I see you, over there.
Actually, I heard you first. Or rather, I heard your child. I know that sound he’s making. It’s come out of the wee bodies of both of my boys, at one point or another. My eldest is still prone to foot stomping, if he’s not sufficiently fed and watered, and he’s almost ten.
You look pretty defeated right now. Yes, you’re doing your best not to yell at your child (who only freaks out when you’re in public, or when you’re running late, or when you’ve not had a good night’s sleep. Am I right?) and you know that’s the right way to handle this (the other is to give him a hug when he’s done crying, but don’t give him the thing he was ranting about wanting, ok?) but right now you need a few words of encouragement. So here’s what I have to tell you:
Sorry. That’s not helpful, is it? There’s nothing worse than being told to relax when you don’t feel like relaxing. At all. Not a little bit. No, I know what you’re feeling right now. You’re feeling profound embarrassment. You’re feeling like every. single. person. in the store is judging your parenting. You’re feeling like you want a big black void to come and swallow you and your child RIGHT now, so that neither you nor anyone else has to listen to your child sobbing about…what was it again? Froot Loops? Or was it that they wanted to ride in the cart, and you wouldn’t let them? Or is it because you want them to have the seatbelt on?
Doesn’t matter. They’re having a tantrum. You feel like having one too. I know you do. But you’re the grown up and you can’t. Sorry. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Well, it might make your children stop screaming. I tried once, with one of mine, and that just made him doubly upset because he thought I was mocking him, and that was even worse than not giving him an ice-cream. Don’t try this at home.
So let’s try this again:
Your child is screaming.
Take a deep breath. Take another. One more. Now repeat after me:
“This too shall pass”
“He won’t be doing this in University”
“No one is judging me. I’m a good parent”.
Take another deep breath. Yes, your child is still screaming. Your breathing has no effect on how much they scream, unfortunately. He might do that for a while. It’s amazing how much energy there is, contained in one of those little bodies. I bet your first child never screamed like that, eh? Yeah, those second children. They test you in ways the first never did.
But here’s the thing: whether that child screaming in the cereal aisle is your first or your sixth, you know that every single child throws a tantrum once in a while. They get hungry, they get tired, they get overwhelmed. Sometimes, they get all three at the same time. And I know you think everyone in the room is judging you, but I promise, no one is. We’ve all been there. Okay, maybe that old biddy in the cookie aisle is judging you, but her sons never call, so who is she to talk?
Now, I’m no expert at these things. I’ve had my fair share of terrible, embarrassing, frustrating parenting moments. But I do know this: no matter what you do, no matter how good a mother you may be, there are days when your children are going to pull out every trick in the book and make you wonder why you birthed them at all. And your best response to the crying, screaming, moaning, floor rolling, head banging and general insolence?
A deep breath.
You can give the biddy in the cookie aisle a dirty look, too. She already thinks badly of you. What damage could you do, now?