I was at Coffee Club yesterday with my little cub for a bit of lunch (a nearly daily ritual as Chloe seems to whinge less when in public) and I overheard the women in front of me make a snide remark about the mother behind us trying to talk her son down from a tantrum about finishing his lunch. The boy was a tad older, possible 8 or 9 and was having a meltdown I would liken to that of a 3 year old. He was crying and screaming and throwing his arms around. The mother was holding his arm and telling him to keep his hand on the table and trying to reason with him. What I saw was a struggling mother trying to calm her irrational upset son and I thought she was killing it. I would have given her a high-five if I weren’t so shy.
The lady (the remarker) was middle-aged, possible grandmother aged. She was visibly upset by the shenanigans at play and scoffed to the cashier in a volume I would imagine was meant to be heard by the struggling mother; “Well if she’d get off her phone and pay attention to him maybe he wouldn’t be so unruly” as she turned in the direction of the mother, flipped her hair and rolled her eyes.
If I could grow a pair of lady balls and wasn’t so afraid of confrontation I would have said something along the lines of “Excuse me ma’am, what gives you the right to judge someones parenting?! This might be the first few minutes she has had today to check her phone while her son is distracted, she may have had a family crisis so needs to keep her phone on hand, she might be checking her bank to make sure she has enough money to pay for groceries today. What ever it might be, it’s none of your concern and she’s doing her best to calm her son down without yelling and pulling him by the hair out of the shopping centre. You shouldn’t pass judgment so quickly and you shouldn’t feel the need to make another woman feel ashamed of her ability to parent”. Then I would have flicked my cape, saluted the mother and hightailed it outta there in a puff of glitter.
Fortunately the mother didn’t hear the comment and the older lady didn’t choke on her soy cappuccino like I had quietly wished. But honestly, why do people feel the need to bash on others parenting?!? I’m not saying I’m a saint and that I don’t think some mothers need to reign their troll patrol in when they are darting in and out of the isles at Woolies almost causing trolley crashes. I think ‘far out, I would clip those little critters around the ear if I were their mother’ but I think it, in my head, without verbalising and possible offending or shaming someone. Because I’m not arrogant and I don’t feel like I’m better than anyone or an expert at parenting so why would I disrespect or judge someone I didn’t know. I think it’s simple but I dunno, I’m pretty naive.
The whole incident actually reminded me of an article I read a while back about a lady (let’s call her Jane) who got agitated at a tantruming child in a shopping centre. The mother was quite flustered so Jane took a second to empathise with the mother only to discover that the child had autism and the mother was struggling to deal with the behaviour. From then on Jane took a moment to think about the circumstances behind questionable parenting situations, I can’t remember the article exactly but I think there was one moment where a father was on the phone while his kids were getting restless on a swing set. It happened that the children’s mother (or grandmother, the details are fuzzy in my memory) was in hospital with cancer so he was focused on the phone call rather than appeasing his children for just a moment. Maybe a bad example as I can’t remember the details exactly but I think you get the point.
I had an experience like this myself very early in my pregnancy. I was in the shopping centre and a young boy was having an epic spine chilling tantrum as his grandmother wanted him to either sit while the trolley was moving or walk and hold the side of the trolley. Well needless to say neither option was his idea of fun so he squealed and screamed and I’m pretty sure I heard the voice of satan at one point. It was so unbearable I tried to hand a shirt that I wanted to come back and purchase to someone who didn’t work in the store just so I could get the fudge outta there until the mother had removed the screaming monster. I visited another few stores in the vicinity and I could still hear the screams. I crossed their path as I went back to the store and the child was still squealing and the mother and grandmother were happily chatting away unphased by the glares from fellow patrons with said demon child in tow.
At the time I just couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just get the child out of the shopping centre and try to calm him down outside. That may have been a good thing to try but for all I knew that might have been the only time the mother could get to the shop and needed to get things done, they might have been struggling with toddler tantrums so were trying a new approach, they might have just given up on trying to reason with the boy and were on their way out to try and calm him. But in hindsight they actually coped really well in the situation, I’m sure if I were in that scenario (as I’m sure I soon will be with a temperamental child like mine) I would probably just burst into tears and drop my shopping and leg it outta there in fear the floor would open and swallow us back to where ever my feral child came from.
I definitely think differently now that I am a mother, I understand it’s almost impossible to reason with a child until they are around 4, crying won’t make a child blow up and kids have tanturms so you just gotta deal with it. I would love to give a big pat on the back to all the mamas and papas I see struggling with traumatising public tantrums but I’m a still a slight introvert so I just give them a smile and little nod. No one knows what’s behind a child’s behaviour or a parents reaction in those situations and assuming a parent is doing the wrong thing by what they are or aren’t doing is not necessary and commenting on it is just rude (unless of course the child is being verbally or physically harmed but that’s a different story all together). Just be supportive, offer a hand, a smile or a gesture to make sure they are ok – I know I will the next time I encounter a parent with an erupting child-cano whilst out and about.