When you’re in public and there is a child kicking off (and I mean really going for it) it can conjure a whole range of emotions. I’ve probably been on the receiving end of most of them with my youngest child alone. I understand how awful it can be in the presence of a child losing their tiny mind, after all, I have survived toddlerhood four times over (my own was the first and according to my parents, it was epic). There are things you think, and sometimes things you might even say:
Annoyance – Wow, that child is loud. What a horrible noise, I don’t particularly enjoy hearing that on my commute/wait for the doctor/queue in the bank etc. I reckon if I tut loudly, roll my eyes or sigh discontentedly, that’ll ease the tension nicely…
Sympathy for the child – Oh bless that little confused monkey. Isn’t it sad that they feel so upset about something so silly? I bet any money they are tired or hungry. I’ll try and distract them a minute to help them forget about it… *pulls a funny face
Sympathy for the parent – Been there, done that. I will nod, smile so that the parent knows it’s ok and if they looks away quickly, make every effort to catch their eye again and offer a look of solidarity ‘hang in there love, this too, shall pass’.
Rage – That parent needs to control their offspring. I’m disgusted. Idiots who are allowed to procreate willy nilly and they can’t even manage to get their little snowflake to pipe down and respect adults. Give me that child for a day and they won’t behave like that anymore. I’m going to say something, I can’t help myself…
At the time it’s horrific, worse than anyone could have prepared me for. The look of hope when you realise mid-drama that someone is looking at you to speak, only to be knocked off a 100ft cliff when you realise they opened their mouth to criticise you, your child, your choices, your approach, your thoughts, your upbringing, your life. The shame that accompanies that can leave a very bitter taste. I can honestly say that only a few people have reacted in such a way. I’d love to say that’s because my three children rarely have public meltdowns…but if you follow this blog you’ll know it’s more down to the fact that mostly, people are really, really kind and when you look up hopefully for some support it is there, in all occupations, genders, age groups and often when you least expect it.
My youngest is three in the summer. She’s getting there. She still loses it on regular occasions, we’ve had a particularly bad few weeks after a bout of illness (more on that another day) but I can (sometimes) reason with her. I can (usually) get her in her car seat. I can (four nights out of seven) get her to eat something at tea time. Those (slightly sarcastic) brackets give you a hint about what life was like 6 months-a year ago.
So for all those parents in the living hell of full blown toddlerhood, I get it. I’ve done it. I’ve failed. I’ve sometimes succeeded. I’ve even cried over it. There won’t always be someone who understands, there with you. You may even get comments, stares and entirely unhelpful interferences. But my advice would be; do whatever you can to survive the encounter, try not to feel ashamed (after all – it’s not you screaming your head off because someone offered you the left sleeve of your coat before the right) take deep breaths and stand by your convictions. Unless your conviction is telling you to wallop them over the head with a shopping basket – that’s not allowed.
So in celebration of the insane toddler twos, I introduce the first of The Tantrum Tales. What’s that? I hear you cry, well, these be a series of posts sharing the most hilarious public toddler tantrums from my children (edit: these were the least hilarious experiences of my life at the time and I wept tears of mortification over every single one of them)
Yes, it was as bad as I describe, yes, most of them involve my youngest, and yes, most of them occurred in a supermarket. Go me.
My Children are Nuts:
I’m a fan of popping to the supermarket. It’s a verb I use, which suggests I leave the engine running (why turn it off when I’m going to be so very brief?), sprint into the shop where I whimsically pick up four items, float to an empty till, all the while my toddler daughters singing any number from Annie, whilst skipping in gleaming knee high socks holding hands.
Realistically, this is what happens: there is an argument about who is getting out of the car first, an argument about who is going to hold my hand (which hand seemingly of the highest importance), there is a near-meltdown by the trolleys as they ascertain that we may only be ‘popping’ to the shop, but if Mummy is swearing under her breath about forgetting the trolley token for the biggest trolley there – we’re in it for the long run.
No fear. I have a plan.
Upon leaving my friend’s house minutes earlier, on this occasion I’d asked if she needed anything picking up. She needed more milk, some cheese, a box of grapes and a bag of mixed nuts. ‘What’s that?’ piped up my bigger girl, so she described the item and said they were for her husband’s breakfast cereal. ‘Oh.’ not sweets; bored now.
So I gave each girl two items from my friend’s list to find, whilst I threw as many items as I dared into the two baskets I was now using in place of the super-trolley. It’s important to note at this point, the chemistry between my daughters. Daughter 1 – she’s in charge. She’s got the ideas, a strong personality, very clear expectations about what little sisters should and shouldn’t do. If she decides what items she wants to find; she’s ok. Daughter 2 is a loose canon. She’s easy going to play with, she copies her sister, is always happy to be the boy character or the dog in their games…until. Yep, when she has had enough, that’s it: we all pack up and go. Daughter 1 will relinquish control and hand over whatever it is she’s taken from her sister, we all fall to the floor and find the nearest mattress/doorway to cower in.
Daughter 1 is in charge of grapes and milk.
Daughter 2 is in charge of mixed nuts and cheese. Sorted.
I could see Daughter 1 ticking this over in her mind as I wrestled 16 pints of milk into my baskets. I could hear her negotiating over the items, why? Because obviously: milk is heavy and grapes are fruit – enough said. She tried (unsuccessfully) to some warm glances from two nearby pensioners, to bargain with her sister, swapping her milk for the more exotic mixed nuts. Daughter 2 was having none of it. She had no idea what Mixed Nuts were, but she now wanted them. I could sense my youngest daughter’s patience waning as we neared the prized item. Lifting down the bag of nuts and handing them to the little one, Daughter 1 attempted to intercept. Snatching the bag close to her chest Daughter 2 gave her ‘The Look’ and thankfully she backed down. Now dragging the baskets towards the till (they were too heavy for me to carry) I felt my heart sink. Despite every till being open, there was still 5 or so customers in each queue. Dutifully, we joined one and after a few minutes of bickering, we loaded our shopping on the belt. Little one, in her joy of all things that move, was so distracted by the conveyer.. she failed to notice Daughter 1 pick up, handle and PUT ON the bag of Mixed Nuts.
Have you ever felt time stand still? The audible swoop of my youngest daughter’s head, turning in slow motion, the sound of the bag thud heavily on the conveyer as it was carelessly thrown on, my heart beating, scanning the busy shop – full of childless professionals on their way home from work after a busy week. Hearing clinking bottles of prosecco being loaded on mindlessly, inaudible good natured chatting, and all the while – my little girl sucking every molecule of oxygen into her little lungs in preparation for what was about to come…
Another breath drawn, everyone stops and stares.
‘I WANT TO CARRY THE DADDY’S NUTS!!!!!’
And repeat to fade.
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