I have come to enjoy shopping at Tony’s food store in North Riverside. It has such a variety of foods, often representative of numerous ethnic groups, that it is like shopping around the world.
And, being a summer fan of Popsicles and variations on Popsicles, I am delighted with the variety of frozen sticks of varying flavors which, I lie to myself, have fewer calories than other potential deserts.
The staff is helpful, and the people the store attracts are pleasant to be around. It is, by and large, a nice experience for a job which has to get done-keeping the larder stocked.
But, I recently had an experience with a child there that left me saddened, because this little girl, about 3 or 4 years old, ruined the day for everyone around her. It was obvious that she had already worn down her much-pregnant mother who paid no attention to the squawking child who wished to leave the confines of shopping cart.
Oh, the noise and the thrashing. I was sure that the little girl would eventually fall out of the cart to give herself a concussion or worse. The mother finally removed her from the cart and to the floor, where the little girl now began a full-fledged temper tantrum, kicking and screaming in the hopes that someone would notice.
Her mother did not, and those waiting around the delicatessen area of the store tried to pretend that they were immune to the ever-increasing decibel level around them.
I have to admit, I don’t like bratty kids. Frankly, I can’t believe that anyone does. By the time we see such antics in public, one can just guess what must be going on at home-or rather, not going on. Certainly, good manners are not in the cards, and discipline, of any kind, has fallen by the wayside.
And so, we all took deep breaths in the hopes that the mom’s deli number would come up soon, so that she could leave with her darling and bring peace back to the store.
It got worse. The little girl started climbing on the delicatessen’s glass cases, banging on the glass with her fists. She stood on the shelf surrounding the case, which held various kinds of bread. She perched on the bread and continued to pound the glass. Her mother stood by, saying and doing.
It is not ennobling to get into it with a child, but I had had it, both with the noise and with the potential danger to the little girl if she broke through the glass. I could just imagine the potential wounds.
“Excuse me,” I said to the mom, “but you’re little girl can hurt herself if she breaks the glass. She can cut her hands.”
The mom nodded and pulled her child off the loaves of now-trounced bread and away from the glass case. The little girl gave me a nasty glare for having disrupted her playtime. She then made fist and, in an overhand motion as if throwing a ball, threw a make-believe something at me. She was downright mad at me and determined to let me, a challenging adult, know her pique.
Whew, I had never had a child go through such motions, but I was not about to let that stand, either.
“Young lady, don’t you go giving me ugly hand signs. They are not acceptable,” I said, coming up with my ugliest, you’re-in-trouble grimace, which my son said used to scare the dickens out of him.
Her mother continued not to pay attention to the child as she now hid behind the mom’s legs as if they were a tree trunk, peeking out occasionally to see if I were still there.
The smiles and nods of those around us said thanks as things now quieted down so that we could get down to the business of buying food.
I could never figure out if the mom was just impervious to what was going on with her child or just did not care. Watching all the other well-behaved children in the store, I was sure that the art of good parenting was not dead.
As I finished my shopping and came across the offending little girl again, I noticed that she was not kicking up a storm, she was quiet. And then, when she saw me, she hid behind her mother.
Ah, I thought, lesson learned.