a new level of tiredness where hyper vigilance takes over.
It possibly wasn’t a good decision to go shopping but after weeks of being cooped up with Small Boy’s assorted illnesses, we were going a bit stir crazy. The weather looked unpredictable so a farm or somewhere muddy seemed out of the question. Soft play – on a weekend – are you mad? We knew we weren’t mentally equipped to deal with the short drive to Cardiff followed by driving around for an hour to park so a few hours around the shops and lunch out didn’t look an option. But wait! Of course, Cribbs Causeway, I suggested. Packed full of shops, a soft play area and a food court, what could go wrong!
Small Boy was a bit fidgety on the journey but he’s not a fan of the car and once I almost dislocated my arm holding my phone over the head rest so he could watch Abney and Teal, he calmed down. Once we were parked up in John Lewis car park B, we settled him in his buggy with Babbit (a small blanky bunny from IKEA) we were good to go.
We happily mooched around a few shops on the hunt for a jacket for Daddy, eventually getting in the lift to head up to another level. That’s where it happened – the judgemental old lady event. Now I’m sorry if you recognise yourself in this post and feel bad, but believe me you would probably feel worse if I’d vented to you in the confines of a lift.
Like all parents with a buggy, we jostled our way in so we could fit and nobody’s bum or bags were blocking the lift. Small Boy is two so he’s at the stage where he finds other people fascinating (occasionally) and was happily chatting away and pointing out his Babby to anyone interested (Babbit is the name we gave the rabbit blanky, but SB says Babby).
When a child does this to you smiling, the appropriate response is to smile back. It is not to look sneeringly at my son and say “she has one but isn’t allowed to bring it out” – the she being a toddler in a pushchair, and the judger being the grandmother taking her out for the day.
In my best attempt at being measured, I gave a stiff smile and said, “he loves his Babbit. We have several. They’re important to him.” – in short, woman, none of your chuffing business and can you show a little more humanity please.
Did she shut up, get the hint? NO. She kept on. “Well, she has one, but she has to keep it in bed.”
Really, I thought. Well, good for her. And if that’s what her parents want, that’s fine for them too. We are all different and kids have different needs. But I didn’t say that. You know why? Because it’s none of my business.
So lady, if you’re the woman in the lift in Cribbs Causeway who had a small, smiling child wave their rabbit at you recently, perhaps you can ask yourself why you felt the need to judge him, or me, and why his desire to have his soft pal in his pushchair bothered you so much.
I think we’d all be better off if we didn’t volunteer advice or judgement without it being asked for, particularly by strangers.
What do you think? Comment