I’m going to let you in on a little secret: toddlers throw tantrums over just about everything. Now, you may be thinking, “that’s not a secret, lady. Everyone knows this.” That’s what I thought, too. However, I have come to the realization that many people are either unaware of this fact or have long since forgotten that their own children ever went into full catastrophic meltdowns over things like wanting to put their shoes on themselves…on the wrong feet, wanting to wear shorts in the middle of winter, or getting upset because they have to hold hands while walking through a parking lot.
The first time someone berated me in public while my then 2-year-old was throwing a tantrum, I was caught off guard, embarrassed, and extremely hurt. My son had decided to run through the grocery store aisles, which he knows is a big no-no in my book. So, it resulted in him losing the freedom to “walk” and instead got him buckled into the cart. I thought I made a good decision. I was happy I kept my cool, and was contemplating whether I should ditch the cart and come back another time when out of nowhere a woman approaches me and tells me I need to hold him and hug him. I politely respond to her that he is having a tantrum and that he will get a hug once he works through it. She, then, declares that I don’t love my child and that he needs a mother who loves him–all because I refused to coddle and hug my son as he screamed over being put in the shopping cart. What?
Fast forward a year and some change to my oldest daughter who was in the throws of the terrible twos. Oh joy. She had (and still has) a flair for the dramatics and frequently shrieks as if she’s broken something when she just trips and falls…in the grass. No kidding. I had recovered by now from my first public tongue-lashing about my parenting and so was not prepared at all when it happened AGAIN!
I was leaving Costco with my three children, which always draws stares anyway. Hello people! It’s Costco. This is where big families are supposed to shop (apparently 3 kids is considered a big family these days)! I tell my children to hold onto the cart because we are heading into the parking lot. My daughter wants to be where her older brother is already holding on and gets upset when I won’t make him move. I tell her to stand on the other side, and she instead decides to throw herself on the ground. When I put her into the shopping cart (what is it with my kids and shopping carts?) she dissolves into a hot mess. Her screams echo off the warehouse ceiling and, of course, everyone looks at us. I calmly walk as fast as I can to the car and she goes all limp noodle on me as I try to get her into the car (she’s still screaming and she weighs a ton).
I finally get her and the other two kiddos buckled in the car and am returning our cart when I spot an older woman writing down my license plate. I approach her and ask what she’s doing and she responds by telling me she may need to contact the authorities! What??? When I ask her why, she said that my daughter was really upset and that she may need to let someone know about it. I tell her that my daughter is 2 and ask if she’s ever heard of a toddler tantrum to which she replies that her children and grandchildren NEVER threw tantrums. To quote her directly, she said that she never let them do “that snake dance”. Uh huh. Okay lady. Again, I was left in tears, humiliated, and questioning myself as a parent.
I thought that the days of admonishment over my parenting were behind us when we moved away from the West Coast. Life was going well for a while. When my toddlers threw tantrums people actually encouraged me for staying strong and not giving in! What a refreshing change. Someone gets it! They have toddlers, too! Well, this honeymoon period only lasted for so long.
My youngest daughter is now two and like her siblings before her, she can belt it out with the best of them when things don’t go her way. This past week she was irate that I wouldn’t let her wear her shoes on the wrong feet and so she decided to let everyone at the bus stop know just how mad she was. She screamed and cried and cried and screamed. So, I turned the stroller away from everyone so as to try and muffle her shouting a little bit. I also walked away (about 20 feet…still within ear shot and I can see her perfectly) to give us both a little space so that I can remain calm. Before I know it, I hear the hum of a helicopter mom swooping into my no-fly zone. She approaches our group of moms and asks if anyone knows whose stroller that is? I should have said, “No. Someone just parked it there and left” but I told her it was mine. To which she condescendingly replies that my child is screaming. I let her know that she’s throwing a tantrum and that I turned her away so that not everyone had to listen to it. She’s glares at me, huffs, and storms off. What surprised me is that I can see she actually has children because her no-older-than-12-year-old son is driving her away in their golf cart…down a public road (which is actually unsafe and illegal, by the way).
I share all this because there appears to exist a widespread animosity towards parents who “allow” their toddlers to throw tantrums. Somehow there’s this belief that we (1) can stop these fits with the snap of a finger but just choose to let them carry on; (2) can prevent the tantrums from ever happening in the first place; and, (3) are terrible parents if our child ever cries or screams in public. Clearly, the parent must be doing something wrong, is what many judgmental bystanders think.
Believe me when I say that I, more than any stranger within earshot, want my child to calm down, too. I am certainly not okay with my toddlers antics in public. I do try to only go shopping when my children are well-fed and not tired, but let’s face it: they are almost always hungry and at any given time one of my four children is probably tired. So, if I wait until they are all perky and stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey, we will never leave the house. Ever.
So, unless a child is truly injured (is there blood?), at risk of physically harming him- or herself, or endangering the safety of others, I believe that busybodies (click for a really great definition) should allow parents to be parents. Walk away if the noise bothers you, because you have the choice to not be around my screaming child. I don’t. And, finally, do a little research on toddler tantrums before passing judgment on the parents. It’s real. Pretty much every toddler has one. They often come on without much warning, and it can be over just about anything. I’ll leave you with this: a video that provides some proof that this phenomena exists: