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What Not to Say to a Screaming Toddler's Mother
Have you ever been in the store, only to have your toddler break down into a sobbing, inconsolable bloody-murder-screeching temper tantrum? I have, repeatedly. And what have I learned from the experience? I ain't no Mary Poppins.
I have a confession to make. I used to think that temper tantrums only happened to other people's kids, and apparently, so do many of the people I see at the grocery store.
My daughter is a pretty even-tempered kid. When she was a toddler, I could take her to the store in small doses. I brought snacks, a toy, a drink, and I changed her diaper before we left. People would complement me on how well-behaved she was, and tell me what a beautiful girl I had. And I would smugly smile, so proud of my clear-cut and excellent parenting skills.
My next kid is another story. Let's call him Chucky, to protect his identity. He hates shopping, period. And he doesn't like being in the car, either. Nevertheless, my family still needs to stock up on toilet paper, laundry detergent, and the basic food groups from time to time. Predictably, once we make it into the grocery store, he begins unbuckling his seat straps (he's just gifted that way, I guess), tries to stand up in the grocery cart, and starts wailing like an ambulance siren. If that doesn't bring on the consolation he's looking for, great big tears well up in his big brown eyes, and stream down his face to a pathetically maudlin effect.
I've been a parent for 10 years now, and during the early years, I spent my free time boning up on self-help books. These books usually suggest that you take a screaming child out of the store, leaving all of your groceries in the cart. Take the child to the car and hold them firmly until they stop crying. Time out, that's what they call it. But I don't do that. Because I live in a rural area, leaving the store just means marching right back in again to finish the job.
I do my best to prevent these tantrums. I stock lots of toys, snacks, drinks, and 3 or 4 diapers for these trips. I try not to torment my son with needless extra stops or browsing. The goal is to get in and get out, guerrilla style.
The screeching, whining and fussing (him, not me) often begins immediately after we place him in the shopping cart. I am beginning to build a small arsenal of "helpful comments" I've heard during these times. Here is my rant. My own tantrum if you will:
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Strangers' Comments Couldn't Be Stranger
The little guy looks like he needs a nap.
But it's only eight o'clock in the morning!
I'll pray for him!
Recently, as I was leaving the store pretty thoroughly embarrassed, my usual state these days, a woman turned to me and said, "I'll be praying for him. I always pray for the little ones that cry." I wondered as I took my exit why she wasn't praying for ME. I was the one dealing with the little terror.
And on a related note...
Sure makes you believe in original sin...
I kid you not. Someone really said this to me. Actually I don't believe in that but let's not go into that here.
Tell your mama to hurry up and finish shopping!
Today when a "nice lady" directed this comment to my 21 month old son, I turned to her and said, "ma'am, I'm almost seven months pregnant and moving as fast as I can." If you must direct a snide comment at a kid's parent, through the child, don't expect him to pass it on.
What did you do to him?
I have heard this question so often now that I have a standard response. "I've been beating him with a wet noodle." Once someone didn't hear the wet noodle part and responded, "Oh, well I wouldn't do that if I were you."
What's wrong with him?
Do you mean besides the demon child inside of him that's making his head rotate 360 degrees on its axis? I have never actually said this to anyone, but the temptation grows stronger each time the question is posed to me.
Staring and head shaking
This one falls more into the category of non-verbal communication. I don't have a comeback for this one, but it isn't helpful. Save your disdain for the trip back home in the car.
And you're having another one?
Sheesh. Gimme a break, will ya? Don't kick a pregnant woman while she's down.
MY grandbaby loves to go to the grocery store!
"...His mother has really trained him well to sit quietly in the cart." Obviously, people who say such things are just looking to affirm their own positively perfect parenting skills. But every once in a while, just for a moment, I think, "Oh yeah? Wanna trade?"
Mary Poppins I am Not
There's one thing for certain, I am a much humbled mama. I have to let go of any delusions I have about being perfectly in control of each situation that arises. I'll just have to let the disapproving onlookers keep looking on. I still believe in doing my part as a parent, teaching and setting boundaries and limits, and minimizing the conditions that make tantrums more likely to happen. As his mother, it is my job to keep my child safe, comfortable, and happy. But I have had to let go of the notion that I'm some sort of Mary Poppins.
My son is normally a delight. And I would never trade him, so let's be perfectly clear on that fact. But as soon as we enter the grocery store, a dark side emerges. During those times when my son's dark side wins, I sometimes wish for the good ol' Mary Poppins days of parenting, when I was positively perfect in every way. And a few dancing penguins might not hurt, either.
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