Our First Public Freak Out

Monday, January 2, 2012
We've been pretty lucky with Henry. While he certainly has his share of tantrums and does often enjoy multiple timeouts per day, he is a very good kid. Typically, a near perfect angel in public. Today, however, he dealt us a new card.

When we go to Target, he helps put the stuff on the cart. So, as we checked out at Menards today, he wanted to do the same thing. Unfortunately, this Menards has a bit of a backward system, at least in comparison to Target. The cashier was taking things from us and then put them down a belt so Ryan could bag them. Henry handed two items to the man, but after attempting to get him to hand over the third item a full-fledged, two year old freak out fest occurred. There was screaming. Lots of it. The screaming occurred simultaneously with jumping around in the cart uncontrollably to the point that I had to hang on to Claire's seat for safety reasons.

You've seen this scenario play out many times in stores, just as I have with other people's kids. In fact, I just saw it on Friday night at the grocery store. Sadly, that mom chose to yell right back to her kid and angrily grabbed her purse and walked away from the child and threatened to leave her there as she left the girl in the produce section. I try not to judge, but crappy parents suck, and it hurts my heart to watch those types of things because you wonder what happens behind closed doors.

I could have done a number of things in this situation. I could have done what that mom did, walk away in utter frustration. Some parents spank and some parents yell and threaten. While I won't deny that I haven't raised my voice, we haven't and will never hit, and we don't make empty, useless, and hurtful threats. To keep my cool in the most embarrassing situation Henry has provided for us, I chose to giggle. As heads turned and watched Henry in his freak out fest, I turned away and laughed. There was no point in yelling, and I wasn't about to drag him kicking and screaming out of the store either. And I kept laughing even as the guy behind us looked at me funny. "Yes sir, my kid is screaming, and I'm laughing". (Henry couldn't see me, of course.)

Henry wasn't calm, so as the parent, I needed to be. Henry just needed a few minutes to get it out and then he'd be calm enough to talk to. You can't force a child to calm down on your timeline. At this age, he's definitely still learning how to regulate his emotions, so trying to force that won't help a kid out at all. I also reminded myself that he is 2, hadn't had a nap, and had just spent two hours in Menards. Expecting an over tired 2 year old to behave is about as silly as expecting the laundry to do itself. It just doesn't happen. And it was our fault for taking him during nap time in the first place.

After 2 or 3 minutes of straight screaming, he did calm down. And then I talked to him. I used the word "embarrassed", which I don't know why...he totally doesn't understand that yet. But, for whatever reason, he thought that was a funny word to say and was then in a fit of laughter. He apologized for screaming and yelling and we grabbed our receipt and left. It was all done.

I won't pretend to be a perfect parent and I know I have and likely will make some mistakes in the next 18 years, but I try to do the absolute best that I can and actually think about the things I do and say in terms of parenting Henry and how my choice of actions reflects on Henry and myself as a parent. I won't deny that there are trying days, and bedtime is actually looked forward to sometimes. But no matter how hard the day was, I am always just as excited to see that smiling face the next morning. Parenting is difficult, that is for sure. But that smiling face and that sweet, tiny voice that says "I love you too, mommy." every single day makes every second worth it. The screaming. The poop. The frustrations. It's all worth it.

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