Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The other parents stood and stared.

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.)
Stumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To Reddit Bookmark Twitter


Nikosmommy said...

I have soooo been there. But after a few years of dealing with melt-downs in public I no longer give a shiz.
Seriously. When my child is out of control I'll say or do whatever is necessary (and legal) to get them to cooperate. I don't care if people stare or judge.
(though once upon a time it used to stress me out and eat me up inside!) No longer though...I`m OVAH it!

fourdayshome said...

Awww I've been there too! When it's someone else's kid I usually try to give the mom a little smile to show I know what she's going through because I've had the looks too and sure doesn't help you feel good about yourself!

Bear and Bones Mama said...

Been there too. Not proud of it, but that's life. You are a great mom, and even great moms have not so good moments/days/other extended times.

Like water off a ducks back. Tho it's going to suck to see those moms again - but it'll pass.

Lisa said...

I feel your pain sista. I was at the Home Show with my DD yesterday and couldn't get her to come with me (she kept running off to try to jump into a fountain...not kidding) and so I *may* have held her wrist a little too tightly and when she protested, I got "the look" from a woman. Yes, the judgey look. I HATE that look, though in all honesty, I've probably GIVEN the look here and there so...ya.

holyflyingpiranha said...

Great post

I've been in that situation many many times. Freakin bansee mom : )

The good news? My guys are older now and they're really nice, decent, well-adjusted people.

Those stares? Forget em. You're a good mom. Just remember that.

Pam @writewrds

Angela said...

I got the look when I dared venture out to a public place with my son who had colic. How dare you bring a screaming baby to the food court!!

I got the look when that same son grew into a toddler, and he'd throw a temper tanrum EVERY TIME I took him to a public place. How dare you wrench that chocolate bar from that little boy's hands!

I got the look when that same son was 4 YO but looked 7 YO and he'd throw yet another temper tantrum, and I'd drag his 4-foot frame out of the mall, and force him into a car seat. How dare you have such an older child who can't control himself!

Now that he is an (almost) perfectly well-behaved, (mostly) patient and (totally) handsome 5-foot tall 8 YO, how DARE people for judging me.

I dare them all to have walked a day in my shoes.

Elaine A. said...

Like I tweeted, if I was one of the mothers looking it would NOT be in judgment but rather, "OH MY GOSH I feel sorry for her because I have SO been there and I wonder how she'll handle it..."

I fear moments like that just because I'm not always sure HOW to handle them. I think you did fine. Threatening to leave their ass has always worked for me. And besides, you didn't actually do it. ;)

WhisperingWriter said...

It's okay, we've all been there. I usually tell my daughter if she doesn't behave that all her Yo Gabba Gabba are going away. Forever.

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

100% okay! There is no perfect way to handle something like this! Those who "think" they know are often wrong themselves. I believe it is better to reason with a child, give limitations, and set limits like you did!

fiona2107 said...

Hahaha, I so feel your pain!

Welcome to the part of motherhood where you realize that your kids have found yet another way to drain you of all dignity!!

Don't sweat it....I could out-scream you anyday!! LOL

Lady Mama said...

Nikosmommy - I look forward to not caring as much.

fourdaysHOME - I do the sympathetic smile too!

Bear and Bones Mama - Thank you. It will pass, I know.

Lisa - Haha, the judgey look is the worst.

holyflyingpiranha - Thanks for the solid advice!

Angela - ugh, that is hard. People can be very quick to judge parents. I know I certainly think twice now.

Elaine - Thanks. It was close. ;)

WhisperingWriter - Haha. But wouldn't that be a good thing?

Sara - I agree!

Fiona - Yep, goodbye dignity.

LisaDay said...

Luckily my son is light enough to carry. Not looking forward to the time when he is not.


Loukia said...

I had to practically drag my five year old out of my sister's house tonight, at her birthday party with all our family and her friends there. He was totally acting up, being loud and annoying. He yelled: "This is the worst birthday party I've EVER been too!" which actually totally made us laugh. But mama... I have so been there... I hate people who don't understand!

Mwa said...

I have been there too and am now less embarrassed because with three kids I feel entitled to a small parenting fail once in a while.

nmaha said...

My daughter is usually well-behaved in public, however, last week at an extended family gathering she gave me hell and I lost it )in front of my husband's family).
This was just to make you feel better, coz losing face in front of the in-laws is the worst possible scenario on my book.