An Apology to the Mom in the Store

An Apology to the Mom in the Store

This isn’t about family history, but it is about the human family and how we treat  and cherish each other.

I just got back from the grocery store, where of course I picked the wrong line – again! 

I had just run in to pick up a few things for dinner, and as there was only the young mother ahead of me with a few items, I thought I could be in and out quickly. First mistake.

It turns out that this very young mom had 3 WIC [Women, Infant, Child – money for mothers with children under the age of 5, specifically for food] checks, which meant that she had to divide her items into 3 separate piles for each check. With the first check, the young mother had chosen name brand beans, so the cashier, left the till, took the beans back and eventually came back with the off-brand beans. The cashier, obviously new, slowly made the purchases, paper-clipped the receipt to the check and then proceeded to the second set of items.

The people who had been in line behind me, left our line and were now being checked out in the next lane. The cashier finally finishes paper-clipping the next receipt to the check for the 2nd pile, and at last was on to the last set of goods. I begin to feel hope of getting out of the store soon, but alas, the mother had chosen the wrong bread and off goes the cashier.

Now, I’m really getting antsy. I admit, when it comes to waiting in line on a normal day I get impatient. I glance over at the next lane and see that it is now empty. I tell my daughter to hurry up and take everything off the conveyor belt and back into our cart and go over to the next lane so we can check out. Second Mistake.

Now, I did not say anything to this young mother, nor was I fuming, making a scene or being obviously irritated. But, I am sure that she picked up on my frustration. Just like I picked up on how humiliating this was for her, having to be told what food she could and couldn’t  buy, as well the embarrassment of  having to receive government funds to feed her little boy in the first place.

Afterwards, I felt like I should apologize. I hadn’t said anything to her, but I did not act like I knew I should. I did not make her burden lighter – I had added to it, and I was ashamed.

I saw her in the parking lot and was trying to form my apology, I wasn’t even sure if she would know why I was apologizing.

When she saw me, she turned to me and said, “Thanks for being so rude” and stormed off to her car. Well, mystery solved, she obviously did know I was annoyed at the wait. The thing was, I hadn’t even been mad – at her, or the new cashier, I had just been a bit irritated at the inconvenience of it all.

Intending to apologize to her before her comment, I was startled by her words. It fact it left me speechless – I didn’t even think of telling her that she was right – I had been rude. I wanted to tell her ‘I’m sorry, please forgive me,” but it was too little too late – she drove off with me standing there in the parking lot, staring after her tail lights. Third mistake.

So, to all the those young mothers out there – especially to those who are struggling just to feed their children, on behalf of all the rude, impatient people in line behind you. I apologize and I’m sorry. I will do better next time. I thought I was a better person than that, but unfortunately you caught me at time where I forgot that.

A lot of people are going through a hard time right now with the government shutdowns. My son included, as the National Guard aren’t being paid, which means there is no money for food for him right now. In fact, before the store incident, I had just gone to the post office where I mailed him a care package to help him through this challenging time.

Maybe, we all need to look around us right now and see who could use more a bit more patience and a little more kindness. I promise, I will do better next time. How about you?

What’s Your Story?

© 2013 Valerie Elkins. All rights reserved.


  1. You brought tears to my eyes. We are all under construction. I’m sure I owe you apologies for when I have been rude. Thank you for helping us remember that nothing is as important than being kind to our fellow human beings.

  2. Oh Valerie, that was lovely. Bureaucracy messed with both of you today.

  3. Having been that mom with kids in tow, and using government means to feed my family during hard times there are few things harder on your pride. You want so much to take care of your family on your own, but you can’t. You look at your family, and you are willing to do ANYTHING, even if you feel humiliated to do it, to take care of them. Being on the other side now, kids grown and long, you can forget how difficult it is for parents to do the errands with tired, or hungry or impatient children in tow. I do find me judging the parents, “how could they bring their kids into the store at 10pm… why don’t they try harder to keep them quiet, or from running around in the store…Not knowing the walk each must do with unseen burdens and trials. So, don’t judge, try to help entertain a cranky child in line, offer a smile to that tired, worn out parent… Find a way to pay a kindness forward and make someone else’s day better.

  4. I’m sure there are many people I need to apologize to for my abrupt and rude manner. I get annoyed in public quite easily. We all have things that are hard and I’m sure if the young mother had bother to stick around to hear your apology she would have appreciated knowing you recognized her situation.

    We are all a work in progress. I love you, Sis!

  5. You are awesome, even when you have a less-than-awesome moment. I think it is so easy to get wrapped up in our own stuff that we are not thinking about how our stuff impacts others. I know it’s something I need to remind myself of.

    I love you, Sis!

  6. A powerful piece, Valerie!

  7. Tears in mine too. Valerie, you are a beautiful human being and maybe this was an opportunity gifted to you to remind us all of the lesson you learned today. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. Thank you all for the kind words and the graciousness you have shown me. My public penance will hopefully help to remind me in the future to stop and remember everyone we meet carries unseen burdens. Thank you for helping to lift mine today. Much love and big virtual hug!

  9. Gutsy move Valerie to admit your day-to-day frustration led to this -you could have just kept it to yourself, but it’s a reminder to all of us to be more sensitive. Times are surely tough for that young woman, and your son. Congratulations on your courage and self-awareness.

  10. I’m sorry for your experience, Valerie, but I’m grateful you shared it. I hope remembering it will help me be kinder and more gentle when I have to wait in line.

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