*This article appears in the May 2014 issue of Parent News*
Every toddler (and preschooler) melts down in public. It’s simply unavoidable. One of my children particularly hated the grocery store. Rather, she hated that I would not let her walk in the grocery store. While I would have loved to indulge her desire to explore, the majority of the time it just wasn’t feasible. So in the cart she’d go and within minutes, the screaming began, regardless of what rewards I had for to keep her composure. Snacks, small toys, my phone…it didn’t matter. She was mad and she wanted me to know it. Unfortunately, kind (nosey) strangers often felt the need to mention that she was probably hungry or tired. I know her tantrums were a bother to other shoppers, but honestly, I was stuck. Trust me, when I had the luxury or going without her, I did. Sometimes that just wasn’t possible.
I know the screaming wasn’t pleasant for others. It wasn’t pleasant for me either. And I did my best to be as quick and gentle about it as I could. I hustle from produce to frozen foods. I’d try to quietly talk to my daughter about how it was almost over. I’d give strangers apologetic nods. I did what I could. What I couldn’t do, however, was leave. I needed groceries. And if I did throw in the towel, I would almost be rewarding the bad behavior. You screamed and now you’re out of the store and cart, just like you want. No ma’am.
Today, when I see other moms going through the same, I give them reassuring nods. I get it. I’m sympathetic. Been there, sister.
Over the weekend, however, I had a new experience that got me thinking. My family and I headed down to the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston. We were pretty excited about getting a tour of the sea turtle hospital – something we’ve heard a lot about in many of the fantastic sea turtle programs hosted by the Myrtle Beach State Park.
We gladly paid extra for the tour and planned our day around it. When it started, a preschool-aged little one began to fuss, which led to a full-blown screamfest. The tour group was filled with other parents and kids, so the tolerance level was pretty high. The tantrum hit the five-minute mark and other kids were visibly unhappy. At ten minutes, the tour guide was shooting looks. At 15 minutes, even I was losing it a little. Because of the tantrum, it was hard to hear and follow along.
In this mom’s defense, she also paid extra for the tour, just like we did. She had other children with her who were angels and excited about the tour. She was in a tough spot. Leave as to not continue to bother other tour participants or stay, managing the issue the best she could? If she left, she disappointed her other children and let her little one win. If she stayed, she continued to annoy fellow participants, but allowed her other children to see the turtles and proved the point that a tantrum doesn’t get you what you want. It’s a tough call.
She chose to stay and I had mixed feelings about that. If I had been in a restaurant, I would leave. In fact, I have left. If I was in a movie, I would leave. Again, I have left. What’s interesting, though, is that the unhappy little one eventually calmed down. She, with her family, got to tour the hospital without imposing on other guests. Maybe I jumped the gun on leaving in my earlier parenting years. Maybe I should have waited it out a bit longer. I’m not sure where that fine line is between waiting it out and being inconsiderate. Maybe, in this case, Mom was evaluating her surroundings. Had the tour been filled with older participants or non-parents, she would have made a different decision.
Photo credit: Flickr
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