The storm began in the cereal aisle, as many storms do.
By the time they reached the checkout lanes, what began as a bad case of the “I wants” by the small boy had reached hurricane strength. Childless strangers rolled their eyes in disgust. People behind the young mom and her Category Five son moved to other, more peaceful, lines. A few smiled sympathetically toward the woman who was just trying to hold it together long enough to pay.
And one customer, who I’m sure meant well, made the situation worse. Quick tip: if a child is having a tantrum in public and that child is not yours, do not under any circumstances tell the child’s mother how she should handle it. Keep your parenting advice to yourself. Just keep walking.
Or you can do what I did.
I happened to follow the pair to the parking lot and watched as Mom unlocked the topper on her pickup. Then, she told the wailing boy to get inside. She stood behind the truck where he could see her and lit a cigarette. When he tried to get out from under the topper, she pointed and told him to get back in until he was calm.
This mama was impressive, let me tell you. There was no drama or yelling. No spankings. She has already learned that trying to distract, shame, or jolly any kid out of a tantrum is like spitting into the wind. And so, on a sunny day in a full parking lot, she waited for her boy to come through the storm on his own.
After I put my shopping cart away, I walked over to where the mom stood. Her boy was still raging and had added kicking the inside of the truck bed to his rage repertoire. I told Mom she was doing a good job. She looked surprised and grateful and said, “Thanks. A few minutes ago, a different lady in the store tried to tell me how to handle my own kid. He’s my son. I knew what he needed. He needed this.”
Oh, sweet, young, tired, mortified, mothers of boys (and girls) who throw tantrums. I’m sorry those of us who’ve been there and waited out storms ourselves don’t stop enough to offer words of encouragement when you need it most. Whoever you are, and whatever it may look like to the outside world, you are doing a good job.