Before I was ever a parent, I was a BRILLIANT one. Just as we’ve probably all done, I looked at the mother with an unruly child in a restaurant and inwardly shook my head. That won’t be me. Not my child. That child melting down two aisles over at Target? HMPF. Not. My. Child.
And then I became a parent. Of THREE children. THREE. Who DOES that??
Here’s what you learn when that happens: We’ve All Got a Story and also Life Goes On.
Unruly Restaurant Kid? Target Meltdown Child? You have no idea what that family goes through on a day to day basis. You don’t know what kind of parents they had. You don’t know what’s led up to today. You don’t know what’s happened today to lead to this moment. And that mom who isn’t doing anything about it? There are times where the best thing is to ignore the tantrum. Sorry that everyone has to suffer, but sometimes everyone has to suffer. Also, Mom may well be completely and totally drained from the battles she has already fought in the last two hours. One more might break her. Besides. Groceries need to be purchased. Sometimes we don’t have options – at least not good ones.
My children are wonderful and delightful and lovely. And sometimes they aren’t, and they suck the fight right out of me. I’ve been riding on a cloud of post-Christmas bliss, and it’s amazing how quickly a child can break you down and make you question every parenting move you’ve ever made. Last night after gymnastics, Zoey had an Oscar-worthy meltdown. I’m still not sure what it was about, but it had something to do with a paper that gets stickers on it at the end of class. Maybe she didn’t get to put the stickers on by herself? Maybe she wanted to keep the paper, but she doesn’t get to? I don’t know. Not even the promise of a happy meal could pull her from the dark side.
This morning, she was upset about going to school. Zoey is never upset about going to school. Zoey thinks that everything good and wonderful in the world happens at school. But today she didn’t want to go. Guess what, kid? I NEED YOU TO GO. We missed Tuesday because of a Not Snow But Too Cold Day. Sometimes it scares me when my oldest so easily reads my despair, as she did this morning. “Can I help you, Mom? Is there anything I can do??” Just remember later, when I snap at you without justification, that I have already had THIS today, and be forgiving. Zoey didn’t want to go outside. Zoey didn’t want to wait in the car until it was time to go into school. Zoey didn’t want me to get her backpack. Zoey wanted me to carry her to her coat hook (which I wouldn’t do. until she broke me.). Zoey didn’t want to take off her things, Zoey didn’t want to stay. Eventually, with precision timing and ninja-like diversion tactics, her teacher swooped in to save the day. She was comforting, but firm. And she shielded me with her body so I could make my escape. Do they teach you that in school? I doubt it. It’s got to be the kind of thing you learn in the Preschool Trenches. Well, she was brilliant at it. And as suspected, by the time Zoey got to the classroom carpet, she was over it and washed in the glow of Preschool Happiness.
Every time this sort of thing happens, I find myself oozing with compassion. You know, when I’m done crying in despair. I don’t have to do it often – this Meltdown Madness, and I just want to buy hundreds of dollars in Starbucks gift cards and shower them on every mom who looks at wit’s end around me. Make it rain caffeine courage for the ones who look, to the trained eye, that if you scratch a bit below the surface they will fall right to pieces. Come along that Target Mom and say, “I GET IT. It makes me want to cry and eat copious amounts of chocolate. Good for you that you are still moving about.”
Next time you see one of us Wit’s End Moms, maybe you could go out of your way to give us a smile? Something that says, “Hang in there!” It would be nice if for every Tsk, Tsk (real or imagined), there was a pinch of grace. Soon enough we’ll have a good day, and feel like we’re not ruining our children. Soon enough.