This I Believe

Mary Beth - Indian Shores, Florida
Entered on May 4, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: children

(please note: “Webster’s Dictionary” and “resilient” are italicized in the first paragraph, and “did” is italicized in the fifth paragraph)

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word resilient is defined as “bouncing or springing back into shape or position after being stretched, bent, or compressed” and also “recovering strength, spirits, good humor, etc. quickly.”

Children are often said to be resilient.

One summer night, a couple of months after my husband’s suicide, I was grocery shopping. I had both of my children, ages two and five, with me. For me, it was difficult to find the energy to shop, make decisions about meals, or even want to eat. Nevertheless, existence is sometimes the continuation of eating and prayer.

On this night, my daughter sat in the cart—her legs dangling—and was well-behaved considering the time of day. My son, however, was searching for a more hands-on experience as we navigated the aisles. He ambled behind me and stooped over occasionally to pick up various items on the lower shelves. He removed a bag of sugar and held it over his head. He dragged bags of cat food and dog food off their shelves onto the floor. Diversion I provided was not distracting enough, and he angered me in the produce section when he bent over a bin and lifted a small watermelon. He turned toward me, raised it like a trophy, and smiled. I told him not to touch anything else because he could damage items that were for sale. He obeyed and just followed me around swinging his arms.

It was good to check out. When we walked out of that too-cold store, the fluorescent lights were replaced by serene summer dusk lighting. As I pushed the grocery cart toward our car, my son asked me a question that I won’t ever forget. He asked, “Mommy, what did Grandma mean when she asked me to be strong for you?”

I laughed at his sweetness, got teary-eyed over her good intention, and was humbled by my having reprimanded a child who merely wanting to impress me by doing what his grandmother had asked of him.

I answered by saying I thought she meant he could help carry in grocery bags from the car to the kitchen when we got home.

Every time I leave a supermarket, I am reminded of my belief that children are resilient, and through their strength, adults are empowered to be resilient, too.