Hello! Am I invisible?

It’s happened three times in as many months.

The first time, we were headed for a wedding on a hot August day. Christian went early to rehearse with the choir, so I brought the kids to church by myself. Now, ordinarily when I go anywhere with all three, I pull out the double stroller. But a stroller? At a wedding? Besides, it was only across the street, from the parking garage to the church. So I set off with the car seat in one hand and Julianna’s fist in the other. Oh yes, and a diaper bag. As we made our slow progress toward the garage entrance, a youngish couple walked by us, also headed for the church. “Hehehehe, you have your hands full, don’t you?” said the man. Ha ha. Never heard that before.

Then, just as we reached the middle of the street, Julianna decided she was all done walking. Plop! went the cute little bottom on the asphalt, and when I hauled her up by one arm, she curled her legs and refused to stand. In the middle of the street, with a car approaching. I glanced up. The couple had just reached the sidewalk. They hurried on without a backward glance. “Thanks a lot,” I muttered as I hauled Julianna onto my hip and struggled toward the church with a 2-year old on one hip, a car carrier in the opposite hand, and a bag on my back, walking carefully so my heels didn’t slip. “Yes, I’d love some help, how kind of you to offer!” Are we headed to a church or not?

The second time I was headed to play for a funeral, so I had music as well as the two little ones & paraphernalia to haul with me. A dozen people must have sped past me as I struggled across the parking lot. Thankfully, once we got inside, we were met by someone who knew us and who came to help—but still, people ignored us outside of a church.

By the third time it happened—this time at the grocery store—I’d had it.

Imagine a grocery cart with a baby carrier in the main part of the cart and a toddler up in front. Groceries stuffed anywhere I could manage to stuff them. We get through the checkout line with a ridiculously big and expensive fruit tray that Christian needs for work, and two bags of groceries. I take the first and stuff it underneath the cart, then pick up the fruit tray. Suddenly the teenage bagger is looking at me, waiting, holding the second bag of groceries in both hands. We trade a long, expectant look. Then I say, “Just put it underneath.”

She sighs and bends over, looks under the cart, and then stands back up. “It won’t fit.” And still, that expectant look. I’m standing there thinking, You can’t seriously think I can carry groceries in one hand and the fruit tray in the other, do you? How am I supposed to PUSH THE CART WITH MY KIDS IN IT??????????? 

Every other week, the nice older gentlemen who bag groceries ask if I need help out to my car, and I tell them thank you, but we’re okay. This would be the one week I get some clueless teenage girl who doesn’t understand customer service! “Could you help me out to my car?” I said in what I admit was a pretty sarcastic tone of voice.

Hello! Am I invisible? Are my kids invisible? What is wrong with people? How can you walk past someone who is struggling with her burden—whether it is a mother with several kids, or an old woman who can’t walk well? Are kids no longer being taught to pay attention to those around them? To consider the feelings or the situation of people they see? Is empathy dead?

This weekend we went to the homecoming parade. For a kid, bands and floats take a distant second place to the really important stuff—you guessed it—candy. Unfortunately for Alex, we were only a few yards away from a big, noisy group of upper elementary school boys, who managed to attract all the candy throwers. In two hours of parade watching, Alex managed to scrounge up a whopping eight pieces of candy.

There were a lot of issues in play, and many of them were Alex’s, but as I watched those boys rake in pound after pound of candy, I couldn’t help feeling angry. Okay, my kid is not the center of the universe. It won’t hurt him to go without candy. Okay, so they’re prepubescent boys. They’re selfish. I got that. But Alex wasn’t the only child getting overlooked. Surely some of those kids have been taught to pay attention to the feelings of those smaller and weaker than them. Why didn’t someone in that group show any sign of holding back to let somebody else get some candy? Especially considering we’re only a week from Halloween. It’s not like they aren’t going to get plenty more in a few days!

It’s frustrating, but on the up side, it motivates me to make sure I do provide my children with those lessons. God willing, someday, my son will stop to help a mom with more burdens than hands—or an old woman who might need help crossing the street. Or at least, let some poor preschool kid get some candy at a parade.