I wasn’t sure about bringing baby girl into the grocery store that day. Her little hands were stained from eating blackberries, her face smeared with berry juice and dirt. And her little pants and shirt were dusty brown from crawling around while I harvested blackberries at the local u-pick.
But we were already in town and I needed to pick up a few groceries. It just wasn’t worth it to drive home, clean up and come back.
Presentable or not, I decided we would head into the grocery store, grab what we needed and make our escape before someone told me I was being a negligent mother.
In the parking lot, I pulled baby girl out of the car, grabbed a cart and popped her chubby legs through the metal bars that formed the baby seat.
And I whisked us into the grocery store.
This time of year, we eat a lot of food from our gardens. And thanks to hunting and raising our own meat, we usually have a supply in the deep freeze at home. We only needed a few essentials, the store was quite empty and we were at the checkout counter in no time.
I was hoping no one would comment on how dirty my baby was. Really hoping.
You never know, these days.
There was just one person ahead of me, a grey haired old man with a brown, weather beaten face.
And then it happened.
He turned and saw us. He saw her and broke into a smile.
Not a cynical smile.
A delighted smile.
His entire face lit up and words tumbled out of his mouth.
“That’s a perfect picture.”
“That’s good to see.”
“It looks like she’s living the way every kid should live.”
He was so delighted with baby girl’s messy appearance that he didn’t even notice the debit machine beeping at him, begging him to remove his card.
His weatherbeaten face kept shining with a sunny smile and he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. And he kept saying…
…”that’s the way it was meant be.”
Finally, he realized the beeping was coming from his card machine and he took his debit card, groceries and made his way out of the store.
I had expected other things heading into the grocery store. But not this.
Who would have thought a grubby, dirty baby could make a kindly old fellow so happy?
I unknowingly gave him a gift that day.
And he gave me one too.
In some ways, I’m a counter-cultural individual. My values are old fashioned. I’m an old fashioned, traditional, God fearing woman.
And there are things about our world that I can’t and won’t make peace with. And sometimes, it leaves me feeling alone.
I don’t think it’s wrong to teach your children to work, contribute to the function and provision of your home. In fact, I think it’s important for children to feel like they are contributors, like they have something to give and that it matters.
I think it’s wise to deny kids screen time, so they have a chance to feel boredom and have opportunity to cultivate and use their minds and imaginations.
I want to raise my children in real time, so they have adventures and life happenings they can talk about, instead of living vicariously through movies and video games.
And perhaps even more controversial, I want them to experience raw life through our hobby farming activities.
I hope my children will see us fail and experience it themselves with the animals, gardens and land. I want them to grow up understanding that failure isn’t the end; it’s a learning opportunity and strengthening for the next time you try.
I want my children to see life and feel the sting of death. Because it’s out of the awareness of death that we recognize the just how beautiful and precious life is.
In a culture that puts pleasure and instant gratification first, I want my children to feel the satisfaction that comes from grinding through a difficult task, to understand that pleasure is sweetest when delayed and well earned.
And yes. I want them to develop strong bodies and sound minds through lots of outdoor work and play.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
Sometimes, I wonder if nature isn’t God’s schoolhouse where children naturally learn many valuable lessons about life, if it doesn’t equip them for adulthood in a special way.
But even this idea is old fashioned.
I may have made the old fellow’s day in the grocery store with my dirty faced baby. But he gave me a gift as well.
As I walked away from the store with my few groceries, something inside of me felt warmer.
It’s nice to be around someone who shares your values. Even if it’s for a split second, it’s nice to hear from someone else to thinks along similar lines.
Because, dear old fellow, I think this is the way it was meant to be too.
When I arrived home, I realized that baby girl had smeared purple berry juice all over my neck while we were at the u-pick. I must have been quite the sight to see, going through to grocery store with my dirty baby and purple neck.
But it didn’t matter.
I carried the pleasure of the interaction with me throughout my day, because I too, felt it was sweet to my counter-cultural soul.