I got into a bit of a row this week. Nothing more than a few hot words exchanged but given that, as my teachers used to say, I'm normally so laid back I'm horizontal, it's not a usual state of affairs for me.
I had gone out to pick up a few necessary bits and pieces for my youngest who's starting P1 on Monday. I am, I think it's fair to say, more than a little emotional about my baby, my third and final child, slipping into her uniform, letting go of my hand and beginning her long educational journey.
I've never been very good at loosening the apron strings but there's something even more difficult about doing so with the baby of the family. As a result, my emotions have been a little closer to the surface all week and that may be the reason why I was more quick to anger than usual.
What happened was that, as I was meandering around town, my attention was caught by raised voices, or rather a single voice. It was emanating from the doorway of a high street shop and, as I drew closer, I realised that a shop worker, a masked man policing the entrance, was in the midst of loudly berating two young girls. His job, he was telling them, was to ensure that everyone had their face coverings on and had utilised the bottle of hand sanitiser provided, otherwise they weren't setting foot over the threshold. It was only as I drew level and saw their embarrassed faces that I realised just how young the two girls were, maybe 12 or 13 years old.
One of the two youngsters had no mask on and had white cotton gloves on her hands. Clearly very quiet and shy, she had turned scarlet red and looked on the edge of bursting into tears. The other girl, who was wearing a mask, was trying to explain they knew that masks were mandatory in shops but that her friend had asthma and couldn't wear a face covering and that she also had severe eczema, so was unable to take off her gloves and use the hand sanitiser on her skin. But the man on the door wasn't accepting this explanation.
Could they not read, he shouted, leaning towards them and pointing at the information posters on the windows. It was at this stage that I felt my blood start to boil and I stepped in and told him in no uncertain terms to wind his neck in. I insisted that he bring the manager to the door and, once she had been told what was going on and the situation explained, the two girls were welcomed into the shop.
I understand that it was this man's job to try and ensure everyone's safety but it's not okay to berate children. He wouldn't have spoken to me, an adult, in that fashion and it's not okay to use harsh language and raise your voice just because you're speaking to youngsters.
I think what also affected me was that, like this young girl, I've had severe eczema since I was very small. I remember the embarrassment of not being able to use ordinary soap and having to bring my own cleanser and moisturiser everywhere I went. I too had to wear cotton gloves when my skin was red and sore, cut to shreds and weeping. It was incredibly painful but much more hurtful were the stares from adults or the hurtful jibes from other children.
I remember what it was like to crumble inside when someone extended their hand to shake mine, mortified that they'd feel the rough, dry skin on my hands. I saw all those experiences reflected back in that young girl's embarrassed face.
I've just finished polishing my daughter's tiny new school shoes for her first day at school. I pray that she enjoys her first experience of school, making new friends and learning new things, and I hope that she and the other children learn, from the wonderful teachers around them, that you should always be thoughtful, kind and treat others as you like to be treated yourself.