This post is for all the mums and dads who have experienced the humiliation of a public meltdown at the hands of their children. For those whose usually-well-tempered kids have transformed into irate chimpanzees in the middle of the grocery store. And especially for those who've lost their shit in a place they afterward really wish they hadn't.
However much you convince yourself, you are not alone.
I know this, because this afternoon at my son's preschool, I turned. From perfectly nice mum who seems normal enough and probably has well-organized kitchen cupboards and underwear drawers, to, holy crap mother of god stay away from that crazy woman with the wild eyes that's about to rip a limb from one of her kids, person.
All in the space of about five minutes.
I had gone to pick up my older son from preschool. After class was dismissed, some of the kids decided it would be fun to leap around the gym, walloping each other with giant noodles. Not to be a noodle-party-pooper, I allowed the boys ten minutes to partake in the noodle walloping, then called their two minute warning. And their one minute warning.
Unfortunately as I've come to understand, my warnings have little impact lately. I chased my boys from one end of the gym to the other, while other kids obeyed their mothers' gentle instructions with not a bat of an eyelid. Finally I grabbed one son, and in my most serious, no-messing-around voice, told him it was time to leave.
There followed a lot of thrashing about, trying to pull snow boots onto kicking feet, coats over fighting arms, and some more chasing. I was getting tired. There were angry protests, shrieks, promises and threats. Thirty minutes after arriving to pick my son up, we still were not leaving.
I picked up my lighter son and headed for the door, telling my older son as calmly as I could, that if he wasn't going to put his coat on and come with me right now, he was going to have to stay at preschool, alone.
That's when I noted one of the mothers glance over at me.
I told my son, if he didn't come, he might have to stay at preschool all night. By himself.
More furtive glances.
I started out the door. My older son - seeing my humourless face and realizing he, in fact, did not want to be left at school all night alone, bolted through the door with me. We were out. One boy with coat, one without. I wrestled my younger son into the car, and then returned for the other. All the while I could feel the eyes.
I drove home feeling absolutely awful. I wondered how I'd become the mother who yelled and made threats and couldn't even get her kid's coat on before exiting into the cold. I felt bad about the way I'd handled the situation, and bad that other parents had witnessed it. I wondered how I could have handled things differently.
Of course, once we were home, the kids were over it within seconds - completely over it, asking if they could watch a movie, eat popsicles, ride dinosaurs, and what was for dinner.
As for me, I was still suffering an hour later with a heavy heart - that I'd lost control in public, that other mothers were judging me. And maybe they were. And maybe they weren't. Maybe they were just watching me with a mix of wonder and understanding, having been in the same situation once or twice themselves.
Either way, I felt like crap.
But then I called a friend, and was grateful for her kind words and reassurances. And I tweeted and was grateful for the people who tweeted back telling me they too had been in the same boat.
And so - a message to any parent who has felt guilty for temporarily losing control, or like they didn't handle a situation in the most admirable way: It's okay. Other parents have been there - other parents who are usually calm and mild-mannered, and who don't make a habit of yelling in public. None of us have the answers, and no one has the right to judge.
And with regard to those people who stand by and stare at you as you wrestle your kids into the car or carrying them kicking and screaming through a crowded room? Chances are, either they've been there and understand your predicament (even if they don't tell you), or they're judging you, and not worth your effort.
(Or, in not-so polite terms, they can screw off.)