This story will make you want to hug the next mom whose kid is having an epic public tantrum
Public meltdowns and toddler tantrums can make you go from feeling like an all-star parent to a Class A Failure in less than 30 seconds. When your kid is causing a scene in the middle of a store, not much can make moms and dads feel lower than they do in that moment. Which is why this viral post about how one mom approached another mom, in the thick of a meltdown, could serve as a good lesson for all of us.
Mom and writer Katie McLaughlin was in Target recently (because if anything kid-related is gonna go down in a store, it’s for sure going to be Target) when she noticed a mom desperately trying to check out while her child was kicking and screaming. Since we’ve all been there, McLaughlin wanted to offer some support in the moment — without stepping on the mom’s toes.
“I tried to catch the mom’s eye and give her an empathetic look, but she was too busy wrestling with her daughter to notice me,” McLaughlin writes on Facebook.
She says the mom was doing everything “right,” lest anyone around her or anyone reading the post judge her. “She remained calm,” McLaughlin writes. “She spoke to her child in a gentle, reassuring tone. She was as attentive as she could be while also attempting to pay for her assortment of $10 tees and seasonal decor.”
HOO BOY, is this my actual life? I bypassed the “terrible twos” completely but two weeks before my daughter’s third birthday, she is now making up for lost time in experiencing Big Emotions.
McLaughlin says that despite the mom’s best efforts, her child was not having it and continued to melt down. “The mom still stayed calm, but I noticed her cheeks were very flushed as she apologized profusely to the cashier.” She wanted to say something encouraging to the mom, but debated about it — because sometimes we just want to get the hell out of there and pretend it never happened.
But other times, hearing some words of solidarity is just the balm our weary souls need. As McLaughlin witnessed the tantrum continue outside of the store, she approached the mom while she was buckling her screaming child into her car seat.
“I felt exasperated just observing, so I knew the mom’s blood pressure must be sky high,” she writes. “Go to her, Katie, I thought again. This time I did. ‘Sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to say you’re doing a great job.'”
She says the mom looked up at her and immediately started crying. “I nodded. ‘I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but you are rocking this.’ More tears. ‘You have no idea how much I needed to hear that.’”
But we all know, don’t we? While we don’t have to approach every single parent we see in the weeds, offering words of support and encouragement are probably welcomed more than they’re not. When I was flying home after a work trip this summer, I noticed a mom flying solo with three young kids. She was by herself after a canceled flight and an overnight stay in the airport. She was calm, attentive, and fully engaged with all three of her kids the entire time, even though there’s no doubt she had to have been exhausted and Over It. So I tapped her on the shoulder as we exited the plane to tell her I thought she was an awesome mom. Trust me, we all need to hear it — even when we’re killing it.
McLaughlin thinks we need to spread some of that goodness and put more of it into the world. “Empathy instead of judgment,” she writes. “Support instead of silence. Community instead of isolation. This is the parenting revolution.”