Hitting the Target

I was in Target the other afternoon for one thing, meaning the second I walked in I suddenly felt like I needed to buy ALL the things.

As I was walking down an aisle silently praising myself for not grabbing a shopping basket—if I only grab what I can carry, it cuts down on the damages—I saw a little girl with sun-bleached blonde hair and a deep summer tan by the toys.

She looked to be about four or five, but then again I’m a horrible judge of age when it comes to kids. She could be 12 with a criminal record for all I know, but she was little.

Anyway, a second later a boy who looked to be her slightly older, tanned blonde brother came and told her that their mom was waiting. She put down the toy and flip-flopped her way through the store.

I ran into the kids again a few minutes later with a woman who was unmistakably their mother. An older daughter and a baby added to the mix, all of them chatting and shopping — mom telling the boy that they had chips at home and the baby babbling happily from her perch in the cart.

For some weird reason I couldn’t stop looking, which wasn’t hard to do considering they ended up being those people that I kept running into every single aisle.

But I was struck.

This will sound weird coming from me, but the beauty of that seemingly average family scene really touched me in some way. Maybe it was the tans and identical blonde hair or the fact that the mom seemed like one of those moms that the neighborhood kids would all like. Maybe it was the way the kids seemed so fun or the fact that they were well-behaved.

I don’t know what it was, but something just drew me back in. So the next time that our paths crossed and we did that polite, “Yes, we’ve just run into each other again and I’ll give that fake smile once more” thing, I let her know.

“I’m not a weirdo or anything,” I said as we passed once again, which is always a good way to start. “But you have a beautiful family—and they’re all so polite, as well!”

With the baby moved to her hip, she looked stunned, as if I’d just told her the little blonde midget walking through all the toys did have a criminal record.

“Oh my gosh,” she said as she smiled a bit shyly. “You don’t know just how much that means. We have our moments, but yes, we truly are blessed. Thank you so much for that. Really, thank you.”

At that the baby began shrieking, the mom made a joke about how we had cursed things and we went our separate ways, the older kids politely not making any comments about the crazy lady with her arms full of ALL THE THINGS who refused to just grab a cart.

But along with unnecessary items, I also had a strong sense of peace. I know I will never walk into Target as a mom, and will probably never walk in as a wife. Those are experiences that will elude me, experiences I’ll never have, but those are the choices I make.

And while I have not one iota of doubt, regret or envy, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the beauty of what I don’t want or extend my admiration for those who chose paths that I’ll never walk down.

My path is mine. Her path is hers.

And that is a beautiful thing.

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51 responses to “Hitting the Target

  1. Oh Abby. I loved this post! I love how you didn’t just think the compliment, but you actually verbalized it to her. I wish more people would do that. I think it’s so important. You totally made her day. And all it took was a few kind words.

    I make a list when I go to Target and I stick to it every time. I learned to do this after years of going in for one thing and leaving with ten.

    • I’m pretty good at keeping the Target damage minimal. I’m too cheap to ever really splurge. However, I never hold back on the compliments. I know how much they can mean. Some people don’t care, but some do.

  2. This post made me cry. Cause I’ve been that lady in the store with the slew of kids trying silently to hold it together when a stranger has approached me and complimented my kids. It means so much. So thanks for sharing your story about being the stranger. I’m sure you made her month or maybe even her year!

  3. You can’t imagine how awesome you made that lady feel!!!! It is really hard being a Mom and most days not being appreciated. Kudos to you for spreading the joy!!!!

  4. Your comment to her made her day, I promise you. Because when we take our kids anywhere in public, we feel like shit mothers and wonder who is judging us. You did good, kid.

    • Hey, when I go anywhere in public I usually feel like shit and wonder who is judging me. And I don’t have a kid, so at least you have that going for you 😉

  5. Saying that was a very kind thing to do. It’s also delightful that you can respect and appreciate those different from you and what you value. You are so rare these days. Gold star for you!

    • Everyone keeps saying that, but I didn’t think of it as a kind thing to do. It was just what I was thinking, and I always think people should share the nice things and not just the bad. But I am touched by your comment and will totally take the gold star. Score!

  6. I am sitting here, in my car, just coming back from Target, having not grabbed a cart, so the car is loaded full. I stopped for a moment, to procrastinate, to read my email, and I read this post. I have huge tears flowing down my cheeks. The meaning of it, the responsibility and the value you embrace about your choices and hers…the freedom and the limitations of each of those choices What a beautiful and powerful post!

