A couple of days ago I was looking at vegetables in Raglan Four Square. A man in his forties was stacking and rearranging vegetables, and between us a young woman was shopping with her little girl, about three by the looks. This child was beautiful - like something off an old fashioned biscuit box - pretty dress, long, light brown hair falling into soft ringlets, carrying a miniature shopping basket, in which she had an onion, a couple of carrots and a banana. She picked up a bunch of 'trussful' tomatoes - and two tomatoes fell off onto the floor.
My stomach clenched, waiting for the mother's reaction, with bitter bile rising to my throat, knowing how I would have reacted many years ago when my children were that age. What, I would have thought, would the shop employee think? What would that grandmother think? And I would have made assumptions about their thoughts and reacted with screaming and bitter abuse, embarrassment and rage.
I'd seen the signs but they hadn't registered: the basket, with the fruit and vegetables. This wasn't the sort of mother I was all those years ago. The mother just smiled and said, "You want some tomatoes? Pop those ones back and put those two in your basket, two will be enough. And that was all there was to it.
The little girl did as she was asked, then noticed me. She looked up at me, smiled and said, "Hello. I've got lots of things." I smiled back and replied, "You certainly have. You're going to have a yummy dinner tonight." Then I turned to the mother and said, "What a lovely little girl you have."
Why did I say that? Why couldn't I have said what I really wanted to say?
"What a wonderful mother you are, surrounding your little girl with so much love and respect, encouraging her Self to Shine so brightly."
Why is it so hard to comment on other people's parenting, even when what I want to say is positive?
I hope that young woman wasn't a visitor to Raglan: if I see her again, I will go up to her, remind her of the incident and tell her what I wanted to say. I want to offer her the encouragement to keep Shining just as she offers it to her little girl. I hope I have the chance.
If you wonder why I capitalised 'Self' and 'Shine', it is because these words have come to mean something special to me through an email list, and one very special woman, Anne O.