"Can you believe that?" the cashier said as she grabbed my arm and pointed through the large window in the front of the store and into the parking lot.
I looked quickly in the direction in which she had gestured but seeing nothing out of the ordinary, turned my attention back to The Girl who was trying to sneak candy bars onto the conveyor.
"Someone should call the cops," the cashier muttered and now, as a devoted follower of the police blotter, I was intrigued, but with another glance into the parking lot, still nothing caught my eye as police-worthy or even slightly out of place.
"I missed it. What happened?" I asked.
"You see that woman?" And finally I did see the person the cashier had in mind. She was a mom with two kids, one young enough to be riding in the shopping cart, and another slightly older walking beside her. I had "met" the mom a few minutes before when all our children had stopped in front of an endcap display of Valentine's Day pink cupcakes and had a collective nervous breakdown when the mean moms declared that no, cupcakes weren't on the list for today. We rolled our eyes at one another, pried our children away from the display, and moved on.
"I see her."
"One of her kids isn't wearing a coat!" The cashier hissed.
And I laughed. I laughed because, not 20 minutes earlier, The Girl and I had argued over the things that needed to happen before we could leave the house (top three items: brush hair, put on shoes, put on coat). I won the coat battle by ceding the hair battle, figuring that the hood on the coat would cover a multitude of hair brushing sins. I laughed because it was an unseasonably warm 45 degrees out and a coat wasn't going to make or break anyone on the 2 minute walk from the store to the car in the parking lot. I laughed because really? Call the cops?
I thought of the times strangers could have sat in judgment of my parenting this week alone: when I carried my shoeless, kicking and screaming daughter out of gymnastics class; when I sent The Girl to school even though she said she wasn't feeling well only to have her come home a few hours later with a raging ear infection; when I forgot to check The Boy's folder after school and made him "hurry, hurry, hurry" to finish his homework before the bus came the next morning; or when I made the roasted cauliflower for dinner even though I knew that pretty much guaranteed that the kids would eat nothing but bread and butter.
These are the mommy wars. It's not the SAHMs versus the WOHMs or the breast feeders versus the bottle feeders or the cry it outers versus the co-sleepers. It's the total strangers who think they have the right--nay, the responsibility--to point to the myriad ways that you are doing it wrong.
I paid the cashier for our groceries and stood at the end of the aisle arranging my bags trying to think of something to say, but words failed. Instead, I took off my coat, grabbed The Girl's hand, and walked into the parking lot to appreciate the warm breeze that almost felt like spring.