Hi, it’s me, the mom of WV and Viv, or as you probably know them, Crashy and Tantrumy. The first time you rolled your eyes by the lettuce, I did a double take. I thought you must be thinking of something bad that happened that day. But when you tried to get around us in the dressing aisle, made eye contact with me, and rolled ’em hard, I knew I was the intended recipient of your grump. You really got me good! The withering look made me feel bad for your significant other (if you have one—that kind of glare probably doesn’t attract a whole lot of suitors).

Now where were we…oh yes, Crashy and Tantrumy. At the time of your second glare, my son had been crashing into my heels with the cart made for tiny humans. My daughter was pitching a bit of fit that I wasn’t letting her grab every dressing on the shelf to put in her cart. (Maybe she is looking for some variety to our usual 10 go-to meals? Maybe she wants to experiment on if no fat dressing is really that different from the full fat? She is two, so I try not to delve into her brain too often. Too much vacancy there, with explosions of brilliance, followed by explosions of emotion. It’s a minefield I prefer not to walk through.)

While I was quietly lecturing them to not touch anything, to stay close, yes, I said close, but not so close that you crash my ankles again! While I was hating the sound of my voice, hating that I just want some Poppyseed dressing but I have to put on 6 shoes, buckle 3 seat belts and unbuckle 3 seat belts, and carry 25 pounds through a parking lot while trying to hold hands with a 50 pounder who alternates between a sprint and a halt every 5 steps, hating that I am the kind of person who says things like, “Did that sound come out of your face or your butt,” and “We don’t spit,” and, “If you crash my ankles one more time you don’t get dessert tonight”—this was the moment you chose to lock eyes and give a big ole’ roll. An angry roll. A control-your-kids-and-keep-them-out-of-my-way roll.

The breath left me. I was rendered speechless. I thought, “If there were ever time for a comeback, this would be it!” I have pondered what I should have said since that moment. (When I was a kid, the noise my friends and I were making was annoying a group of people at a park concert venue. An adult exclaimed, “Jesus Christ!” One of the parents in our group brilliantly came back with, “That’s Mr. Jesus Christ to you!” I have admired quick wit ever since.) But nothing brilliant has come to mind. Eye roll lady, if you felt an eye roll was the necessary response to the scene you were witnessing, to the inconvenience our presence caused you, then you are beyond understanding. No quick wit could ever cure you of whatever is festering inside you.

What exactly were you trying to accomplish? It is annoying that they were in your way. I feel you. Imagine having them in your way for an entire shopping trip! If you walked around the store with me—if you saw how often I stop to lecture, to firmly grab an arm, to make eye contact, to try to will my brain into their heads—you would see that I need no reminding of their inconvenience. (For grocery trips alone, I wish they were robot children, and that the nodded when I nodded, and walked when I walked, and tilted their heads when I tilted mine. I wish we were a creepy, synchronized trio, quiet and efficient and out of your way. But alas, they are two and four and separate people with their own minds—minds with explosions, remember? And we can’t really fault them for that, can we?) So thank you for trying to help—but your eye roll did nothing to make them not be two and four and human.

I looked for you in line so I could box you in and really give you something to roll your eyes about. Line time is melt down time on the best of days. But of course you and your one personness beat our fumbling, dressing-grabbing, ankle-crushing posse out of the store. I’m sure you were in a hurry to find more people to roll your eyes at.

But I do want to say, thank you. Because you helped me to notice and appreciate the fifteen or twenty people who we encountered that gave my kids a sweet smile that they perhaps didn’t deserve. Or who gave me with a sympathetic look that meant, I’ve been there. (Or perhaps they actually said, “I’ve been there” as we walked out of the store, but I didn’t hear, because Vivvi’s screams when I took her cart away at the end of the trip may have broken my eardrum. Remember the scene in Princess Bride where Wesley is being tortured in the Pit of Despair, and Inigo hears it clear across town and says, “Do you hear that Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when the six-fingered man killed my father. The Man in Black makes it now.” Vivvi made it in the store. The people of Mariano’s heard.)

These sympathetic souls who go out of their way to smile—the thousands who have done so in my four years of parenting, the millions who do this for parents in stores everywhere every day—are the people who are working to make an uncomfortable situation better. They may not quiet the children, but they will tilt the balance of the world more toward good. (And they will not ever be dubbed “Eye Roll Lady” in any story ever, which is more than you can say.) Thank you, Eye Roll Lady for helping me to notice them, and to appreciate the difference they are making. Perhaps this letter will reach you, and you can become one of them. It’s easy to make the switch. Just smile more, and train those eyes to stay steady.

Sincerely, without much fondness for now,


P.S. Consider Peapod. And generally never venturing out in public between 7 am and 8 pm. There are thousands of the tiny humans everywhere during those hours, but they tend to disappear after 8. It’s tiring work being under five years old and bothering the likes of you all day!

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