Unjust Punishment

I still remember the time I got in trouble for running in the upstairs hallway (during a parent dinner party), when I had been begging and pleading with my siblings and friend to STOP running. I got in trouble because I was the eldest and the host and “responsible.” That punishment stung so much more than usual, because I was reprimanded for something I hadn’t done (and had even tried to prevent).

Owen and I were at the dollar store a couple of days ago. I guess the store had been losing carts, because they have now welded eight-foot-tall poles to the side of every cart. They don’t fit out the door, and they certainly wouldn’t fit in a car. We took one of these carts and proceeded through the store, with Owen pushing. I was right behind him. Owen hadn’t napped that day, and was already a bit whiny. Anyway, at one point he stopped. I tried to push the cart and it wouldn’t budge. I pushed harder. It reared up and crashed back onto the ground. Two employees were stocking shelves ahead of us. I was frustrated and also embarrassed. I pulled Owen away from the cart (pretty roughly) and knelt down and started to tell him that his behaviour was unacceptable, etc. I was angry. Then one of the employees pointed out that it wasn’t his fault. The eight-foot-pole had caught on one of the boxes stacked over our head. At this point, realizing my mistake, I apologized profusely to Owen, but the whole ordeal had been too much for him, and he burst into tears. He was sobbing and sobbing, and all the while saying “I’m sorry I’m crying, Mummy. My body just wants to cry.”

I hugged him and kissed him and hugged him some more in the middle of the aisle. And I was laughing (with nerves), and trying not to. The employees, no doubt horrified by the mood swinging parent in front of them, left. I felt like a colossal jerk. I guess I still do. Owen forgave me and we continued with our shopping and with our lives. What gets me is how swiftly my anger emerged. I know it was partly because people were watching. For some reason, I want to be perceived as a parent who takes bad behaviour seriously and disciplines appropriately. But there was nothing appropriate about any of what I did (except for the hugs and the apologies, I guess). I have been feeling the stress of work more lately, but I hadn’t realized how highly strung I was. Breathe, Anna, breathe.

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