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Why I'm Apologizing to the Mom With the Screaming Child at Walmart

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To the mom in Walmart: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for all of the staring and upset people looking at you like you couldn’t control your son. I’m sorry I looked, too, and was a little upset but tried not to look it. I’m sure you didn’t even notice me, what with everyone staring at your family and scoffing at you.

I heard your son in the first aisle of the grocery section. He was upset and screaming his head off. It caught my attention, even though I couldn’t see you or him. As I made my way through the store, I kept hearing him and at one point, I saw you, your small son in the seat on the front of your cart, and your other, older son, from a distance. Your older son was so calm and and just held onto the cart while you pushed it, trying to calm your younger son. I heard your son throughout my time in Walmart and even during check-out.

And I’m sorry. I judged you for being a bad mom. I thought it must be your fault that you couldn’t keep your child calm. I thought he must be having a tantrum. But I don’t know your story. I realized as I was leaving the store that your son had been screaming and clawing at you for a long time, and it dawned on me that he might have autism or some other special need, and that he might be having a meltdown. I will never know, but I’m sorry I judged you. I know now you were doing the best you could.

Since that day, I’ve made a vow to myself: If I see or hear what I heard that day, I will ask that person if they need help. I will ask if there’s anything I can help them with or do for them. I promise I will show more compassion than I did that day and not judge them, but offer to help them instead. You could have had a child with special needs and I didn’t know. But now I know and I will ask you if you need help next time. I promise.

The Mighty is asking the following: “Staring” is a topic that comes up so much in our community. Tell us about one unforgettable “staring” experience you or someone you love had that’s related to disability, disease or illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: August 12, 2015
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