Have you guys heard about this? Shopper attacked after telling mom to calm down child throwing tantrum?
Short version of the story: woman #1 in line at Nordstrom Rack. Woman #2 in line with child who is throwing a tantrum. Woman #1 tells woman #2 to quiet down her child. Verbal altercation ensues. In the parking lot, woman #2 punches woman #1 in the face.
Ok, just ….. ok. I need to take a breath here.
Let me do a little self-disclosure. I am ashamedly one of those women who pretty much believed there was NO way MY child would EVER do something so terrible as throw a fit in public. With my background in psychology (including behavioral analysis) and counseling and years of experience working with children ages 3 to 17 I figured I HAD THIS.
I didn’t exactly judge people who didn’t “have control” over their child. I just sort of thought I was going to be better.
Karma does wonders for humility.
Here is the thing about tantrums. They very, very rarely happen at convenient times. Here is the other things about tantrums: even “good” kids have tantrums. A tantruming child is NOT a “bad” child. I have friends who would SWEAR to you that my daughter is the picture of a perfectly behaved, gentle-tempered child. Because she IS. But she also throws fits. She is 19 months old. Its going to happen. The first time she threw a tantrum in public, I was in shock. She ran through a store and screamed and kicked me when I tried to pick her up. And I must have looked like I saw a ghost. Because I was NOT THE MOM WHO HAS THE MISBEHAVING CHILD. No. No. No, no, no, nonononono that was not going to be me!
Because you can read a thousand parenting books, blogs, and articles. You can attend parenting classes. You can drill those with more experience than you for advice on what works. But when in happens in real life?
Well, I froze. I was intensely aware of the eyes on me, and the eyes that were politely averted. I felt the tick-tick-ticking of some invisible clock, like this was a test I was just about to completely flunk. Even though nobody said a single word, I felt judged. Even if nobody was judging me. In fact, later, my friend and a handful of other sweet, amazing women came up to me and said they FORBID ME FROM BEING EMBARASSED. My friend reassured me that my daughter was “such a good baby”, with such conviction that I almost cried.
I was surrounded by support and reinforcement that I wasn’t a terrible mom and I didn’t raise a horrible child. BUT – what if.
What if my child was tantruming. I was embarrassed. I was exhausted. I felt judged. And then the person in front of me turned around and said (*kindly* as woman #1 assures us in her interview) please make your child stop. It is hurting her ears. It is unpleasant. She doesn’t like it. Kindly shut your child up. Now, *please*.
In case you didn’t know, all mothers LOVE getting un-invited feedback on their parenting. Every mother loves feeling like her child is inconveniencing everyone else around her. Mothers LOVE being told to stop the tantrum, because they know exactly how to do it. They just love tantrums so much they want to share them with the rest of the world. Just say the word, I will snap my fingers, and my child will revert to a polite, silent, “under control” state of being.
Girl who was annoyed at the child tantruming behind her: I get it. I really do. Nobody enjoys the sights and sounds of a tantrum. NOBODY. Maybe you had a rough day. Maybe that tantrum was the straw that broke the freaking camel’s back. Maybe you are just blunt and lack a little in the empathy department. I don’t know.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you either don’t have a child and never have had to raise one, or that you are perfect and cannot empathize with anyone who might be having a hard day. Lets assume the no child situation. After you get through that line and to your car, you are DONE with having to listen to that child scream. But that mom you just left behind you? She has to go home with that child. She has to spend the rest of the day and night within earshot of everything that child does. Count yourself lucky that you escaped with just the “in line” tantrum.
I have to be honest. When I read this article, my blood boiled. Pre-children, it may not have affected me at all. I may have even said something like why did the mom get so upset? Maybe she should have just _________ (insert simple solution for curbing bad behavior that sounds easy-peasy to someone who is not actively in the process of raising a small child). But man, what 19 months with a child will do for your perspective. I under no circumstances believe it was ok for this woman to resort to violence. Absolutely not. I am no defending that woman’s actions in any way.
What am I doing then? I have to stop and ask myself what I am trying to accomplish by writing this piece to you. Part of it is definitely venting. Because it could have been me behind you. Because even if my child is an angel 95% of the time, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t experience the other 5%, and that that 5% wouldn’t be in public. As I was reading the news report, I felt fury rising up in my chest. I felt all the mean, stereotypical things a mother feels when she is judged by someone else.
I guess I am just one of those people who still hopes that empathy will win out over judgment. I am still one of those people who believes that maybe someday mommy wars will end because women will learn to respect and empathize with each other. That maybe we could keep separate our ideas about how to raise and discipline our own children from our need to control how other parents raise their own. Empathy. Empathy. I am one of those people who is wishing, hoping, praying that empathy will win. And it may seem stupid or naïve, but I think empathy has a shot.
My dear, if the ideas I bring up here aren’t enough to convince you to have a little compassion, perhaps enough empathy to realize that probably the last thing that mom needed was a verbal instruction to do better, here is one word that I would like to press into your palm like a little gift, burn into your brain like a tattoo: KARMA. It does wonders for humility.