Turn It Around

6 years ago

Unless you're a perfect parent, with perfect children, or a much better disciplinarian than I am, you're well accustomed to the dreaded adult-stare your toddlers can garner when out in public.

Maybe they're playing a bit too loud. Maybe they knock into someone accidentally. Maybe they're actually tantruming, and you're left holding the bag. Whatever the reason, some adult is giving you the death-glare, shooting daggers right into your happy little family unit. It's hard to describe in words on a page just how that look of disgust, shock and utter judgment feels. I'll just trust you know about it.

This happens to me a lot. Shocker, I know. When the girls were just 15 months to 2 years old, these looks petrified me. I chose where we went very carefully, to avoid angering or bothering any possible adult in the near vicinity. As they grew into lively 2.5 to 3 year olds, we had to get out more, meaning we got more looks. You'd be amazed how many adults feel it's totally okay to wrinkle their faces in disgust at someone just trying to live their own life. And it's not like I'm not on top of it. The girls are loud for two to three minutes tops before I can calm them down, and if I can't, well, I football hold them out of there. All 80 pounds of them. I'm all over it.

Still, those first six months were mortifying. I believed them, those adults. I believed that I was the worst mother ever, and I had the worst kids ever. I was so embarrassed, almost all of the time. It was no way to live. I continued on, and, eventually, I got used to this unbecoming adult behavior. I usually ignore it, but yesterday, I'd simply had enough.

The patent adult stare of disgust is, in its way, a tantrum of its own, is it not? The only difference is that it's quiet. And isn't that a major difference between children and adults? That they are loud where we are quiet? That being the case, why should adults be let off the hook for throwing a tantrum--directed at me, no less--right out in public. I should scold my toddlers but these grown ups get off Scot free? No. I'm done.

Perhaps my children aren't the only ones who need to learn a lesson, who need to be called on their behavior.

Yesterday, I was in the Goodwill with my twins, doing our yearly dump-the-old-toys run. I usually let them inside for a bit after the drop off, and on this day, they'd found an old broken shell of a camera that they were sharing beautifully. Until the end. Just as we were about to leave, one of them freaked out over having to share it and dissolved into loud, toddler-crocodile tears. She wailed away for about 30 seconds before I got to her, and I talked her down. The whole scene took no more than three minutes from start to finish.

There was a couple in line who stared at me, absolutely aghast, as if I were the worst mother in the world and should never leave the house again. When I looked up from my now-calmed child, I saw the woman still gaping at me. Really? I'd finally had enough.

I squatted down to my child, and said in a very loud voice:

"Dulce, would you like to apologize to that lady for making her stare at me in utter shock and disgust while you tantrumed?"

Dulce looked up at me, wide-eyed, and shook her head.

"That's okay," I said. "Just remember that some grown up people aren't used to little girls making a ruckus."

And we left.

Kids do things that kids do. Adults do things that adults do. When you are an adult, and you do something that a child would do, regardless of how quietly, it's unbecoming and unattractive. Think about where you are. Think about the family on the other end of your weapon.

By all means, if a parent just ignores a screaming kid for a while, well, retaliate as you should. But for those of us (most of us!) like me who are working their hardest to keep everything under control, give us a break. Your tantrum isn't making your experience any better, is it? It's not making mine any better either. And you probably don't like when it's turned around on you like that. So what's the point?

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