This week, I heard of a glorious interview with Kristen Bell (or Anna off Frozen, as most parents will know her). In a conversation about parenting, she said “If my child is acting a fool in the grocery store, the embarrassment is on her. In truth, that shouldn’t make me feel a certain way”.
I bloody love that. It really got me thinking though. Firstly, about how awesome she is to have such a relaxed and shockingly reasonable attitude to the infamous supermarket tantrum. But also how in that scenario, it is unjustifiably the parent who is automatically made to feel the bad guy rather than the little heathen throwing potatoes down the veg aisle. I’m ashamed to say that I have in fact been guilty of such judging. But that all changed when it was my turn…
I am very fortunate in that I’ve only ever been subject to one supermarket tantrum at the hands of my low maintenance son. On that fateful day, he’d been an absolute horror from the second he got up, and due to a lack of other options, I had no choice but to take him with me to Tesco. We were wandering round aimlessly, then to my dismay, right in front of us I clocked a stand rammed with a brand new super spanking range of Paw Patrol toys. Of course he’d spied it too.
He wanted Marshall’s Fire Fightin’ Truck and wasn’t going to take No for an answer.
So he screamed, he shouted, he cried, he kicked and he threw things. I immediately opted for my go-to response… blackmail. “If you don’t pack it in, no party at the weekend”, “No ice cream at the park if you keep this up” etc. Still he continued. I tried again reasoning with him, but to no avail. I tried ignoring him and walking away, but still no success.
At this point, I started to panic. The crowd was growing and I just needed him to shut up and calm down. So I shouted at him, which obviously just made the screaming louder and more intense. So as a last resort I dragged him away by his arm, chucked him in the car and drove home in tears.
I was so upset… humiliated at his behaviour and at my response. But most of all, I was embarrassed by the tuts, the shakes of the head and the smug glances with an overwhelming air of ‘I’d never allow my child to behave like that’.
Well the truth is that you can be the best parent in the world, but sometimes kids will just be unbearable… because they’re kids and that’s what they do, and there is bugger all you can do to stop them (apart from buying the bloody truck).
Now, I’m not saying that the correct course of action is to verbally abuse the kid kicking up a stink, but just bear a thought for the unfortunate Tantrumee, who clearly hasn’t instructed or encouraged this behaviour in any way. Don’t be a knob and judge. Because we have no idea what goes on. No one knew that my son had already made me cry twice on the day of his public meltdown. They didn’t know that I had already tried reasonably and calmly pacifying him before forcibly removing him from public view.
What I wouldn’t have given for a fist bump from a fellow parent, for a nod, for a sympathetic ‘don’t worry, we’ve all been there’.
We’re all just doing our best with our little ones and an act of kindness would have made my day. In fact, to quote the hosts of our showdown, every little helps. So next time you see a kid having a public tantrum and an exhausted looking parent despairingly trying to sort it out, I urge you to leave the knobness behind, for all our sakes.