This was one of those days when I had the good fortune to run into “that” woman. You know, the older woman who feels it necessary to comment on every aspect of your child’s behavior and calls you out on your lackluster parenting skills. Generally, I find that these women lurk in malls and grocery stores. From now on I’m going to refer to all women with whom I have these run-ins as, “Beulah”. Here’s how it went down with Beulah this afternoon but first, a bit of background. My little Katie-Bird has a nasty rash on her face. Two trips to the doctor and we know what it isn’t, but still have no real conclusive diagnosis. Personally, I think its eczema, but we’ll know for sure after another visit with her pediatrician next week. (No itching/distress/blisters/spreading – just flare-ups in the cold Maine air.) Now back to Beulah.

On the way to pick Gwen up a pre-school, I popped into our local Rite-Aid to pick up a bit of ‘healing ointment’ for Kate’s face. It was particularly red and bumpy today and, despite how adorable I think she is, it didn’t look very good. So I stood in the ‘healing ointment’ section searching the shelves for the right concoction while Kate squirmed around in my arms. She’ll be two in February but she’s so tiny that I still tend to carry her a lot. Today I put her down so that I could reach the jar I needed. As Kate walked toward the sliding doors with me in close pursuit I heard Beulah say, “Where are you going honey?” Kate entirely ignored her and walked straight to the door and proceeded to bang on the glass. “You know” Beulah said when she spotted me, “they can’t get out the second set of doors, but I’ve seen them get caught in there and they can’t get out.” Kate clearly doesn’t weigh enough to open either set of doors, but this went unnoticed by Beulah.

First of all, just let me say the Beulah’s of the world piss me off. Immensely. Despite her annoying statement that dripped with condescension, I responded with a smile and a lame, “Oh, really?” while placing my items on the counter. Kate stood at my feet and fondled the candy. We aren’t candy eaters in our house so, of course, when my children see candy they scramble and beg for a morsel. That’s what Kate began doing in front of Beulah.

Me to Kate: “No, no…you can’t have a candy bar, Kate.”

Beulah to me: “Well, you know…when they get it at home that’s what they want when they go out.”

Ummmm, Beulah? Do I know you? Have you been to my house? Do you have a front row seat to our family mealtimes? Have you personally taken an inventory of my pantry? No? Then suck it. You’re starting to get under my skin. Please just ring me up and stop talking before this gets ugly. (Clearly, Beulah doesn’t follow No. 7 or she’d have read “Dear Rage Filled Stranger,”.)

Some more small talk ensued, but I was operating on high alert. I really just wanted to pay and escape Beulah and her judgment without any casualties. I picked up Kate and held her as Beulah rang up our tub of ‘healing ointment’. I watched with gritted teeth as she zeroed in on Kate’s rash covered face. “What have you done to your face?” she inquired of my 23-month-old as if Kate could respond with a long-winded explanation. Beulah looked at Kate and then to me, as if challenging my silence. Her eyes held all sorts of accusation. They told me that I am a horrible mother that has somehow purposely inflicted a skin disorder on my beautiful baby. Those eyes demanded an explanation. I had had enough at that point. Game on, Beulah.

I pulled a sorrowful grimace onto my face and cast a forlorn gaze upon my girl and sighed, “Yeah…she has herpes.” Beulah’s expression turned from judgmental to uncomfortable as her eyes darted back and forth between Kate’s face and mine. “We think she got it at birth, but since the other two got away without catching it…” I gave a nonchalant shrug of my shoulders and held out my hand expectantly. Beulah handed me my change in dumb-founded, horrified silence. I thanked her very much and told her to have a lovely day.

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