Today, friends, I was that mom. I was the mom that went through the store while her toddler screamed. My preschooler calmly sat next to her minding her business, playing on the Nexus (hey, don’t judge – at least that one wasn’t screaming, right?). Me? What was I doing? I had one hand on her while I laughed. I suppose to the unknown observer it may have seemed callous; some of those “unknown” observers let me know what they thought of that. She wasn’t screaming the whole time – I even had her laughing – but she wavered between joy and pure freak out. Yeah, you know the one.
Walking into the store was a trial, but you know what we decided? We decided that getting food into our sparse pantry/fridge was more important than causing a scene. Sure, we could have turned around and left one adult at home with the tyrant toddler, but who wants to take that bullet? I didn’t, I’ll tell you that right now. That was actually the reason that we were out as a family. My husband and I kept leaving the other alone with the girls and the cart to go grab something that we “forgot.” I am thinking now that it wasn’t an accident.
It was towards the end, in those last 20 minutes, that my toddler was about to lose her cool. I tried to be proactive by tickling her. Is there anything better than the no holds barred, joy-filled sound of a babe’s laugh? And laugh she did. And laugh and laugh. I noticed a woman just behind us waiting patiently with a smile on her face to get to the product that I was standing in front of. I thought, “Wow, that’s nice. Helping a sister out, thanks, lady.” I stopped to grab some things, but about 1 minute and 37 seconds later (that time just feels right in the depths of my soul) toddler started to get mad. I just left a hand on her and continued to move around. Coming back to that spot (I obviously forgot the thing I was there for in the first place), toddler was still yelling; kind of impressively loud. The same lady that was so helpful before seemed to be bothered that I wasn’t trying to quiet my child. I, honestly, was on my iPhone – gasp! I was staring at it intently, but not so intently that I didn’t notice the look she sent my way. I smiled wondering if she would feel different knowing that I was using the calculator to add up the groceries, ensuring we stayed within our budget. To her credit, she tried to hide it and she tried to help by making toddler boss smile. “Oh man, are you angry?” I smiled as I continued to look down – again, one hand resting on my babe. Toddler was being rude and did not answer her, so she asked again. I responded for her, “Often.” I said it with a smile, though. 🙂 <– See?
Moving on (husband is getting said forgotten product, apparently it’s in Istanbul), preschooler is giggling to herself about her game, randomly saying, “Mommy, lookit her! Isn’t she so funny?” Toddler is full-out throwing down a fit – no, really, if she wouldn’t have been strapped in she would have thrown her body down. I notice a woman watching us with an angry look. The husband returns with a smile on his face to which I, of course, know the cause. “Did you hear her?” Laughter. “Was that her?” More laughter, this time from both of us. We decide to let toddler boss out and let her help us. This was apparently worse (for the woman watching) than letting her scream. God help me, I laughed at the woman’s expression. I couldn’t help it! She was actually sneering as she moved her cart closer and closer to us. Toddler boss has a short attention span so she turned to move on. I was actually holding her hand so it’s not like she went far, people. This woman actually huffed at me. Huffed at me.
I think she meant to shame me, but it just made me laugh. There were some other stares, some thoughts (I’m sure) of “why don’t they control their kid,” or, “why won’t she help her kid?” No one took notice of the very happy and well-behaved preschooler.
SO today, I was that mom that allowed her child to scream. I was that mom that didn’t agonize over the impression my kid was making on other people – the impression she was giving of my parenting skills. I was that mom (finally) that chose laughter over anger. That mom that chose calm over anxiety. I was that mom that gave my kid a little space to work it out so that I didn’t end up throwing a tantrum.
When we treat people this way (irritation, shaming, etc) we need to examine ourselves, not them.
First of all, we don’t know these people. We don’t know their home lives, what they’re going through, or what they’ve been through. For us, we are sleep deprived parents of a temperamental (sometimes tyrannical), teething toddler. But it’s not just parents we treat this way, is it? What about that person we see in the store who takes longer in line than we have time for? Maybe they are praying that they can find all the money they need for the purchase they are making, or maybe they have an internal injury that prevents them from moving faster. What about that person who is fighting with [insert term here] – making a “scene?” Maybe they just got fired or dumped, or hurt, etc.
Maybe those maybes shouldn’t matter so much. Maybe, no matter the situation or scene occurring, instead of shaming (or trying to shame) that person with a look/sound/word(s), we should try a smile. Or a nod of recognition, or maybe even not pointing anything out to them at all. Maybe we should try loving our neighbor instead of trying to disgrace them. Why is it that we feel such a need to react negatively to anyone – everyone? I mean, sure, some occurrences are wrong, but what happened in the store today? While not pleasant on the ear drums, it wasn’t wrong. I could say that for every example above and then some.
Instead of trying to shame parents into being better parents, or shaming people into being better people, examine your own heart. Shaming doesn’t work. It never will – has it ever on you? What breaks boundaries, what breaks barriers is love. Yeah, that may sound super cheesy, but it’s truth nonetheless. Take a page out of my preschooler’s book and learn to laugh. Learn to find joy, but make sure that you learn to love. Learn love and exhibit it. Watch walls crumble. It’s what she’s teaching me.