I remember seeing kids throw earth-shattering tantrums in the middle of department stores. I remember hearing the words, "No mommy! I want that toy!" I remember seeing the looks on the faces of the child and it's parent during both situations. The child's anger and 'I'm going to win this battle' look and its parents 'I'm worn out, please have mercy on me and stop irritating and embarrassing me' look.
And then I remember thinking that I would NEVER allow any kids of mine to act out like that. They would know who's boss and always stay in line. No meltdowns because they're hungry or tired. No getting loud when it was time to leave a play area. That just wouldn't happen to me.
Then I had my strong-willed son.
Everyone who knows me knows I love James Charles to pieces. He's taught me so many things as a parent. One of the biggest lessons is that I will judge no more. No more judging parents of little kids that have "moments" in public. I've had many lessons on this. The most recent one was earlier this week.
James Charles, Audrey and I were in the store. We had "the talk" before going in the store about how Mommy would get what she needed and then we'd look at toys until it was time to leave. This tactic usually works. But apparently not on this day. I told him it was time to leave so we could head home for dinner and the drama began.
"I don't wanna leave! I wanna look at toys!" Tears started streaming down to the floor. We started walking towards the register and the broken record named James Charles gradually got louder and more obnoxious.
Normally I would have just left, but I hadn't checked out yet, and really needed the item I came in for. I tried to talk to him to get him to calm down, but he wasn't letting up. Audrey, (who was strapped to me in her Ergo) even tried to pat his head as I knelt down to talk to him. He was still mad. People started staring at me as I was heading to the shortest line. Some looked sorry, as if they understood and could relate. I figured they were fellow soldiers--I mean mothers. Others looked at me as if I was the worst parent on the planet that couldn't control her child. One man stopped picking out his paper towels and just looked at us in disgust.
Trust me, I wasn't having the time of my life either. And we were on our way out. I was not ignoring my unruly boy so I could keep shopping.
Then I suddenly began to get angry...and irritated. Not at my son, but at the people who were staring. I got dangerously close to shouting myself. I really wanted to lash out and scream, "What? You've never seen a child cry or be upset before? Stop staring at us and move on!" It took everything in me to remain civil in that moment. The episode started to end by the time the cashier started ringing me up. James Charles had finally accepted the fact that we weren't going back to the toy department. His breathing slowed down. The tears started drying up. He calmly took my hand after I paid and we walked out the store almost as if nothing had happened moments before. But I was still upset at the perceived judgment from the others who stared at the both of us when he was upset.
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only parent who has had such an episode. The perfect parents with perfect kids have stopped reading anyway, but I digress. Having your child misbehave in public can do a number on your self-esteem as a parent, especially when you work hard to prevent the problem in the first place. I've learned from my boy that it doesn't matter how many parenting methods you've tried. Kids have bad days like adults do. They melt down, sometimes they get a little too loud and sometimes they make their parents look out-of-control. I just wish that more people understood this.
So if you're still reading this, I ask that you cut parents some slack if you see them in the store with an unruly child. Please refrain from the dirty, judgmental looks. Trade those looks for compassion. Because trust me, they probably told themselves years ago that they'd never be in those shoes.