Have you ever seen an adult dragging a small child kicking and screaming down the street, stuffing them in a vehicle and peeling off down the road? Just so you know, it might be me. I sometimes wonder if you passers-by have a moment of concern about this situation. I wouldn’t be offended if you took a second look, I’m all about protecting children.
No doubt you would soon notice that A) the shrieking midget in question bears a striking resemblance to her “kidnapper” and B) the perpetrator is exhausted, overwhelmed and most likely close to tears herself. No one WANTS to be that parent, the one getting all the pitying and/or disapproving looks on the way to the grocery checkout. If you think it’s a pain to be stuck on an airplane with a crying baby, try being the Mom who feels the weight of everyone’s displeasure.
I remember the good, old days. The “I have one well-behaved child” days when everything was neat and orderly, and I had all the answers. I knew in theory that there might be more to a situation than I could see, yet my inner dialogue usually went something like this “Tut Tut… listen to that bratty child carry on. Some consistent discipline and clear expectations is just what she needs. I would never let MY child behave like that.”
It’s not that my opinions and experience as a parent and daycare teacher were wrong. Reality is just so much more complicated (and exhausting) than all the theory in the world. I look back at that smug, certain parent I used to be and I cringe. I was so quick to offer answers and advice, so sure that I understood the challenges of parenting… so completely untested.
So, next time you witness a monumental melt-down give me a break. If you have to look, look closer. My daughter may be 7, but she is developmentally delayed and so are her emotions. There may be a long and complex back-story to this split second in history. There may be extenuating circumstances. Or there may be no good reason whatsoever, just a bad day all around.
This afternoon as my howling child trotted down the sidewalk of a busy street, all by herself, in the rain, without a jacket – it was all of the above. She had just had a blood test. It happens every few months and lately, each one is worse than the last. While two lab techs hold her flailing arms down, I try to keep her still, pin her legs down with my own and sing”Jesus Loves Me” in her ear. I haven’t yet found a way to make her understand how necessary this is. No amount of candy bribes, stage appropriate explanations and fun games in the waiting room seem to make a difference. She gives me a look of such utter betrayal each time. Then it gets even worse when they slap on the band-aid, something she hates almost as much as the needle itself. The minute she was off my lap today, she was out the door and down the street with me in hot pursuit.
In the end, it was only a moment in time, a bad moment, but over quickly. She’s happy now, showing off her war wound and telling her daddy all about her “dee-do” (which we think means needle). She is painting a picture with bingo daubers while her sisters are doing a science experiment (aka – messing up my kitchen). And suddenly I’m feeling like a good mom again, but I’m pretty sure I was this afternoon too, even though it didn’t look like it.
So here’s me, with a lot fewer answers, and hopefully, a lot more compassion for the next tantruming child I meet.