Earlier today, my son decided to throw an epic tantrum in a department store. He was having fun in the fitting rooms and didn't want to leave. He's been anti-stroller lately so I picked him up and what ensued wasn't pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly. The kid absolutely, 100 percent lost control. He turned his body horizontal and thrashed his head like he'd been trained by a rock star with long, wavy locks. He screamed at the top of his lungs causing people to stare and probably question if I was actually his mother or someone trying to abduct him. He flung his body on the ground and turned so red I thought his head might pop off. I tried putting him down, talking to him rationally, then sternly, then threatening a time out only to pick him up and start all over again. Each time I'd retreat to the fitting room out of sight only to realize I was land-locking myself. Finally, in what seemed like an hour but was only minutes, I told my friends to go on while I took E outside (to our friends - I won't be offended if you didn't claim us at that point. I wouldn't blame you.).
Taking E outside almost always calms him down right away. Naturally, the one time it doesn't work was today. We parked our stroller next to a concrete wall right outside the store and sat down. He then continued to scream hysterically and turned onto his belly to push his way to the sidewalk. Now we had a huge scrape on his stomach, which provided enough pain to amp up the hysterics. At this point, I realized the only way to calm him down was to throw him the boob. Seriously, if I wasn't still nursing I'm fairly certain he'd still be sitting on the sidewalk crying. He calmed down, we went back inside and finished our shopping (sort of). It was mentally exhausting for me and physically exhausting for him, I'm sure. It also made me realize that in the past, way before I had E, I was a jerk.
I would've thought the same thoughts people were thinking about us today. "What a horrible parent, why can't she control her kid?" "What a horrible kid, why can't he act right in public?" "Why isn't she spanking him to get him under control?" "I hope that's not because she spanked him. What a child abuser!" "Maybe he's hungry. I bet she doesn't feed him." "I bet that kid walks all over her." And on and on and on. Boom. Clap.
But here's the thing. I'm not a bad mom. Sometimes I feel like I'm floating around in space, but I'm not a bad mom. And E is not a bad kid. Was he having a bad day? Absolutely. But is he horrible all the time? Of course not. He says please and thank you and gives hugs and kisses and likes to snuggle with his dog and no. No, he's not a bad kid. We've just entered a new phase. Probably the terrible two's early, but maybe something else entirely. He doesn't get what he wants, he throws a tantrum. End scene.
But how to deal with that in public? At home, it's a non-issue. It's either ignored when it's minor or he gets a time out when it's deserved. He's been spanked before, but it has zero impact on him so we don't bother with it anymore. Time out usually does the trick. The problem is that he's usually screaming during time out. So using that tool in public isn't going to work when, let's be honest here, I just want him to stop making a scene. And even if we did spank him, can you imagine the glares? Geez. Sometimes it's really hard to be a parent. So I'm going to dig out my copy of Happiest Toddler on the Block and figure out what to do from here. This is his first major meltdown in public and I was horribly unequipped to deal with it. The best word I can use to describe it is helpless. I didn't know how to make the crying stop. He was so far gone that everything was spinning out of control. It's not a nice feeling. Knowing everyone is watching to see how you're going to handle it didn't help either.
In the future, I hope I can handle the situation in a better way with a quick fix and less drama. For now, I want to apologize again to all of those caregivers I've judged in the past. You were doing the best you could and while there wasn't anything I could've done to help you, at the very least I could've minded my own business. That's what I'll be doing from now on.