As the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. This past weekend while getting some back-to-school shopping done, I saw a scene unfold that was eerily similar to what I had witnessed a couple of years ago at the Duluth Target store. A couple was loudly arguing while shopping for school supplies, with what I assumed was their three kids standing with them looking embarrassed.

It escalated quickly, to the point when the youngest boy, who appeared to be around 8, felt the need to say, "Please stop, we just wanna go home." Thankfully, although the arguing didn't stop, they did start walking towards the checkout area and front door.

Since this seems to be a continuing issue, I felt it was a great time to revisit the other scene I watched unfold during a family back-to-school shopping trip and my letter to the woman who was so upset. This was a lot worse and, unfortunately, I've had a lot of people tell me they've witnessed similar scenarios in public.

I had my daughter and her friend at Target and while I gave them a little freedom to shop for whatever it is girls shop for, I decided to open the school supply list from my kid’s school and see what I could find at Target on this day. I fully expected things to be pretty picked over, but it was worth a shot.

As I approached the back corner of the store where school supplies are kept, I began to hear a loud voice that only grew louder as I got closer. This was a woman’s voice, and she was obviously not having a great time on her Target run. The first thing I made out was “I’m telling you exactly what’s on the list! Put it in the cart!”. This was followed by a quiet, but tense male voice asking, “How many do we need?”. She bellowed back, “Well, we have two kids how many do you think we need?!”

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This was when I got to the aisle that they were standing in. Curiosity got the best of me, so I glanced down and there stood the woman with a school supply list in hand, a man who I’ll assume was her husband, and two young girls who must’ve been in elementary school. The man’s face was red with embarrassment and his voice was quiet but tense, you could tell he was trying to get out of this situation. He answered, “I am asking about the number of markers they need in each box, not the number of boxes.” She loudly bellowed, “Whatever’s in the damn box is what they’re going to get!”. The guy put two boxes of markers in the cart and the girls looked anywhere but at the couple, likely trying to mentally find their happy place.

Parents Begin Back-To-School Shopping
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I continued past that aisle and moved to the next one over, not wanting to witness more. It didn’t take long to hear the woman’s voice again and even though they’d moved, she was somehow even louder this time. “Are you going to put the scissors in the cart or not? Remember we have two kids so how many scissors do you think we need?!!” I then made eye contact with a woman standing next to me and she smirked to acknowledge what we were hearing. I smirked back as the man answered, “I know, I know let’s just get this done”. His partner was having none of it as she yelled, “Maybe if you were any help at all we’d be done by now!”

The smirking woman and I were then joined by what looked like a college-aged guy who had been in the same aisle with the couple before deciding to seek refuge with us. He was wide-eyed, as we all exchanged a look of shock at the scene that was unfolding. Part of me wanted to linger to hear more because there was a lot more to hear, but as I again glanced at this family and again saw those little girls, it wasn’t as funny to me anymore. I was thinking of something I could say to the adults to ease the situation for the sake of the kids while fearing saying the wrong thing might make the scene even worse for everyone. Before I could find the right words, she briskly made her way toward the checkout as the man and the two girls sheepishly followed.

I told my wife about it when I got home, and she said that maybe the guy in the family had done something wrong prior to their shopping spree and she was taking it out on him at Target. Perhaps that’s true, but that’s no excuse for the way this woman was publicly berating him and embarrassing herself, especially in front of the kids. I know that if I were the guy in that situation, I would’ve walked away with the kids to let them look at toys or books or anything other than that unhealthy situation.

I won’t go into detailed descriptions of this family, but I have a message for the woman. If school supply shopping is that stressful, do it alone or have your partner do the shopping. I bet he’d welcome the break from you. Whoever’s not doing the shopping can spend quality time with the kids rather than expose them to this nonsense.

If you were mad at your partner prior to heading into Target, perhaps go another day and work out your issues privately before making the school supply section your personal battleground. Even better, grab your school supply list in one hand, open the Amazon app in the other, and get it all done without having to leave your house to look like the worst kind of reality show at Target.

To my fellow shoppers with expressive faces who witnessed all of this with me, I’m sure you’re like me and in the still of the night, you can still hear this woman’s voice demanding markers. For the love of all that is holy, remember she needs two boxes!

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