“To the Cashier Who Confronted Me…”
I walked those grocery aisles for nearly two hours — searching for the perfect high-protein, low-sugar, all-organic school lunch foods to keep my son focused and healthy during his first week of kindergarten. I checked labels and fretted and wandered to the point of exhaustion, which is when you caught me sobbing in the self-checkout lane.
Dear cashier at my neighborhood grocery store,
You probably don’t remember me, but I will never forget you. You were there for me when I couldn’t figure out why my items wouldn’t scan at the self-checkout station. You hurried over as I fumbled through the bags, trying to sack up my groceries. You came back to check on me when I had to reread the monitor over and over again because my mind was too distracted to process the words “Insert Card.” And then I cried.
Well, to be honest, I sobbed. I put my head down on the handle of the cart and cried deeply for my son, who would start kindergarten the next day. You didn’t know all the details, but you were so kind and patient as I kept telling you, “My baby is going to kindergarten tomorrow.” Luckily, my son was at home with his daddy at that moment, or the embarrassment might have been too much.
You didn’t know this, but I had been to multiple stores that day. I had spent hours poring over food labels, hoping and praying I could figure out how to get my little boy a high-protein breakfast that he would eat while he was unmedicated first thing in the morning. Our mornings sure are hard sometimes. I had calculated grams of sugar versus what he might actually eat at lunch before his midday dosage, considering that he may not have a big appetite. That’s a side effect sometimes, and I was trying to be prepared, just in case.
I had filled my cart, emptied it, and filled it again… and again. I probably wore down a path in a few of your aisles. If you retraced my steps, you’d see the ruts I made — and maybe the tears I shed for him along the way, too. I held it in pretty well until the chip aisle, when I couldn’t rationalize chips and avocados as a side item for lunch because it lacked enough protein. For hours, I went through meal combination after meal combination, as if I were trying to unlock some magical code of protein grams.
By the time I got to you, I was drained. You see, along with all those food items, I was also pushing around his past school experiences. All of the hurt and negative self-image he had accumulated before his ADHD diagnosis were in that cart, too. And there I was, trying to cancel out every bit of pain he had carried by counteracting it with a superhuman amount of maternal preparation. I just wanted to protect him, and somehow that came out in the aisles, as I hunted for high-protein foods for my son with ADHD.
You couldn’t have guessed, as I looked at you with tired eyes, that I was terrified for my baby. This wasn’t the typical, “My baby is going to kindergarten tomorrow,” where the mom is heartbroken because her child grew up too fast. This was something more raw and real from my heart: “My little boy has been hurt so deeply because of his differences, and I am frightened to leave him in someone else’s care. But tomorrow he starts kindergarten, and I am worried he won’t be okay.” I didn’t realize I was that afraid until I got to you, and you patted me on the back when an item wouldn’t scan. You assured me that we would get it figured out, and maybe that’s exactly what I needed to hear: “We will get this figured out.”
I appreciate your help that day. Thank you for letting me cry in the self-checkout lane. I needed it. And, about my son, he is doing so well in kindergarten.
A mom of a fantastic son who has ADHD
PS: We are figuring it out.