Thursday, January 24, 2008

Woman Traumatized by Preschooler in Fitting Room

I had a $40 gift card from JC Penney's that I had received for Christmas. It took me this long to get to shop for myself, so I decided to get those new bras I've needed since my 2nd son was born 20 months ago.

In tow at the department store was my firstborn 3-1/2 year old, - whom is my very patient shopping companion. While of course I am biased - he is a sweet boy, obedient, loves people, and is notably outgoing. Mama dragged him into the fitting room with about 6 pieces of lingerie, feeling very apprehensive; as the parts that belong to me have not all returned to normal very well after 2 C-sections in four years at almost 40 years old.

As I raised my cotton blend T-shirt halfway over my head (blind, momentarily) I heard a most irritable exclaim from the other side of the stall, from a woman's voice that sounded about the same age bracket as me: "OH! That is just SOOOO tacky!" After I got the second half of my shirt off of my head, I glanced down to see my preschooler laying on the fitting room floor peeking under the stall. After I quickly distracted my son to a different activity and told him it was bad manners to look under the stall, I addressed the outburst. Not sure if the interrogator was speaking to him, me, or someone else in the area - I quietly inquired, "I'm sorry, were you talking to me?"

The angry voice beside me boomed "Yes! You're son was looking at me under the wall!" Admittedly, my response may have had a defensive tone, as is normal with us mommies, when we feel our children can do no wrong. "Well, he's only three, I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it, and I'm sorry if he offended you". I looked down at my son to see if he was following this, and he had his fearful face on, probably thinking he was in trouble, but not knowing exactly what he had done wrong.

I thought that would be the end of it, I had done my duty and apologized, albeit begrudgingly. But instead, the offended party responded: "Well, YOU'RE the mother, and YOU'RE supposed to control him!". I suppose what happened next amplified this situation more than necessary. While I struggled to suppress my Aries fire, out of my mouth - still quietly, mind you - came: "Well, ma'am, I didn't even see him doing it until you exclaimed, so it couldn't have been for long. You don't have kids, do you?" There was a short hesitation. Then, in disgust, she replied loudly, "Yes, as a matter of fact I do, and my kids NEVER did that.".

At this point, my blood began to boil. I probably should have apologized profusely on his behalf, but it's not in my nature. She had been rude to my son, and insulted me in the process. Possibly, I had brought this on myself. But in the heat of the moment, I couldn't let it go. So I continued: "Well, that's just great for you. I'm sure you got the Mother of the Year Award". I was so discombobulated now, there was no trying on lingerie. Additionally, I figured this altercation was probably not the best example for my child. I quickly put my shirt back on, and whisked my 3-year old out the fitting room door.

Of course, I did have a brief talk with him about privacy, respect, and why the lady was angry on the way home in the car. We have been in fitting rooms before, and I've had to tell him to not look under the stall - so it's not something I had neglected to tell him. He's going to try anyway, he's a three year old boy. He might even try and do it again, even after this experience. Myself, I've been in many a fitting room- and been peeked in on a few times by young children (boys and girls alike). I don't ever remember it upsetting me.

Afterward, I relayed the story to a few people. On an unrelated issue, a dear friend of mine, Maria, said just today, that she felt that the world would get along better if we took time to consider the other's perspective. So I keep pondering all angles of the confrontation in the dressing room of JC Penney.

Was it that she was just annoyed by small children? Was she so insecure about her body that a three-year-old looking at it made her uncomfortable? Was she really even undressed in there, or did she have clothes on and was still angry? Or the worst case scenario, had she had a bad experience - and was terribly upset by her nakedness, or someone witnessing it? Perhaps I should have been more compassionate, more considerate, more patient.

I'm curious to know your thoughts on this. Do you think a 3-year old doing this is an issue to cause confrontation?

1 comment:

mariabruce said...

CC - Maria here. Other perspective or not - that woman was just plain rude. Saying something to your son at first - yes. Following up by saying you're a bad mom - inaccurate and just plain rude. I'd like to think she was having a bad day or something - but still no excuse for that sort of exchange. But try to think of it as a teaching moment;)