There was a time when I would get a lot of anxiety about being out in public with my very active (loud, rambunctious, overly silly, and often mischievous) children. My older one, in particular, is often the source of my internal anxiety when out in public. He is often “THAT kid.”
This post may contain affiliate links.
You know THAT kid, right? The kid who has emotional outbursts at the drop of a pin, the one you have to carry kicking and screaming out of the grocery store, the one that is prone to licking other children.
When THAT Kid is YOUR Kid, Life Can Sometimes Be Tough
Yes, we are all familiar with THAT kid. But when that kid is YOUR kid, life can sometimes be tough.
And I know from personal experience that it can sometimes make you feel as though you are a total failure at this mom thing.
There was a time when my oldest was four-years-old and my youngest just one when I decided that I would no longer take them both out of the house by myself unless absolutely necessary.
The Panera Incident
This decision followed the Panera incident. On the day of the Panera incident, I picked my older son up from preschool. I thought I would surprise him by taking him and his younger brother to Panera for an afterschool treat.
My children are normally excited to indulge in one of Panera’s chocolate chipper cookies. This day was no different. My son exclaimed “YES! I get to have a cookie!” That was the high point of the day. Things went rapidly downhill from there.
While my memory of exactly what happened that day is a bit fuzzy, the way I felt is crystal clear. My older son wasn’t happy about his cookie. Either part of his cookie fell on the floor, or his cookie wasn’t as big as his brother’s. The event that triggered the reaction is much less vivid than the tantrum that ensued.
All of a sudden, my son started screaming, really, really loud. His cookie was no longer acceptable. And I couldn’t appease him. As the screaming got louder, my body began to stiffen. I could feel my body heat start to rise. Desperately, and in as calm a voice as I could muster, I gently said: “you can have some of my cookie.”
But, oh no, that wasn’t good enough.
He threw his little body on the ground, he started kicking along with his screams, and he adamantly refused to get up. This tantrum continued in the very crowded Panera for what felt like an eternity. I begged him to get up so we could leave. I tried bribing him with another cookie.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to shrink away. I wanted to turn around and run out of there as fast as I could. But I couldn’t. I had a 1-year old in a stroller that I had to push. But more distressing was that I had a 4-year old refusing to move from the aisle. I was desperate for a way out.
It’s Okay to Feel Shame, Embarrassment, and Anger
On the inside, I felt shame, embarrassment, and anger. On the outside, I tried to maintain composure but I was sure that my face was completely red. I tried to appear quiet, calm, in control of the situation.
With a small prayer, and with as much strength as I could muster, I picked up THAT kid (a very heavy 4-year old by the way), threw him over my shoulder (still kicking and screaming), and pushed the stroller as fast as I could, with my head down, averting all eye contact.
I somehow managed to get to the car, strap both kids in their car seats, and throw all our stuff in the trunk, before the tears started to flow.
What was I doing wrong? Why could I not control my kid’s behavior? Why was I such a failure at this mom thing?
Looking back, I think I handled the situation in the best way that I could. But at the time, I was convinced that I was a terrible parent and that everyone knew it. If you are a parent, you’ve probably had at least one incident where you felt like a terrible parent, where it was your kid that was THAT kid.
In that moment, you too may have felt embarrassment, shame, or anger. And that is okay.
Being a Parent is Being Vulnerable
These are human emotions that we all have when we feel vulnerable. And let’s face it, being a parent means being vulnerable all the time.
It reminds me of Elizabeth Stone’s quote: “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Yes, that exactly describes the vulnerability we all must embrace as parents.
Whatever the reason for my child’s behavior during the Panera incident, what I’ve learned since then is that it is moments like these that strengthen our character as parents. They teach us endurance, patience, love, and humility. They teach us that it is okay and normal to be vulnerable.
You are not alone in your struggles as a mom. We’ve all been there.
Not too long ago I was again at Panera, this time with two rowdy little boys mischievously running around the restaurant. A mom stopped me to say, “in moments like these I remind myself that the days are long but the years are short. You are doing a good job, mom.”
This comment by a fellow mom reminded me of the earlier Panera incident. But more importantly, her comment reminded me that I am not alone in my struggles as a mom.
As a mother, each day is filled with its own challenges. But, as moms, we can rest in the knowledge that we’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced having our hearts on the outside of our bodies.
And eventually there will be less public tantrums (thank GOD). Yes, it really does get better as they get older.
And we will miss those moments when our children needed us to hold it together on the outside even though we were completely losing it on the inside.
To all the moms of THAT kid, you are doing a good job!
With Love and Joy,