You can ruin someone’s day in a matter of seconds. Yesterday I took my one-year-old to have his vaccinations. I had my four-year-old with me too who was very sweet when her baby brother was bawling his eyes out at the shock of having been stung by a needle three times — she did her ‘crab dance’ and fetched his Peter Rabbit to make him feel better.

Afterwards, when we got out to the car, I popped my daughter in first and buckled her in because she has trouble staying still, which worries me in a car park. (No matter how many times I tell her to stay close and hold onto her brother’s pram, she always strays a little.)

When I went around the other side to pop my baby in, I realised the car next to that side was parked so close that there was no way I could get bub into the car that way.

Okay, I thought, I’m going to have to climb into my daughter’s side and get him in that way.

Just as I went around that side and opened the door, I saw a car waiting to get into the spot on my daughter’s side.

I gave a wave and mouthed ‘sorry’ as in ‘sorry, just gonna be a minute’.

Then I crawled past my daughter with baby in my arms, got him into his seat and with difficultly buckled him in and secured the strap on the door side that was fricken hard for me to do from that angle.

I got out, closed the door, gave the woman another apologetic wave before loading the boot with the pram and all manner of other things that one must take along for a baby.

The lady parked and got out as I was closing up my boot. ‘Sorry about that,’ I said as she walked past me.

‘You could’ve closed the door while buckling ya kids in,’ she sneered at me.

My face must have displayed an incredulous look because, really lady, you think I had a spare hand to swivel around and close the door while I was crawling and holding a baby at the same time just so you didn’t have to be patient for a couple of minutes? You’re kidding, right? It was an effort to even get my baby into his seat that way.

She was walking away but not wanting to say nothing, I said to her retreating back, ‘there’s no need to be so rude.’

She turned and gave me the finger.

She had a teenage boy with her (maybe around the age of 15), and I just thought, wow, what an example you’re setting for that boy.

I wanted to scream and swear at her and give her the finger in return. But I didn’t. Because I didn’t need a fight, and I thought, maybe she’s having a really bad day and she’s running late and she’s stressed. That’s right. I made excuses for this woman who made me feel like the best I was doing in that moment wasn’t good enough.

The shitty thing is that it made me feel like her time was more precious than mine. I started thinking maybe when I saw her car waiting to get into the spot that I should’ve stopped what I was doing altogether and let her go first. But you know what? My time is actually precious too.

If she was running late for an appointment that’s not my fault. Not in the slightest. If she was worried about a couple of extra minutes, she was probably already running late, and that is in no way my problem.

The woman had retreated and I started scrambling to find a pen and some paper to leave her a note. I wasn’t going to say anything awful to her. I just wanted to let her know that I was doing my best and there was no need for her to treat me that way.

But I couldn’t find paper (everything’s on my phone nowadays) and my baby had started crying because he was done with being stationary after having his first real taste of the awful reality that people can and sometimes do hurt you. There’s plenty more of that to come, I thought while almost bursting into tears myself.

So I got into the car and was met with a million questions from my daughter about what the lady had said to me because she’d heard the lady say something to me, she just hadn’t heard what exactly.

I explained that the lady wasn’t being very nice and that I told her so. ‘When people are unkind to us we don’t need to be unkind or rude or hurt that person back, but we do need to let them know that they’re being unkind and that it’s not okay.’

Afterwards, we needed to pop into a shop nearby to pick up some bread. Since we were so close to a store we hardly go to anymore because it’s a bit further than we like to travel nowadays, I promised my daughter we’d pop into the ‘soap shop’ she loves to pick up some bath stuff we’d run out of weeks ago. See, she’d been asking me for weeks if we could go to this shop and my answer was always ‘no, we’re not driving that far today, but we’ll go soon’. I couldn’t go back on my word after finally giving my daughter a yes after weeks of no.

I got the kids out of the car but my baby was very upset to find that we weren’t in the comfort of his home after such an ordeal. I feel you, bub. So he cried and needed to be held.

As I carried him into the shopping centre while pushing the pram and my daughter holding on beside me, I had to hold back tears. It was all too much. I didn’t want to be there but I needed to hold it together for two shops’ worth of time.

My favourite staff members in the soap shop were working that day and that lifted my spirits a little. But I also knew it would make it harder to put on a brave face and pretend everything was okay.

They were sad to see my littliest babe so sad but they were so so so nice with offering me help with anything I needed.

I ended up telling them the story of the mean lady in the carpark and they were angry and outraged for me. Then they gave me some freebies (on top of items I paid for) and offered to pick up my bread for me. I wanted to cry again but this time because these lovely people who know me from having visited the shop for years but also don’t actually really know me, were so wonderfully kind and supportive in a moment when I really needed it. I can’t thank them enough and hopefully something good will come their way after I send a letter of thanks to their higher-ups.

Talk about highs and lows. I did break down in tears when we finally made it home and my daughter started telling my husband that there was a nasty lady in the carpark. I didn’t want to spill tears over any of it but they needed to come.

And I needed to let go of the rage I felt and the feeling of my best not being good enough. Because that lady didn’t know exactly what was going on or why I needed to crawl into the car to buckle my children in. Just like I didn’t know why she chose to be awful in that moment.

But that’s it, isn’t it? She chose to treat me that way without stopping to realise that obviously I wasn’t going slow or being (what she believed to be) inconsiderate just to make her day worse. And I chose to hold my head high, call her out for being rude without being awful and rude myself, and not key her car. I’m giving myself all the pats on the back for that.

The truth is, people have the ability to ruin your day in a matter of seconds but they also have the ability to make it better in a matter of seconds too.

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Writer and editor. Writing about parenting, writing and life. Working on YA novel. Tea drinker. Book lover. Wife. Mother.

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