Stranger Than Shoes

I pull into the shopping centre car park, running late for a doctor’s appointment for my 16 month old.

“Quick!” I say to my three and a half year old.

“We’re late! We need to hurry! Grab your shoes!”

After unstrapping he leans forward in his chair, and climbs out.

Sometimes he can be interminably slow, but today he willingly focusses on the matter at hand. Phew.

He finds his shoes on the car floor, and hops out of the car with them.

Meanwhile I unstrap my youngest and race around to the other side, Will on hip, bag on shoulder swinging.

Not all that willing, it seems.

“Quick Alex! We’re really late!” I say urgently.  “We need to go NOW! Put your shoes on darling!!”

“But I cannnn’t” he whinges. “It’s too haaaarrrrrd”.

“No it’s not, you can do it!” I enthuse. The shoes are of the Velcro variety of which he mastered some time ago.

“Nooooo…I can’t dooooo ittttt” he whines. He stabs his foot carelessly at the shoe.

Will starts reaching out of my arms, wanting to make a dash across the car park. “Stop Will! Just a minute! Alex just needs to put his shoes on!”

An energetic 16 month old boy does not like to stay still in his mother’s arms. More wriggling and flinging himself about. I hold him with one arm while his ribs and stomach double over it. I catch him by his thighs.

“No Will! Just wait!” I say impatiently. “It’s dangerous, there are cars! Ok Alex, give me your shoes. Here, put your foot in.”

I squat down with the shoe, Alex misplacing his foot multiple times, his very shoeless foot fumbling about while I struggle to keep Will in my arms. He starts to scream and thrash about. Back arching. More fumbling about by Alex’s foot.

SO over it.

“For goodness sake Alex! Just look where you are putting your foot! NO WILL!” Will starts to hit his hands at my face, pulling my hair, scratching. He tries to bite my shoulder. “NO!!” I say crossly. My phone falls from my bag, splits apart into three pieces and scatters across the concrete.


“Do you need help getting your shoes on?” a kind voice asks Alex. She bends down, and with her free two hands, eases the straps apart and Alex’s feet in.


“Thank you” I say in a meek, high-pitched, awe-inspired voice. “Thank you so much”.

I can’t even remember what she says next as I was so surprised at such helpfulness and thoughtfulness. She gives us a big smile then continues on her way.

Motherhood can stretch you beyond your limits. Sometimes it feels like the only people noticing you are the ones that disapprove. They are seeing all the outlandish behaviour from your children, and you can feel misunderstood and inadequate. I get many stern looks towards me and my delightfully energetic, boisterous, and boundary-learning boys!

So when a kind stranger, rather than giving a look, rather than giving some piece of immaterial advice, rather than just walking by on their way discounting someone else’s life as irrelevant to theirs, stops to help a frazzled mother out, that is simply a brilliant reminder that you are not doing it alone. Maybe they actually do understand that a mother’s job of teaching children is challenging… especially in car parks and shopping centres!

“What a kind lady, Mum” Alex says, as we cross the pedestrian crossing and enter the shopping centre.

“Yes. She was very, very kind, wasn’t she?”

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