Monday, October 18, 2010

The Fragile Fibers of Parental Confidence

It's been a LONG time since Madaline threw a temper tantrum of epic proportions like the one she thre Saturday evening at Old Navy. A throw myself on the floor, roll around and scream at the top of my lungs kind of fit. It all stemmed from me telling her "No" to a pair of clearance jelly sandals. And, then to make matters even worse, I had what I'm calling a brief moment of stupidity. As I struggling with her towards the exit, I saw a bench. And, for a small moment I thought I could salvage this little shopping trip. Perhaps a few moments collecting herself while sitting on a bench would be enough to correct her bad banshee behavior.

Nope. It only aided in escalating the situation. The wailing, the shrieking and the 'No Mommy's" got louder and more hysterical as the seconds ticked by. And, the looks from my fellow store patrons got nastier and more obvious in their disgust of my daughter's behavior and my inability to curb it. Sensing that there was no end in sight I got down on her level - Looked her in the eye and firmly stated "This is enough - your making a fool of yourself - put your shoes & socks on NOW or we are going home". It seemed to take an eternity as I counted to 10, giving Madaline one final chance to comply with my request. And, then, once again I struggled to pick up my flailing child, almost dropping her on the concrete floor. (thank you lady looking at the coats near by for your overly LOUD and clearly for my benefit *GASP* as I almost dropped her on her head - I appreciate it) Exasperated and frustrated, I composed myself, got a better grip on my 'Toddler with Super Human STrength', picked my head up, put a smile on my face and walked as calmly as I could out the door. Of course, as we left, my daughter serenade customers with an encore performance of "Mommy, put me down" and "No Mommy NO". I, on the other hand, got another 25 minutes of temper tantrum complete with added bonus tracks of "Turn this Car Around" and "Take me Back, Right now"on our drive home.

But, really - It's wasn't Madaline's behavior that bothered me the most. It was the behavior of other adults that got me. I know she was loud. I know she was being naughty. I know that her screaming and yelling hurt your ears.But, really, were the icy stares of disbelief necessary? Did you really need to shake your head in disapproval at me? Don't get me wrong, at first, I did find your sideways glances of curiosity rather humorous, but when they morphed into the head shaking looks of disapproval? Yeah. There was nothing funny about you anymore.

I'm sorry. Truly sorry. I apologize to you right now for her behavior. But, know this - no amount of disapproving glances you shot my way will ever compare to the how much my inner monologue will berate myself in the days and weeks to come. Your nasty looks filled with judgment and skepticism of my ability to be a parent have done nothing but tear at the fragile fibers already barely hold together my confidence of being a mom. Each narrowed eye stare sent my way makes me ask myself - Where did I go wrong? What should I have done differently? Every head shake of disapproval makes me wonder if maybe we should have just stayed home? And, the larger implications of your reaction to my daughter's behavior? It makes me questions my over all ability to be a parent. Maybe I'm not cut out of be a mom. It makes me doubt myself, even though I know in my heart, I am a good mom.

And, so, a word of advice - stop. Stop with the nasty looks and the disapproving stares. It doesn't help. Perhaps what you can do next time you is give me one of those nice, I know what your going through smiles. Perhaps a quick glance of understanding. Even the knowing nod of having been there done that. Because, it will make a world of difference. It just might be the one small thing that helps hold together my parental confidence and makes it stronger - especially in those moments you are witnessing - when I probably need it the most.

10 comments:

Molly Louise said...

You parent how you see fit. Nobody else knows your daughter the way you do. And, honestly, they probably couldn't handle what you do on a daily basis. I bet you know where I could tell them to stuff their disapproving glares

There is no Mommy Manual because not all children are the same. Not only would that be pretty damn boring, but also really frightening. Just imagine about a million of me on the planet. Enough to give you nightmares.

Bottom line: You know in your heart you're a good mama. And that, sister dear, is all that counts.

thenameisbeth said...

I would have done the same thing.

No, I HAVE done the same thing.

We have walked out of stores, restaurants, even events because of day care.

It's never easy. I hate having to punish my kids, but I know they'll be stronger people because of it.

Connie W said...

I just ignore people. I do what I need to do and get on with it. I'll likely never see them again anyway.

It does get better....

Dana said...

We all have the times with our children that they throw a temper tantrum in very public places. The people that shake their heads, roll their eyes, and giving you disapproving stares are just judgmental in all parts of their lives instead of being understanding and helpful. I have seen you with your daughter and you are a WONDERFUL mom!!!

I agree with Molly...all children are different and you know her best.

Nicki said...

I can't imagine a parent who hasn't been in this situation. Be happy there were only looks. And, then, ignore them!

I was in the mall with my daughter. Somewhere in the store we were in there was a child throwing a screaming tantrum. A woman came looking for the screams, actually peering down aisles in the shoe department looking for where the tantrum was coming from. She literally looked and me and said "I want to see what is going on." Not me! I felt for the poor mother - who was probably my daughter's age (23) - as this woman went in search of the screaming child. The only reason I know how old the mother might be is she eventually left the store as we were checking out, child still strapped in the stroller and trying to get out as she screamed at her mother to let her out.

amylou1977 said...

everyone's kids have moments like these and the bad looks are stupid

rachel... said...

I enjoyed the honesty of this post. My oldest daughter was prone to public tantrums like this when she was younger. And yes, the stares and obvious disaproval are so much worse than the screaming kid. It's been a while since we've had a public fit like the one you've described, but when we see another child melting down in public, I always try and offer an understanding smile toward the Mom or Dad, because I HAVE been there. And I'm thinking "There but for the grace of the universe, goes my kid."

Loukia said...

I cannot stand it when other people give me dirty looks or look at me like I'm not a good parent if one of my children is acting up or having a tantrum. OH the dirty looks I give back!!!!! GIVE ME A BREAK, you know? How about some sympathy? A knowing smile? Saying 'I've been there before'... that should would be so much better, huh? We've all been there, mama!

Kameron said...

Do not let anyone else make you feel like a bad parent. After I had my experience on the airplane with that lady I realized that no one can know what your unique situation is. They don't know if your child is exhausted, hungry, has some kind of behavioral issue and they shouldn't judge. I always make it a point to smile at parents who are struggling with their kids. I know how it feels and want them to know they aren't alone. It is not a reflection of how good of a parent you are. Don't let it get to you. HUGS!!

Kim ~ One Nutty Mama said...

The ones giving the nasty looks have never been alone with a child in public let alone try to get anything done too. They have definately never been a mother. ANY real mom would have taken pity on you for the time you are spending stuck in a toddler tantrum not by your own choice. Give you the knowing/pitying smile and a whispered it will get better once they grow out of the irrational cave-kid phase.