The ‘First’ We Don’t Welcome As Parents

There are many firsts during year one of parenthood. First smile, first tooth, first explosive diaper. And then there is the ‘first’ that you’d happily replace with a hundred dirty messes: the first grocery aisle critic.

Despite having heard countless stories about complete strangers coming up and criticising one’s parenting methods (most of which I used to assume were exaggerated for effect), it took a full year and a half for me to experience it myself.

And it upset me, which upset me even more.

Especially since it was probably one of the more benign encounters in the history of grocery aisle critics. I suppose it was mainly sheer shock that a seemingly civilised woman would have the gall to utter such an unwarranted remark, but then I suppose they are the ones you have look out for.

So here’s what happened: My daughter and I were slowly making our way down the snack food aisle when she picked up a little seaweed snack, packaged to fit right into her little hand. She let go and it landed on the floor. Before leaving the aisle I asked her to pick up the snack and put it back where it belonged. Instead, she inched away from the seaweed. I then offered to help her put it back.

“Let’s put it away together,” I said with a smile.

It’s right here in this brief moment when I notice a woman approaching. In her late sixties, with sleek silver hair and a perfectly made-up face, she scoffed as she passed and said,

“Isn’t she too young for that?,” sounding so proud of herself for making what to her was clearly an obvious observation.

“No,” I muttered, as she rounded the corner.

That was it.

First grocery aisle critic done and dusted.

It took me second to understand what she even meant by that. Too young for what? When I realised she thought I was being too hard on my toddler or expecting too much from her I was gobsmacked. I wanted to run after her to explain how my daughter enjoys doing things herself, like taking things out and putting them away again.

“It’s the Montessori way!” I wanted to call after her.

But I couldn’t say that, unless, of course, I wanted to sound like a shrill, pedantic, approval-seeking mother, which, who knows, maybe I am.

But I wasn’t yelling, or even speaking sternly to my little girl. No tears were shed. All she had witnessed was a mother cheerfully asking her daughter to return an item to its place.

I guess what ultimately ticked me off was that once again it left me questioning my parenting methods. And for one random person to have that power over me is absurd.

So, after the heat left my face and my heart rate went back to normal, I chose to brush it off.

“I hope I never meet your ill-mannered grandkids, god only knows how they’d behave!” I thought to myself.

And right there, the inner grocery aisle critic in me came out. But I chose to keep that to myself.

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