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To the Woman Who Touched My Daughter’s Foot in Line

I am going to be honest: When I first started writing a letter to you, I was furious. I was angry that you touched my daughter’s foot and then laughed about her reaction. It is inappropriate to touch another person’s child in our society, no matter how good your intentions are. Maybe it was a generational thing or a cultural thing, but you breached her personal space and I was fit to be tied. As I stormed out of the shoe store with my screaming, inconsolable toddler, I was mumbling a few choice words to you, and they weren’t “Happy Holidays.” The day was over, and our Mommy and Me shopping trip would have to wait until later.

As we got into the car, I took my daughter’s shoes and socks off as quickly as I could to give her some much-needed comfort. It was clear that we wouldn’t be going to any more stores for the morning, so we headed home and I sang songs that make her happy and promised she could play on the iPad when we got home. But the anger I felt toward you was stewing in my heart and in my mind. How dare you do this to my daughter?

We got home and the meltdown started to subside. She climbed on her favorite pieces of furniture and bounced and rocked her way back to normalcy, and I was finally able to relax a little. Maybe we would be able to try shopping again in the afternoon. I started thinking about you and how you had caused this disruption to my day. You had spoiled my morning and threw my entire schedule for the day out of whack. What is wrong with people like you?

After a few hours passed and my daughter fell asleep at nap time, I realized nothing is wrong with people like you. Nothing is wrong with people like my daughter or like me, for that matter. We all have to find a way to live together in this great big world. My daughter said “Hi” and smiled at you. She had been fussy in line, and you were trying to tease her and make her laugh by grabbing her foot. Sensory processing disorder is not visible, so you had no idea that your tease, which you have probably done thousands of times with your own grandkids, would result in an epic meltdown.

You were actually trying to help me. Your intentions were good, and while I would never touch another person’s child without asking, there are just as many people who would do exactly what you did. I can’t protect my daughter from every innocent encroachment of her personal space. Kids will bump into her on playgrounds, teachers will touch her shoulder unexpectedly to move her into a line and other parents might touch her arm so as not to bump into her when they are leaving the classroom. But I can control my anger and my own reaction to how it makes my daughter feel. My reaction will influence my daughter’s reaction, and calm is where I need to stay.

Anger doesn’t help any of us, but knowledge can move mountains. I could have stayed and explained her medical history to you, but getting my daughter to a safe and soothing environment was my priority. So this is for you and everyone else out there who might try to “help” a mom with a fussy toddler: Smiles and kindness are always appreciated, but touching is not a method to try for any children that aren’t your own for a number of reasons, from sensory issues to allergies to safety concerns.

I appreciate your good intentions. I think most moms would, and I apologize that my demeanor said otherwise as we left the store. I think we can both agree to learn from this experience and move forward.

Briann’s daughter standing near water

Follow this journey on Bumbi’s Mom.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability and/or disease. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. 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.

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