Some people love the mall. I am not one of those people. I usually make it my goal never to go to the mall, especially from the beginning of November until the end of December: holiday season. Nothing makes the mall crazier than the holidays. But yesterday, I broke my cardinal rule, and I went to the mall.
The trip was supposed to be a short one. A friend of mine needed to return some things to Cogeco, and she wanted help carrying everything. How could I say ‘no’ to a friend? After a full day of shopping in the States — thankfully not at any indoor malls — I met my friend for the mall trip. This was going to be a quick in and out. Except it wasn’t. First, we arrived at Cogeco, and we had to get a number. They were serving number 72, and we were 78. Ahh!! It was at this point, I realized that there were no windows, and the mall was excruciatingly hot. So as we sat down to wait, I took off my coat. A little better. Twenty-five minutes later, our number was called, and we could return everything. Perfect: in and out. I could do this!
But my friend had other plans. “Aviva,” she said, “we just need to go to Purdy’s so that I can get some chocolate bars.” What?! Another stop. I only signed up for one stop. Okay. How could I say no?! “Where’s Purdy’s?,” I asked. “Upstairs,” she replied. “We’ll take the escalator. Stop right there! I do not do escalators. There’s something about the vibration under my feet, the movement at an angle, and the height that completely terrifies me. I will climb multiple flights of stairs versus taking an escalator. My friend was determined to take the escalator though, and seeing as though I haven’t set foot in this mall for over five years and have no idea where the stairs are even located, I had to follow. Breathe, Aviva, breathe. Trust me, I was clutching the railing hard on that escalator as I took many deep breaths. We made it to Purdy’s though, and through some kind of miracle, there was no lineup. Yay!! Maybe things were going to turn out okay afterall.
We then come out of Purdy’s, and my friend says, “Okay. So now I just want to go to Ashley’s.” What?! One mall visit. One stop. That was all I signed up for. We were now about to begin stop number three. If you’ve ever seen an adult have a temper tantrum, I was pretty darn close to one.
- The noise.
- The heat.
- The crowds.
- The smell … that always gives me a migraine.
- And the second floor with that glass railing that always causes me to feel as though I’m about to plunge to the bottom level.
While I’m sure she thought I was joking, I definitely expressed my displeasure at another stop. I reminded her this was a “one stop mall visit,” and I was currently “living a waking nightmare.” She smiled — “Oh Aviva” — and I sat down on the bench outside of the store to tweet.
Two words: the mall. Loud, noisy, hot. One big stress machine for me. Why am I here?!
— 𝘼𝙫𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝘿𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧 (@avivaloca) November 23, 2019
This stop had to be it. I really thought that it was. She came out of the store, and we started to discuss where we were going for dinner. (Thankfully not at the mall.) This is when she said, “So we just need to stop by Baby Gap so that I can look for something red. I’m not buying. Just looking.” Why?! This last question of mine might not have stayed in my head. I’m still not sure why she needed to look at this moment. And just so you know, at Christmastime, there are A LOT of red things at Baby Gap. I think it was a 15 minute search, and with crowds of people inside and no bench outside for me. Double breaths for me this time.
Finally, she was done. We could go back to the car. I saw the escalator, and despite it terrifying me, the thought of leaving the mall made this travelling staircase a sign of much joy. Except, “we’re not going to take that escalator. Let’s go through The Bay instead. We’ll go down the one there.” What … why?! Now I know why. So that she could stop one more time to check out the housecoats before heading downstairs. Never have I been so grateful to see the outside world and actually breathe in some fresh air.
The interesting thing about this mall experience is that it had me reflect on the Emotion Coaching that we’re learning about at school.
— Mme C. (Suzanne) (@sktano) November 19, 2019
At our recent staff meeting, we went through the first module of Emotion Coaching, and received a card with some prompts we can use for validation and support. As I read through the card, I thought a lot about Stuart Shanker‘s work, and the Pro-Social Domain. There was definitely a focus here on empathy, and a lot of the ideas align with Shanker’s thinking.
During my mall experience, I began to relate to those children that are having temper tantrums in the middle of stores. As an adult, when was the last time you had a temper tantrum? I might not have had a full blown, fall on the ground, crying, screaming, kicking feet tantrum at the mall, but I had my mini-adult version of one. I wasn’t trying to be difficult, or make my friend’s life miserable, but I needed to get out of this over-crowded, hot, smelly space. If I was a child, I would have looked for a bookstore to escape to, as my mom and sister continued shopping. Now I understand why I used to spend hours on the floor of the bookstore in the mall, as my grandmother went shopping with my sister. This was my attempt to self-regulate. There are no more mall bookstores though, and if there are some, I have no idea where to find them. Instead, I vocalized my concerns, and soon enough we left crazy-ville … also known as the mall.
Last night, I needed someone to empathize with me. Maybe that’s why I tweeted. Reading some of these replies made me feel better, calmed my amygdala, and got me through the final few store visits.
Kids also need this empathy … and I think it needs to be genuine. We need to remember what it was like when we felt as they do, so that they can feel this authentic connection and really open up to us. And if we haven’t had these experiences, maybe we can also pull on what others have felt. This makes me think of the number of times that my teaching partner, Paula, discusses her kids. She can find these connections through the experiences of her own children.
I still wish that I didn’t need to experience the mall last night, but the next time that I see a child having a temper tantrum — or the equivalent of one — at a crowded store, in a noisy gym, or even in the midst of an active classroom at school, I hope that I have a little more empathy. Maybe we all need these stressful experiences to also connect with our kids that might be experiencing this same stress. How might these “mall experiences” benefit you as an educator? Next time, I might choose to let the window down and stay in the car with my book, but not without remembering first about the last time I went inside.