I could feel the sweat building up under my arms. My six-month-old son was safely strapped to my chest in my Baby Bjorn, while my five-year-old daughter followed 10 feet behind. These two were not the problem. The reason we were walking out of Costco, leaving a cart full of goods, was my two-year-old son, Jack.
I was livid.
What started as a simple request for a train half an hour before escalated quickly. “But I want it, Mommy! I want it now!” He had the typical ear-numbing scream, his eyes full of rehearsed tears, and he’d now positioned his body on the floor like a floppy, wet noodle. I found myself in the middle of an all-too-familiar toddler tantrum.
Only this time, I wasn’t home. At home, this wouldn’t be a big deal. I’d just ignore him and walk away, leaving him without an audience for his performance. That usually did the trick. Once he realized Mommy wasn’t watching and he wasn’t going to get what he wanted, the tantrum would end.
But we were at Costco.
Forget the groceries. Abort. Abort! Get out of here STAT.
All eyes were glued on us as we made our way from the frozen food section to the front of the store. Halfway there, I’d had enough of Jack’s pouting and lagging behind. I had to spare these people. So I scooped him up and placed him on my hip next to the baby. My face burned with frustration and embarrassment.
I couldn’t blame them. I’d look, too. I’d stare at the crazy woman with a baby strapped to her, holding a second child on her hip, with a third child struggling to keep up. Jack continued to scream. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
And then it hit me. Deja vu. I had seen this before.
My mind took me back to Target several years ago. I was still a teacher without kids of my own. I was probably in my own world choosing a nail polish color or some decoration for our apartment. That was me back then. It was all about me.
My self-centered bliss was interrupted suddenly. It was a kid. He was screaming. I looked up to see a boy, about two or three years old, screaming at his mother. It didn’t take me long to realize he was begging for something—something his mom wasn’t going to buy. She turned from him and started walking away, the boy trailing behind.
What is wrong with that kid? Why can’t that mom keep him quiet? If I were that mom, I’d show him. My kids won’t behave like that.
And then it hit me: I WAS THAT MOM. The one whose kid was screaming. The one who couldn’t keep her kid quiet. MY KID WAS BEHAVING LIKE THAT. And I couldn’t get him to stop.
It felt like a slap in the face. I judged that mom so many years ago, and now it was happening to me. I mistakenly blamed her for her kid’s tantrum, thinking she could control it. Now I realized it wasn’t her fault. There was nothing she could do. Jack was acting just like her son had, and I couldn’t keep him quiet any more than she could.
I’m so sorry, lady at Target. I take it all back.
After my workout of buckling three kids into their car seats, I settled in behind the wheel and took a deep breath. Jack was still screaming and would continue until he fell asleep during our drive home. I couldn’t believe I’d just walked out of Costco empty handed. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Target lady’s situation and mine weren’t that different. We’d both experienced our kids throwing a temper tantrum in public. We were both embarrassed. Our mothering had been a show for all to see. One thing stood out in my mind: I shouldn’t have judged her.
Kids have minds of their own. No amount of schedules, rewards, or consequences would have helped either one of us. Kids just throw tantrums sometimes. It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t mine. That day I decided I would never look down on another mom for her kid’s behavior again.
Since my lesson at Costco, I’ve chosen to give other moms the gift of grace. We all deserve a break and some kindness. When I see a mom in a tough situation with a screaming kid, I don’t stare. If there’s an obvious way to help, I do. Just the other day, I pushed another mom’s basket while she carried her crying baby. Other times I just lock eyes with another mom and smile. We both know what we’re thinking: “Isn’t this hard? And exhausting? But, oh-so-fun!” We wouldn’t have it any other way.[hr]
Has your child ever thrown an extreme temper tantrum? Please share it in the comments! Maybe if we hear others’ tantrum stories, ours won’t seem so bad!