On Monday I wrote about propriety within the church.  Today I am going address propriety while out shopping with the wee ones.

There is one incident which best summarized my own questions about who determines acceptable behavior.

I was in Costco with my kids (one of our favorite places to go!).  It was the middle of the day during the week, so not very crowded.  I had Alexander sitting in the cart, and the girls were walking.  We usually like to go up and down the aisles to see what sort of ‘neat stuff’ they have – and when I saw ‘we’, I mean me.  I love to look, and eventually get the items we came for.

We were making our way up and down the aisles, and of course mom walks too slowly, so I let the girls run, skip, hop, jump down an aisle, and then wait for me to catch up before we turn down the next aisle.  They were not out of control, at least I didn’t think so).  They were destroying anything, pulling on anything, or otherwise causing a problem.  They were simply having fun, as children do.

The girls were ahead of me as we turned down the next aisle, and with their laughter, skipped around the corner.  I trailed 3 seconds behind them, and turned my cart to go around a man coming the other way.  As I passed him he looked at me and in all seriousness said, ‘you need to control those children.’

I was shocked and speechless at the time.  I just kept on walking.

If I generally fall to one side or the other, I’m much more restrictive than permissive, so to have someone tell me that my kids were out of control, when I didn’t think so, was completely shocking.

I brushed off his comment, but it made me think…who decides what is acceptable?

If I polled the other shoppers that day, what would the consensus be?  And regardless of that consensus, would it matter their opinions?

It can be an interesting study.  Most often it’s other women, mothers and grandmothers, who looking at my and my kids with a smile, and a warm comment.  Rarely, if ever, does a man say, ‘your kids are well behaved,’ but I have had women say that more than once.

So it is a gender thing?  Other mom’s know what real life with kids is like, whereas dad’s don’t usually experience a shopping outing with three kids under 5?

Is it the dad’s that expect the children to be ‘seen but not heard,’ with a stereotypical stoic personality?

Just the other day I was at the grocery store with the kids, after a long day of errands.  EVERYONE was tired, including mama.  We were in the checkout line, and Alexander decided to play with the shopping cart.  He then thought it a good idea to push the cart in front of us, belonging to another lady.  I told him no, that wasn’t our cart, and stopped him from continuing, praying that he would listen because I was just about out of energy.  That women commented positively on my correcting Alexander.  She said it was nice to see a mother correct her child, rather than let him run wild and pretend not to notice.  I was too tired to offer any reasonable response – I still don’t know what an appropriate response to that comment is – but I thought about it the rest of the day.

Clearly, pushing on someone else’s shopping cart was not acceptable behavior.  I had no doubt in my mind, and it seems that this lady would agree.

So what about those gray areas?  Are they gray areas, or am I just oblivious?  Is it okay to allow your child to skip down the store aisle, so long as they aren’t getting in the way of other shoppers?   How about look at clothes in a store while mom does the same?  Not tear things off hangers, but simply look at clothes the same way I do?  (I got the distinct impression once that my girls ‘shopping’ in this way was not appreciated, even though they weren’t creating any kind of mess).

What about looking at game boxes at a kiosk?  Just as I was looking at these board games at a kiosk in the mall the other day, so too were my girls; taking a box down to look at the princesses, or whatever picture caught their attention, before returning the box to the shelf.  The man working the kiosk kind of followed us around in an overbearing way, eventually taking a box out of my daughters hand…that’s a sure way to NOT get my business.

Is it okay for a child to ‘shop’ along side mom or dad?  Or should it always be ‘look but don’t touch?’

Maybe I just think too much on these things.

I have learned to not put so much weight on the opinion of others…a very important lesson for ALL mothers to learn. But at the same time, I do not want to be rude, or raise rude children, in areas that are right and wrong, black and white.  I do not want to offend when it is not necessary.  At the same time, I want to think through such questions so that whatever way seems right, I can act with boldness and confidence, knowing that I and my children aren’t in the wrong.