I went Winter shopping for the boys this weekend. Taking Monster with me, we made it an outing experience.
We compared jerseys to each other, commented on the colours and bought the ones he liked the most. Monster really enjoyed making decisions on his own items and seemed impressed with some of his new t-shirts with his favourite action figures.
While standing in the aisle at PnP to pay for some last minute groceries, I noticed you standing behind me with your teenage son and pre-schooler, staring at the parcel in my hand. I didn’t think to give it much thought and carried on chatting to Monster.
Your words at me were, “Winter shopping time, hey.” I smiled and nodded in response. She smiled back at me and remained silent. I turned back to Monster as he showed off his brand new cars to me.
The next thing you said to me tilted my world off its axle.
“Why do you shop at such a shitty place, if I may ask?”
I realised you were staring at the parcel in my hand which said PEP on the plastic bag. I was so taken back that I failed to respond. I was humiliated and furious at the same time. I don’t know if you took my pause as a failure of excuses because your next action was leaning down to Monsters level and saying, “You should ask your mommy to buy you better clothes.” Your teenager laughed. You laughed.
My face was burning from embarrassment. Again, I failed to respond. I didn’t trust myself talking because I would’ve probably ended up being thrown out of the shop with what I wanted to say.
The only response I could eventually muster was, “I buy what I can on the budget I have.” As the words left my mouth, I felt even more humiliated that I needed to make excuses.
You laughed at me again. “Maybe you should prioritise your budget better.”
“Yeah, maybe I should” was all I could say and I turned away. I didn’t look back to see the smug expression on your face. I didn’t dare look back so I could allow myself to burst into tears.
You didn’t stop there. It was like poison pouring out of your mouth. “Why is your child wearing what clearly seems like clothes that are too big for him?” I was ready with a response this time, with no excuses but the truth, “I buy a size bigger so it lasts longer that just one season.”
You laughed again. You leaned down to Monster again and said, “Shame, your mommy really enjoys embarrassing you.”
I didn’t even think about responding to your comment. I turned away and stared dead ahead. I didn’t want to hear anymore. You had said enough to shatter my confidence in being a mother, and you made me doubt myself. You made me look like a fool in a public place with so many other ears listening around us.
If things couldn’t get worse, I realised in the parking area that we weren’t parked from each other and I know you saw me get into my shabby 2004 model car while you rode off in your house-size SUV. I just imagined what you could’ve said to me if you standing next to me.
Throughout the rest of day, your comments bothered me. Was I a bad mother for not being able to buy my kid expensive brands? Was that the level that passed for being a good parent? Expensive clothes?
My slate was wiped cleaned when my Monster was getting ready for bed. When my Monster hugged me and said “I love you, Mami”, everything you had said earlier washed away. With those four words, my son confirmed that I was a great mom.
My almost four-year-old son doesn’t care about expensive clothes or expensive cars. You see, I don’t raise my children to “see” money. My son doesn’t know the difference between a jersey bought from PEP for R50 and a jersey from Woolworths for R250. He knows the jersey keeps him warm and the rest doesn’t matter to him.
I want to thank you. I want to thank you for opening my eyes to what living in a materialistic world means. It means money buys love. It means that money buys respect. It means money makes people bitchy and rude. It means it allows people to judge others who have less. It means money somehow makes people think they are allowed to walk over others.
I want to thank you for making me see that the way I raise my kids is right. I don’t raise them to be focused on money. I don’t want them thinking and living as if money is the most important aspect of happiness.
I want to thank you for making me realising I’m not a bad mom.