You don’t earn your stripes as a mom until your kid throws a public tantrum. I’m not talking about a few tears or whining in the supermarket because you refuse to buy Cookies ‘N’ Cream breakfast cereal (blech by the way). I’m talking about epic shit — screaming until their face turns violet, throwing their little body to the floor and assuming the starfish pose … you know, that signature leg-stiffening “you’re crazy if you think you’re getting me into that car seat, lady” move. Fun times.
The first time your kid throws a full-on nuclear grade meltdown (and if it hasn’t happened, it will), karma and her infinite wisdom will make sure you remember every mom of a tantruming child you’ve ever judged. You know you’ve done it, probably pre-kid. You see a mom whose child is losing it and you think stuff like “My kid would NEVER do that” or “I’d be doing X instead of Y if my kid was acting that way.”
It’s all well and good until the shoe is on the other foot.
Australian mother, blogger, and self-proclaimed freedom fighter Constance Hall addressed a mother’s response to kid tantrums on her Facebook page earlier this week.
She posted about hearing a friend refer to a mother of a child melting down in a cafe as “just sitting there.”
“A friend told me she saw a mum in a café whose kid was throwing a royal f*ckery of a tantrum and she had the audacity to just sit there…”
Constance offered another perspective:
“I’ve been that mum. I have bribed, begged, stroked a child during a tantrum, I have lugged that child to the car, I reminded myself that it’s going to be ok and repeatedly told my child that I loved him, that she was going to see consequences if she didn’t stop.”
She also went on to say that there have been times she felt like responding with a tantrum of her own and that she’d also been that mom who sat there and did nothing. She challenged her friend to see the mom who is “always there” while her child melts down instead of the mom who “just sat there.”
Sure, there can be consequences for throwing a fit but it’s almost impossible to stop the train once a tantrum really gets going. Our small humans have free will and although we can threaten, bribe, and (attempt to) reason, we can’t make them stop the show until they’re ready. Fortunately, Constance Hall is right in that “time heals all tantrums.”
I was that mom last week. My kid stayed up late and woke up crabby … because of course. I sent him off to school with a silent prayer for his teacher. By late afternoon, I could see a storm brewing behind the eyes of my normally sweet-tempered 6-year-old and I knew it was just a matter of time before some random thing triggered the beast.
I didn’t have to wait long.
Someone looked at him the wrong way at soccer practice so he decided to sit down in the middle of the field and scream like a banshee. I pulled him to the sidelines and told him to knock it off — because that’s what we do, right?
He responded by turning up the volume.
I sat there next to my screaming kid and — wait for it — did absolutely nada. There was a mixed bag of reactions from other parents. There were smiles of understanding along with some side eye. I’m sure someone was tsk-tsking under their breath because I wasn’t making more of an effort to squelch my kid’s terrible behavior. Whatever.
It stopped itself in less than five minutes, as I knew it would. My son decided running around and kicking a ball was preferable to sitting in the grass and crying and just like that, we were done.
I made him apologize to his coach for disrupting practice. We talked about what had happened on the way home. He was tired. He’s 6. It happens. Kids throw tantrums. They react to the stuff that’s going on in their little worlds in a way that makes sense in their little kid brains. Sometimes we don’t like it. It embarrasses us. It frustrates us. It is what it is.
It’s called parenting.
The next time your child throws a lulu of a meltdown, take a deep breath. Batten down the hatches. Visualize the wine that’s in the fridge for later. Hope for the best.
And be there.
Because, as Constance Hall reminds us, “Being there and doing nothing are two very different things.”