Sometimes as a parent you witness situations that just make you ache for a family. Monday I was at the grocery store when I heard, above all other noise in the store, what I recognized as every parent's worst nightmare: the tantruming child. He looked about 3, and he was in the cart, and what stamina and stick-to-itiveness he had! I really had to give him credit...no doubt, this child will grow to be a person who gets things done!
When it was time to check out, they were right in front of us. The parents were a young couple, and there was a smaller sibling also in the cart (not partaking in the current chaos). My 14 year old son was with me, and as always when we witness these natural occurrences, I offer a bit of information in the hopes my kids will not only gain insight into normal child development and behavior, but also have more tolerance when it is easy to think, "What's wrong with that kid's parents?"
"Boy, he is steady, isn't he? Very persistent. You used to have tantrums like that, except we called them rages." He laughed in disbelief. It was true! I often had to carry him out of stores, meetings, playgroups, kicking and screaming, flatten him into his car seat, and just drive home, in martyr-like embarrassment. A family member, after witnessing a couple of these, suggested "putting him in the shower and turning the water on." I was so at my wit's end, I did try it once. Guess what? It didn't work. As I related this to my son, he was thoroughly amused.
This little guy, though, he kept on at it. It was the worst episode I have ever seen in public. Complete strangers were staring at each other, without focus, just to avoid looking at this little family and their very upset boy. I found my eyes locked with another patron's a couple stands over, before I realized we were mutually defending the little guy and his parents' privacy. Do you ever notice you feel 1000 times worse when people are watching? It's like they are glaring at you, eyes full of condemnation asking: "What are you going to do?" I will admit, a time or two I was rougher-than-necessary with my words and actions when a tantrum exploded in public -- it's like there is this need to show the world, "I CAN control this child!"
Just because this is hard, humiliating, and pretty much like a circus act, I fully expected Mom or Dad to come undone. I expected to see harsh movements, rough words. And I never did! While the parents both looked like they wanted to crawl under the nearest accommodating rocks, neither acted like they were mad at the child, nor did they act like, as soon as they got out the door, the child was going to get it.
I put my hand on the mother's shoulder and said, "It's okay, we have all been there." It wasn't until she heard my words that her eyes landed on mine, like a scared animal -- before this, neither parent made any attempt to look at anyone except their son, their gazes falling down on the cart and their children. A few seconds later I said, pointing at my son, "This big guy used to do stuff like this all the time." She gave a small smile. I continued, feeling a little emotional, "You are doing a great job. It is hard to stay calm when this happens. It's tough when it would be so easy to give in. You guys are doing great."
Meanwhile her little guy was still screaming, "Mommy! Mommy, I am sorry! Please! Please, I want candy!" These had been his lines the whole time. His parents seemed to hold their heads a little higher, but maybe they were just relieved to be able to get out of there! I said to my son, "Don't be surprised if he really let's it fly as they get to the door, as he knows there really is no chance of the candy." And just like thunder after lightening, there it came -- the climax to his performance in a scream that certainly was heard around the block -- before he fell into just regular, old crying.
On the outside, it isn't difficult to see this as an opera or Greek Tragedy, complete with all the necessary points and parts. On the inside, though, well that can be a different story. Heaven knows I suffered my fair number of public tantrums, and I am grateful that, for three of my four, those days are behind us. But did I mention I have toddler? Not two until April, and already displaying immense talent in these areas! He's brilliant, I can tell already.
When you see us in the grocery store, please world, don't judge.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)