Dear lady at the store yesterday,
I saw you diverting your gaze with your head down, but eyes up trying to assess the scene that was unfolding before you. I have a few words for you that apply to pretty much anyone watching a child meltdown in a store.
Everyone is the expert on parenting until they are in the trenches of having a strong-willed little one. The further I walk this journey, the more I realize I have to learn. Little-Flower sometimes makes strong-willed children look like pansies. Even my mom who has raised four children, one of whom definitely could have competed with Little Flower, shrugs her shoulders sometimes, unsure of any advice she could give me to handle her.
Store meltdowns are a specialty of hers. Grocery shopping is the worst. I now understand why there is a candy alongside the check out. I will gladly reward good behavior through the store with whatever I can. 75 cents for 45 minutes of cooperation? Absolutely! Better yet, Meijer has a little moving horse that only costs a penny! Even so, our success rate of no meltdowns in the store is less than 50%.
So, I have some advice for the onlookers:
- Don’t Judge –You do not know the details of the child. Even if you have raised 10 children, you do not know that child and what makes them tick. Children come in all forms. I have been around the adoption world long enough to know that some even from a traumatic background. Little-Flower was separated from her birth mom at birth. There is great debate as to whether that constitutes trauma. Regardless, she has been high strung literally since day one.
- Don’t Judge – You do not know the details of the situation. Prior to kids (when I was an expert, you know!) I was of the mindset that if my child was acting up in the store, we would just leave. With Little-Flower, my fail rate is high in getting through the store without a scene. If I left the store every time she acted up, we would have no food. Yesterday, I had to buy a jacket for Turkey-Man. The wind chill was 39 in the morning and I had yet to invest in a coat for him. (Yes, let the nominations for Mother of the Year start rolling in!) Leaving the store wasn’t really an option so I was doing the best I could with Little-Flower in the mood she was in.
- Don’t Judge –You don’t know how many things the mother has tried before reaching this point. Little-Flower has a way of calling me out. Our rule in a store is she has to stay right with me. No wandering. If she wanders, she has to hold my hand. If she refuses to hold my hand, then she has to go in a cart. Well, yesterday, as you would have it, there were no carts in Kohl’s. We went through the first two sequences with me knowing I had no threat of a cart to fall back on. When I wouldn’t put her in a cart, she decided to start demanding to be put in a cart. She knew she had my number and I was out of threats. Again, I was doing the best I could, given the situation.
So, the next time you see a child chased through the store, grabbed by the arm to guide them back, then, being dragged because they have decided their legs won’t work while mom has them by the arm, don’t judge. I picked her up as soon as I could, given what was in my hands. Know that I did not set foot in the store hoping I would eventually be dragging Little-Flower back in line. In fact, know that I did not intend for that outcome when I grabbed her arm to lead her back. If you can’t understand the situation, give the mom a sympathetic smile that recognizes she is doing the best job possible and leave it at that.
The mother of an iron-willed child