Years ago, when I was younger, I used to notice toddlers having meltdowns, in stores as their embarrassed and seemingly strict parents read them the riot act, promptly removing the child from the premises. I remember thinking,”oh… that poor child … if I was its parent, I would never let a child cry like that.” In those days, the parents in these scenarios were all monsters. After all who could possibly get upset at a two-year old? Had the number for child services been readily available I might have been one of those to register my disgust, especially in the case of one kid who literally was dragged out of the store. Back then, I thought I knew what saw. Clearly, no child should ever need to be wrestled with or dragged anywhere.
Fast forward about 25 years.
I am now the woman with the howling toddler who cannot understand why they cannot buy everything their baby-child brain decides should go in the cart. My three-year old has an obsession with baby dolls (stop laughing …the child, I am convinced, would be like this regardless of the fact she is the youngest of nine!) and thinks each trip to the store is about getting a “new” baby. If finances were not an issue, I might be okay with adoption of all these dolls, except that this kid insists on naming each baby “Meatball.” (I have no idea why.) This clearly indicates there is likely no recollection of the first half-dozen “baby” purchases or any acknowledgement that her crib is stuffed with “Meatballs”!.
Recently, while at a store, trying to get a hockey helmet for one of her brothers, my youngest decided that she should have some of the toys and candy, handily marketed at knee-level. Well, the affirmative answer my kid was expecting never arrived. Instead, I dared to tell her “NO…not this time! You have already had things bought for you this week.” I am thinking that this will be perfectly reasonable as an explanation and there will be no more fussing.
Howls and wails, stomping of feet and a torrent of tears as this kid loudly proclaimed she was taking the candy home anyhow. Husband-of-the-year was out with us on this excursion, and he offered to remove the screaming child while I continued checking out of the store. This was an offer I could not resist as by now the decibels were being appreciated (not) by the other shoppers who were nearby waiting to also check out.
Exit the possessed, annoyed toddler and very embarrassed husband.
My purchase was completed in stony silence as I think even the cashier was nervous to say much. By the time I reached the van (yes with this number of progeny …naturally I drive a bus) the toddler was belted into the car seat and all smiles.
As my husband tried to back out of the parking spot, a car was stopped, and the front passenger was staring at us. My husband asked why they were stopped right in his way. Well the diatribe of screaming from the passenger side of the car was deafening. I guess they had watched the toddler get escorted to the vehicle (minus the coveted treats and toys) with brisk and determined resolve on my husband’s part. The passenger continued to scream that she was going to call child services because no toddler should ever be carried crying out of a store. We are terrible parents and deserve to have our child removed. I have no idea whom these people were, only that they were out in their car and had no children with them.
My husband was incensed, as was I, for a moment or two; then I remembered what I used to think of tantruming kids before I had any. I realized that I would never be able, to explain adequately, why this little child, (obviously against her will) had to leave the store right at that moment…nor the million “Meatballs” at my house.
I am glad, that in my younger, childless days, I did not stoop to judge too quickly (other than to take mental note). Otherwise, I am sure there would have been numerous, needless calls to child services, on perfectly decent parents. Until one is in the position of having to navigate the terrible-twos, out in public, purchasing the necessities of life, one will never completely understand.
Sometimes, it is just better knowing in your heart, you did your best, regardless of what any passerby thinks or dares to say.
Please, walk a mile in my moccasins before you judge me.
Please note: I would not hesitate to call child services in the case of legitimate abuse. Just interesting how my lens has completely changed, as now, I am a parent and often in these situations myself.
THE GARDEN GOAT