    • Great minds think alike with the whole Target trip, huh? But in all seriousness, thank you for such a thoughtful comment.

    • I’m not in my car.

      There aren’t Target supermarkets in the UK.

      But blue eyes pretty much just said what I wanted to say, only a million times better.

      Abby, I am so thankful that we are friends.

      You have such a beautiful soul.

  7. Abby, I love this post so much. That mother will long remember what you said to her in such simple, non-gushy words. Also, you clearly did not run into me and my kids 🙂 Also, I always try the basket vs cart thing, then decide to pick up bags of dogfood and cartons of vanilla rice milk, staggering to the checkout, begging for a cart.

    • I’m sure you have your moments 😉 And sub in almond milk, a tub of kitty litter and probably something sharp or breakable for your rice milk and dog food, and you basically just painted my picture.

  8. Parents who obviously are getting it right need to hear just how much the rest of us appreciate their efforts. Great post and a wonderful thing you did Abby. I may never have my own but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize the beauty of well taught manners and clean, behaved children. It’s actually a joy to see.

    • I agree. There’s such an innocence, isn’t there? At least in the well-taught ones with manners. Not the screaming demon spawn we’ve all seen, of course…

  9. BEEEAUTIFULLY written, Abby!

    And I just loved this sentence….

    “And while I have not one iota of doubt, regret or envy, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the beauty of what I don’t want or extend my admiration for those who chose paths that I’ll never walk down.”

    I feel the same way. I know I will never have children or be married, but I can so much appreciate, admire, and enjoy those that do and are. Actually, I adore children, but feel that I make a much better “Uncle” than a “Daddy.”


    • Thanks for stopping back in, Ron! I think it’s great that you also know that you never want kids. Not every path is right for every person, and I always felt I would be a better “hang around then for an hour and give them back” type kid person. Mission accomplished 😉

  10. That was a very kind thing to do, and I’m sure the mom appreciated it. Like everyone else said, you probably made her day at the very least!

  11. like Marie, this post made me cry. not because I want to be a mom, but because The Ones Who Do It Right so need to be acknowledged. So often, all the time. You can walk into a place like Target with a baby and three kids and NOT become a spaz spectacle.

    I just also have been crying at the drop of a hat today. if I dropped my hat I’d cry. 😉

    Target is such a fun store for me, I love to go! Sometimes when Jason and I are out, if we are driving by one I’ll say, wanna wander around Target? yeee! I love when he says yes, we have so much fun!

  12. One of my best friends from high school… he was nuts. Did the craziest things, was the drunkest kid in the room… He’s married to another one of my best friends from HS and they have two kids. Their facebooks went from hammered pics to cutesy pics of what the family did today. It’s a complete and total reversal. And that’s a fantastic thing. I’m happy for them. Not jealous. But happy. And even though it may not be me for a while… or ever… it’s their choice. And I respect that.

  13. a beautiful thing from a beautiful person.

    and that no-cart/basket thing NEVER works. ever.

  14. As I read “I’m not a weirdo or anything,” I thought, “That’s what weirdos say before they lick you.”

  15. Aw, that’s so nice. People are so quick to criticize parenting, I’m sure the compliments are much more rare (and more appreciated!)

  16. Um, this made me cry! Seriously. And you didn’t even say it to me! As a mom of 4 kids who spent her entire morning in Target today (you think you bought all the things? I really did buy ALL THE THINGS. Sigh) I can tell you immense that was for that mom. Thank you for saying that. Thank you for posting about it:)

  17. flip-flopping her way down the way like she owns the place. ugh.

    I’m gonna be a great dad.

  18. Love: She could be 12 with a criminal record for all I know, but she was little. But as far as the kids go, ABBY – STEP AWAY FROM THE LIGHT! DO NOT GO INTO THE LIGHT!!

  19. Oh man. I have thought things like these, but never had the balls to say ’em, so you rock. I think it’s important to keep an open mind. I love that you can appreciate something and see the beauty in it even though you know it’s not something that you’d want for yourself. If more people thought that way, the world would be such a better place! (That sounds cheese, but it’s true.)

  20. What a brave thing you did. It’s easier to not say nice things to strangers–especially if you’re in the middle of buying ALL THE THINGS–but I’ve no doubt you made that woman’s day.

    Also? I love that you clarified your non-weirdo status.

