To The Parent Of the Tantruming Child

Much has been made in the last few days about a woman who decided to tell a Mom of a tantruming child to quiet her child in the check out lane. Words were exchanged, and then the woman who spoke to the mother ended up being punched in the face by the mother.

What amazes me is the comments on articles I’ve read, PRAISING the mom! Uh, no. Unless someone is being physically attacked, there is no righteousness in assaulting another person, period. So, the Mom lost any validity she had with me by that action. “A stranger shoots her mouth off, now Mommy goes to jail.” is not something children should be taught. Plus, if a stranger can tip you over the edge to physical violence, I worry about how the Mom deals with stress in her every day life of parenting, and what the children are experiencing.

That being said…

Parents of tantrumming child

To The Parent Of The Tantruming Child,

I see you. I’ve been you. I know what it’s like to have your normally good kid suddenly lose whatever mind they possess, and become s shrieking, thrashing, demon possessed Hellion in the middle of the grocery store. Or clothing store. Or anywhere. I would love to go up to you, pat you on the shoulder, and assure you that this, too, shall pass. (However, I WON’T be like the elderly woman on the bus, who told me, with not a little malicious glee, “Don’t worry Dear…one day he’ll be a teenager!” Cause that’s just cruel.)

I know what it’s like to feel humiliated, like you’re failing any parenting test that ever was, to feel the scorn of people’s glares and can hear their muttered comments like someone’s blaring them like a megaphone in your ear.

I know, too, that “Well, just take the child out!” isn’t always possible, for a myriad of reasons.

I was a single mom. Child needed meds, for an ear infection, a fever. There was no choice but to get what we needed. Or groceries for the house, because otherwise, we had no bread or milk.

I have other friends whose spouses are in the military, and away.

The whole attitude of, “Just come back another time!” just isn’t realistic.

I’m the first parent to hustle a kid out of the public area when they start up…unless I can’t. And I’ve been in the, “I can’t” situation. I get it.

I also know that I don’t know you. I don’t know your child. I don’t know if your spouse just died, and your world is blown apart. I don’t know if you’ve just come out of a women’s shelter, with the mark of someone else’s anger still imprinted in bruises upon your body, your heart and mind. I don’t know what daily struggles you may be facing.

I also know I don’t know your child. I have no idea if your child has sensory issues that make a trip to the grocery store an unavoidable trip through Hell for him. The lighting, the crashing of carts, the stampede of people crushing in around him, the scents and sights and sounds so overwhelming him that falling apart is the only attempt he has of relieving such overwhelming, painful sensory overload.

I know what I know, and what I don’t know.

Is it possible that your child is simply a spoiled spawn of Hell? And that you’re an uncaring parent, out to inflict your screaming, shrieking child on everyone else, and don’t care? Sure. But, what good would that do, to have that assumption in my head? What good would it do to cast glares and harsh comments in your direction? What good would it do to make a bad situation worse?

None. None at all.

So, for you, the parent of the tantruming child, I smile in your direction. Because I’ve been there. It’s a smile of sympathy, of empathy, of comrades in arms from one parent in the trenches to another. I’m not brave enough to approach you, because I worry that you might think I was judging you, or about to insult you, so I stay where I am, with my full cart, and if I catch your eye, smile, and give a nod of understanding. I’d love to be able to wave a magic wand, be able to make it stop, but I don’t have one. I’d love to offer you a cup of coffee, a slice of cheesecake, or chocolate of your choice.

I’ve been there. And this too shall pass.


And a note to the bystanders: Your snide comments, glares, huffy sighs are no more helpful than a kick in the head. No parent of a tantruming child needs someone else to make them notice what their child is doing. Rest assured, the vast majority of parents feel horrible enough about the situation without your input. So keep it to yourself.

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To The Parent Of the Tantruming Child — 15 Comments

  1. I was a judgy non-parent once, but I had the good sense not to say anything to the lady. Good thing too because at another time I had the opportunity to strike up a conversation with her and learned that the child I was judging was autistic. I was still embarrassed, but it taught me an invaluable lesson.

    Several months ago I had to remove someone from my friends list because she got reprimanded at her job in a retail store for recording a video of a child having a tantrum in the store and shared it on Facebook. The child’s mother went to store management, and I find that lucky that my former friend wasn’t fired. While all her friends were siding with her, I dared to call her out and she got defensive.

  2. Great letter! It’s true we don’t know what that women was going through. I still don’t think it’s was worth punching someone though, not to mention her child probably saw her do it.

    Perhaps too the comment woman could have asked “can I help” instead of “calm your child”. It makes me sad that society has gone to so much an “I” world.

    • Absolutely no excuse for assaulting someone, I totally agree.

      I don’t think the other woman was interested in being supportive, in the slightest. She was being critical and insulting, as a choice. Unfortunately, we’re seeing a very divisive way of looking at children, to both extremes. There is the extreme that children should be indulged regardless, welcome everywhere, and nobody should ever object…then we have the other extreme that children are not to be in public unless they’re perfectly well behaved, and even then, not really.

      The middle, ‘common sense’ ground seems to be missing.

  3. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this post! Not only have I received the dirty looks and the muttered comments for having a child with me in meltdown mode, but it seems that even if they are being good and just get a little silly you get your fair share of judgement, too. It gets to where going out with a child in tow is an instant ticket to some amount of embarrassment, and I’ll never understand it.

    I also am the mom who gives a comforting smile and nod to other parents, even if I don’t have a kid with me, and I always appreciate it when I receive the same when the tables are turned.

    What surprises me most is not the childless judges, but the ones who are clearly parents.

    • Thanks, Brandyn! Those that are also parents, I wonder if they have some sort of amnesia? Like the way a woman can’t *exactly* remember the pain of labour after a while?

  4. I so appreciate this letter! My son is one with sensory issues, and you explained his grocery store meltdowns exactly. There are good days when he can handle it, but some days he just can’t. I’ve gotten my fair share of dirty looks and “What’s wrong with him?”. I so, so appreciate you adding in sensory issues to your post! I think it is something very often overlooked.

    • One of my best friends, her ds has Autism. I freely admit, before being blessed by having her and her family in my life, sensory issues likely wouldn’t have occurred to me. Thankfully, I now know better.

      I also know how painful it is for my BFF when ignorant ppl cast judgement, glares, and comments her way, and I’m so sorry you’ve had that experience.

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