I know you’re there, even though you are trying to avoid me. You might have been further down the aisle or a few aisles over when it happened. The meltdown. Maybe I let B walk near me rather than stay in the cart while I wrapped up shopping, and I needed to stop her from doing something. Or, she might have been mad at me for not letting her get out of the shopping cart in the first place because I knew that it was inevitable.
However it went down, you heard it. You may have seen it. The tears. The limp noodle (my personal favorite toddler tactic). Perhaps our latest development, the hit out of frustration. I can imagine there are probably a few things crossing your mind at the moment. Maybe you saw it coming from a mile away. You might be asking yourself what you would have done differently to prevent it or handle it, as I am currently doing. Maybe you’re just plain uncomfortable. And, whether you will admit it or not, you are probably judging me a little bit.
I just want to say it’s okay if you are. Because I used to be just like you.
Before becoming a parent, I would witness the meltdowns and think “that mom/dad just did not realize that the baby needed something.” Or, “if only they would pay more attention to what their child was saying, the kid probably wouldn’t be so upset.” I never considered my thoughts to be harsh and I never meant any ill will towards those strangers, but I always just assumed that when it came to my own child I would just be able to prevent it.
The truth is, there are things I can do to prevent B from throwing a tantrum in a store but if I were to do these things all the time, I feel that she would never know what her limits are. My daughter’s tantrums can usually be pinpointed to one of two things: hunger or needing a nap. Since she is growing all the time, the girl has an appetite larger than her size would ever let on. And when she gets hungry, she gets hangry. 8 times out of 10, all of her tantrums are hunger related. I could make sure she has crackers or a beloved puree in her hand from the minute we walk in the door to the minute we leave and she wouldn’t make a peep. But then, she would miss out on the opportunities of people watching, interacting with myself and others, or learning what it means to look but not touch (or touch but not pull off the shelf).
I do not want her to start expecting food whenever we go shopping, and yet I don’t want it to be a crutch for me either. When she does get upset I am trying to make it a habit of explaining to her why she can’t do whatever she was doing first, before resorting to giving her a snack. Side note, this is also the reason I do not give her my iPhone as a distraction. Using something like an iPhone should be considered a privilege, not an expectation if she is acting out. B takes in a lot more than I ever think that she does, so I am trying to treat her with the respect and gentle guidance that she deserves rather than temporarily fixing a problem that will pop up again later. I guess what I am saying is, when we run errands I am not only challenging her to behave, but myself as well.
I have never had a baby before, let alone a toddler. Being a first born child myself, I have a slight understanding of what this means for B. Just as she is the first toddler I have ever had, she will also be the first kindergartner, teenager and adult child I will ever have. She will be the recipient of my over or under-parenting as I try and figure out the best way to handle certain situations. While I feel like I am handling the store tantrums rather well in the grand scheme of things, I guarantee there are times where I will get more than a little flustered and frustrated. I might resort to the straight-to-snack approach if I can’t get her to calm down. Or, I might not be able to calm her down and end up walking through the store with a crying child. Talk about coming full circle, from thinking you’ll be able to have it handled to the humbling realization you have turned into that parent.
And so, dear stranger, I give you permission to judge me. It is okay if you are a little uncomfortable or think you could handle it better than me. Just know that I am doing what I think is right in that situation and we are going to be fine.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. If you do happen to see the meltdown, feel free to admire the way I am able to wrangle a toddler who has seemingly lost all control over her muscles…while being seven months pregnant myself. It really is an art and sometimes I think I deserve a medal for the acrobatic moves I’m able to do in this state. Thanks much. ;)