A letter from a tantrum throwing toddler Mom at Target

Dear random people in the store today,

Yes. Me here.

The one whose once sweet-and-calm daughter sitting in the cart turned not-so-sweet-and-calm. Yeah, whose headband was no longer in, hair was everywhere, nose was snotty, and was acting completely unruly. Guilty as charged. Well, I just wanted to tell you a few things.

I’m home now. That little girl is now in bed. She was tired and hungry and not feeling so well. Today. I have to admit, that’s not always- or maybe usually- the case when these sorts of things happen. Sometimes she is just testing limits and being rebellious. Sometimes she is just straight up defiant and naughty and rude. And sometimes I’m just not doing what I should as a parent and it’s my fault.

I totally agree (assuming by that look on your face) that us parents need to control our kids in public. That discipline is necessary. That children need to learn to sit still and obey. That no one wants their casual and relaxing walk down the aisles of Target and Old Navy to be interrupted by a crying child. I get it. But please do not assume that parents are not doing their job every time you see a child act up in public. I’m not a perfect Mom. I do not have a perfect child. Once again, I’m not arguing that our kid’s behaviors do not reflect our parenting at times.

But, hopefully we have friends, family, and mentors speaking into our lives, calling out blind spots, and helping us navigate this disciplining and loving and raising our kids thing. There is a place for that. I need it in my life for sure. However, a small piece of advice from one mom: a judgmental person in the store never helped anybody learn how to be a better parent.

So instead, please give grace.

I left the store not only feeling irritated but also embarrassed and isolated. No one around me made me feel those things. No one said anything or even really did anything in particular. But I don’t think we as fellow shoppers or bystanders (myself included) always realize how big of a difference we can actually make in those moments.

A reoccurring word I have heard used particularly by new moms is lonely. Being a mom really does feel lonely some days. I used to think that loneliness would mostly be a battle for stay at home parents, because “staying home” can be lonely. But, I have realized people can feel alone even when they are around lots of other people. It’s not uncommon to leave a social event with a child and feel like it wasn’t even worth the effort or to wonder why we even went. Sometimes getting kids out of the house in one (somewhat) presentable piece is a challenge enough. Sometimes we as moms feel safer, and less isolated, getting back in our own homes than we do being out in public.

So, as silly as it sounds, let’s let parents who are out with their kids know that they are welcome. That we are glad they joined us. That their kids are not burdens, or less-thans, or mere distractions. That they do not “belong at home.” That we see them and their kids and that we want them and welcome them.

The people who have been willing to say things to me like “you’re doing good mama” or “it’s a tough job” or “I’ve been there too” have made a bigger difference than I could ever express. Even the people who have been intentional enough to catch my eye and give me a genuine and gentle smile. I promise, fellow shopper, it will go a long way. It could be the difference in that mom getting in her car and thinking “it’s going to be okay” or “never doing that again.”

So I think what I’m trying to say is, please remember we are trying. We are learning.

In turn, it will give me hope to look at my snotty nosed, messy haired, momentarily unruly kid and remember that they are learning too. And that it is going to be okay. And that we are not alone here.

Tantrum throwing toddler Mom at Target

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