I was at Wally-World. I HATE, hate to shop there but I had a $40 gift card. It was a 3-hour ordeal involving a normal-stress level shopping trip followed by my transaction crashing, my gift card being emptied, 4 trips back and forth through the parking lot with four kids (one with a fever), re-checking out part of my order, crying to the young person helping me, and the grand finale: rear-ending another car in the parking lot. *sigh*
When I mustered up enough courage to go back, retrieve my gift card and finish my transaction (the young dude helping me left it in my re-usable grocery store bag and attached a note and the gift card) I didn't bring the kids. Good, cause my bag and the contents were gone. I had to re-shop. I did get a free replacement shopping bag. I finally got in line.
In front of me was a cart with a very big boy in the seat. He had a grown-out crew cut, holes in both his jeans' knees, and the sole was crumbling away from his sneakers. Big blue eyes and a big gap between his front teeth.
Now, I have had kids or worked with kids for a really long time. I can generally understand them even when they are using their own sounds and such. I was a linguist in the AF and I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but I think I do pretty well deciphering them. This kid, however, was so unclear I could barely answer with general responses to his questions.
At the start of every comment, he'd say this version of "'scuse" and then ask me some question about the contents of my basket or the items in the checkout aisle around us. His mom, about 30, with dirty hair and a big black sweatshirt, did that smile-thing we all do when our kids might be annoying another adult. I happened to have Reece's pieces wrapped in cellophane to look like carrots for my kid's Easter baskets. I told him they were candy carrots. His mom said something to the effect of, "no candy for you, I don't want your teeth to look like mine," and "yeah, carrots are candy, now you'll eat more."
I was trying to be super nice and engaging with the little boy, who was non-stop questions, to show mom I wasn't bothered by his talking. It being Wally-World, I fully expected her to tell him to shut up or something just for acting like a kid.
However, the more we interacted, the more I grew to respect the mom. She was patient and gentle, telling him to slow down his speech so I could understand him. Also, although she seemed a little flustered and embarrassed, she didn't tell him to stop talking to me and she answered all of his questions with me. I think the one thing he said really clearly was "$4.98" from a display of Gatorade. Wow! He wasn't even 6. Mom said she just took down a jar of money and they played with it.
Lights began to go off in my brain... and my wonderings were confirmed when she said they homeschooled. It was a joy to have my judgemental initial assessment struck down and for the kindness and patience of a fellow homeschooler revealed under deeper investigation.
I'm so pleased you are reading Higher Education!
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Teresa (Tracy) Dear