  21. So much to learn from a trip to Target. Just yesterday I learned there were Muppet Band-Aids and I bought some, so I guess that makes me a really well behaved (overgrown) child myself.

    • You just learned that? I was geeked last week when I got a Sesame Street Band-Aid after getting blood drawn. We would do well to go shopping together (not for pants, of course. We both know how that ends.)

  22. Wasn’t going to comment because I didn’t want to tell you this made me cry.(still am). But after I started reading all the wonderful comments, I had to tell you out loud how very much I love you and how so so proud I always am of you. I love ya scumbag. xo

  23. That’s beautiful, and believe me, she’ll remember that comment forever and call on it for strength when her kids are acting like escaped lunatics. 🙂

  24. That was awesome. And your mother is the cutest thing on the planet.

  25. I don’t like stores or the public for the most part, but I can hang in Target. It’s clean, it’s airy, and there’s usually two things that can draw my attention for a few minutes while Bobina and the girls do whatever it is they do.

    When I was growing up, the worst thing you could do was be rude or misbehave in public. While my girls are getting older and thus less likely to act a fool or cuase me to act a fool, I still defer to the childless or single or whatever because they’re there to shop not deal with my crazy girls.

    This post reminded me of why we are friends. Your heart i big enough to be understanding of others. It’s that lack of selfishness and that enormous self-awareness that make you a really good person.

  26. Sorry for Wall of Text..etc.
    There is a Mom&Dad in my apartment complex who have an Amazing two year old. I see them outside all the time. The little girl is such a sprite. I noticed her vibrant spirit immediately. Then I noticed the parents – they have this “way” of letting her be. They NEVER take their eyes off her, but she can go a few feet away and play in the grass. They let her walk ahead of them – they never hold her hand. And if she wants to meander? They let her. It’s the opposite of helicoptor parenting but not as far out as free range.
    And she…gosh. She just prances around with all the confidence and security in the world. Because she knows she can do stuff and they will always be there.
    Everytime I see the family it makes my day. I am filled with awe and almost teary eyed. It is so beautiful.
    I finally broke down and just spilled it all- went on an on…about her awesome parenting and how I saw so much life/beauty in her kid…”Remember that time you just let her take the stairs even though it was out of the way..”etc. So now. I’m “that” lady who stalks them. LOL.

    It is so worth it to share our beautiful thoughts and feelings, though.
    Not enough people do that.

  27. Such a sweet little moment and so nice of you to tell her that. I’ve been trying to be more aware of doing/saying little kind things and I think it actually makes me feel better in general.
    Win win 🙂

  28. That was such a sweet thing to say, Abby! I remember my dad saying that too to this one family. Well in his faulty English he told the parents, “You, I see, is beautiful picture. Beautiful pam-eel-lee!”

    Btw, I’ll never walk into Target as a wife or mom either, I’m pretty sure.

  29. Compliments go a long way especially when said in sincerity.

  30. This was a great post Abby and you were very kind to say that to the mom. You’ve inspired me to compliment a stranger today 🙂

  31. bigalittleamom

    Hi, I’m a new reader. I’m glad you thought of speaking out, because it’s these little gestures that help all of us get through our day with a lighter heart!

  32. StoriesAndSweetPotatoes

    Oh this such a great post Abby. I have those moments too and it just makes life seems so small and uncomplicated just for a moment.

  33. This was a great post. I really enjoyed it. I also liked…how to piss off mommy bloggers…and I’m a mommy blogger. Good to see fresh stuff. Stopping by from best posts of the week blog hop.

  34. This made my heart smile 🙂 Beautifully written!

  35. Love the image of you walking through target pretending you don’t need a cart, thus your items piled high in your arms. But seriously, you made that lady’s day. Good for you for appreciating such a precious family scene. Most of the time, mothers are so busy berating ourselves for what we aren’t doing, that we don’t take the time to appreciate what is going right. And THIS is why I love you!

  36. I’m so glad you told her what you were thinking. As a mom whose children rarely inspire peace in others, I still know how wonderful it feels when someone tells me my kids didn’t destroy their faith in the future of mankind.

    Also, I completely relate to not wanting to get a cart in order to control the damage. I have walked around with a gallon of milk numbing my arms, rather than get a cart.

  37. Awww! Abby. What a lovely post! I am impressed you spoke to that mother, and I can PROMISE you – that probably made her day!

  38. You are such a sweetheart! That would’ve made my day if you’d complimented me like that.

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