Dear parents of the screaming child throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store,
I know that you feel like everyone is watching and judging, and you're probably right! It has been my observation that people in today’s society are quick to judge parents and slow to understand that children can’t be perfect little angels every waking moment of their life. There are a handful of compassionate people out there who will empathize with you, and may even offer to lend a helping hand, but the cold truth of the matter is that the majority of people judge.
This is unfair. Tantrums are completely normal! All parents have experienced the horrors of their child misbehaving in public. If they say otherwise they are either lying or they have an abnormally perfect child. But the sad thing is it’s not only the people who don’t have kids that are judging. Parents are guilty of this as well. I am sorry to say that I also am guilty of passing judgment.
Earlier this week I took Sam to a children’s museum and every time we passed this mom and her 4 year-old son he seemed to be throwing a horrible fit over some minor thing. I thought, “She is letting that kid walk all over her. I’m sure glad my son never acts like that.” I left the museum feeling rather smug. I am not proud of this. That very evening I read a blog post from my cousin who is a wonderful mother to 4 adorable kids. She wrote about a truly horrific experience she had at Target where one of her girls was having a melt down and a complete stranger walked up to her and said, “I think you should take parenting classes.” This experience really shook my cousin up, and I was outraged that someone could be so blatantly cruel. I stewed over that post all evening. I think one of the reasons I was so upset was because I realized I was one of those people passing judgment. Even though I would never approach a complete stranger and criticize them out loud, I was still guilty of thinking unkind thoughts. I resolved to stop.
Perhaps it was bad karma for being judgmental, but the very next day Sam had his first horrendous tantrum in a public place. Of course he would choose the library of all places to do this. He made a little friend in the kid section and the other kid ran into another section where adults worked on computers looking very much like they did not want to be disturbed. Sam was looking like he was going to follow him so I said, “Sam don’t go in there.” But he did. I put on my stern mommy expression, stormed in after him and grabbed his arm. I began to pull him out of the room and he just flopped on the floor and started screaming “No! No! No!” Heads turned in our direction. I flushed crimson. The other little boy allowed his mom to guide him quietly of the room. Sam on the other hand continued to make a scene. Not knowing what to say I just picked up my son and walked out of the room without a word. I could feel their eyes upon me as we retreated.
Dear parents. I know what it feels like to be judged. I’ve been there. It’s not fun. We can’t change the way other people will think about us, but we can choose how to respond to the situation. We could spend the day analyzing what we did wrong, reliving the embarrassing moment, and worrying what other people think, or we could allow the moment to pass and move on with our lives. Tantrums are fleeting. They flare up, they explode, and then they’re gone. We teach are our children how their actions affect those around them. They learn to stop throwing tantrums. They grow up into decent human beings. Who cares what those uppity, snobbish strangers think? They don’t know anything about you or your child. Just hold your head high, love your child, and love yourself. In the end that’s all that matters.