Monday, February 20, 2012

The Cone of Shame

It happened again last week.

I entered the Cone of Shame.

If you have kids, you’ve been there.

It started out innocently enough. Everyone was smiling as I announced that we (that would be me and my three littles) were going to the store and then we were going to get French fries!(They were. I was getting a fruit cup).

The goodwill lasted until we got just enough stuff in the buggy to make it hard for me to abort the mission. Not to mention that my supper and a few other projects were contingent on the success of this endeavor.

Drew sat in the front, grabbing at everything. And he’s fast.

James and Emma took up most of the back of the cart, James manhandling the vegetables.

And Emma?

Well, what can I tell you. Emma did not want to be there.

And while expressing herself with words is challenging for her, she is a pro at expressing her displeasure.

The wails.

The tears.

The sobs.

I write fiction and I can’t make this stuff up. You’d have thought I had just told her she could never watch TV, never play on the computer, never see her grandparents, and never have another French fry again.

I tried everything.

I sang.

Oh, yes I did. Racewalking through the aisles, I sang her favorites. No luck.

I pretended to sneeze.

Oh, yes I did.

She usually thinks that’s hilarious.

Not this time.

I tried to reason with her. I reminded her we were getting French fries.

Nothing worked.

When I had loaded the cart with half of what I came for, I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew I’d be making a return trip, but at least I’d gotten the most important items.

I sped to the registers.

They had three open.

All three had long lines.

Oh, sure, the self-checkout lanes were open, but if “Buggy Diving” was an Olympic sport, my kids would be the World Record Setting Gold Medalists. Self-checkout is like asking to add a trip to the emergency room to the bill.

No thank you.

So I got in line behind an older woman with a buggy mounded to the heavens.

As I stood there, allowing Drew to play with my cell phone, saying soothing words to Emma (and to myself), reminding James that French fries were coming, I watched my fellow shoppers.

But let me tell you, they weren’t watching me.

No sir.

I had entered the Cone of Shame.

It radiates out from anyone responsible for a screaming child in a public place. In the fifteen minutes we waited, not one person—not one—smiled at me. They didn’t even look at me.

They looked everywhere but me. A few huffed.

My usual response in this situation is to grab a Coke and a Hershey Bar with Almonds. This time I tried to stay in the moment. Tried to process how I was feeling.

And I wasn’t feeling shame.

Was I frustrated? Sure. But I’m not ashamed of my daughter. I’m not ashamed to be her mom.

The Cone of Shame isn’t about the person on the inside. It’s about the people on the outside who are too caught up in their own agendas to offer a smile to a frazzled mom. Too busy to allow her to go in front of them in line. Too conceited to imagine that there might be a good reason for the drama.

Emma turns nine on Wednesday.

If you encounter the Cone of Shame this week, maybe you could think of Emma and celebrate her life by refusing to stay on the outside.

Smiles are free.

Five minutes of your time could bless someone for a week.

A silent prayer is more helpful than a loud sigh.

If you take the opportunity to splash some grace, well, there’d be no shame in that!


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Lori Stanley Roeleveld said...

Wow, I remember those days. This is a beautiful, witty, insightful post, Lynn! The kind that makes others glad you're a writer.

Jennifer said...

I've been there! Thank you for reminding me how to encourage others who are there. It's a tough place to be, and a wonderful place to show grace.

Shoshana said...

~Boy, this brings back many being a Savta (grandma) I always try to smile or help out in some small way...I know how it feels!~Great blog~

Lynn Huggins Blackburn said...

Lori - You always know what to say. Thanks!
Jennifer - Thanks for stopping by. And you're right - the tough places are wonderful places to show grace!
Shoshana - Thank you. Some of the kindest people I've encountered in these situations have been the grandmas!

JeanetteEdgar said...

I can so relate to the grocery store scenario! I read your post yesterday and am still thinking about it. If we can so easily feel we're in the cone of shame over something like children being children in public, how easily can Satan, our accuser, pin shame and guilt on us as adults? And usually it's over things that don't shout out to others we need their help and encouragement. A smile is free, I loved that point you made. So is a phone call, a prayer, a friendship.

Alycia Morales said...

Lynn, I'm with you on the Cone of Shame. Mine are still at the age of public crazies when they are tired, hungry, bored, or don't get what they want. Despite all the Mom efforts to keep them satisfied. I keep telling myself I'll leave them with hubby and do my shopping in peace and quiet, where I can think about my list and my budget. However, it doesn't always happen. And I smile at the other moms when they are in the same boat as you and I. Because I get it. Thanks for sharing your heart!

Vonda Skelton said...

Thank you for the great reminder, Lynn. It's so easy to judge, whether it's a crying child, a simple temper tantrum, or a maternal blow-out.

I pray the next time I feel myself beginning to swell up with pride and prejudice, I'll think of you and sweet Emma instead...and humbly remember that a smile can encourage and make a huge difference in a stranger's day.

Mary said...

Thanks Lynn for the post.
1) I've been there.
2) This too shall pass.
3) I agree, smiles are free.

It's like getting on a plane with an infant. You know everyone is hoping you don't sit next to them.

But since my kids are older, they laugh at me now because I flirt with babies all the time! I figure if I play peek-a-boo with a child, it will help pass the time in the line, at lunch or where ever. :)

Hoping your next grocery store visit is less eventful!!

Lynn Huggins Blackburn said...

Jeanette - You make a GREAT point! Our accuser is always prowling.
Alycia - I so agree! It's easier to leave them at home w/Brian. And he's great about it! But sometimes a trip is unavoidable. :-)
Vonda & Mary - I'd love to be beside you in line! I know you'd make me - and my littles - smile!!