Get widget

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Turn It Around

Unless you're a perfect parent, with perfect children, or a much better disciplinarian than I am, you're well accustomed to the dreaded adult-stare your toddlers can garner when out in public.

Maybe they're playing a bit too loudly. Maybe they knock into someone accidentally. Maybe they're actually tantruming, and you're left holding the bag. Whatever the reason, some adult is giving you the death-glare, shooting daggers right into your happy little family unit. It's hard to describe in words on a page just how that look of disgust, shock and utter judgment feels. I'll just trust you know about it.

This happens to me a lot. Shocker, I know. When the girls were just 15 months to 2 years old, these looks petrified me. I chose where we went very carefully, to avoid angering or bothering any possible adult in the near vicinity. As they grew into lively 2.5 to 3 year olds, we had to get out more, meaning we got more looks. You'd be amazed how many adults feel it's totally okay to wrinkle their faces in disgust at someone just trying to live their own life. And it's not like I'm not on top of it. The girls are loud for two to three minutes tops before I can calm them down, and if I can't, well, I football hold them out of there. All 80 pounds of them. I'm all over it.

Still, those first six months were mortifying. I believed them, those adults. I believed that I was the worst mother ever, and I had the worst kids ever. I was so embarrassed, almost all of the time. It was no way to live. I continued on, and, eventually, I got used to this unbecoming adult behavior. I usually ignore it, but yesterday, I'd simply had enough.

The patent adult stare of disgust is, in its way, a tantrum of its own, is it not? The only difference is that it's quiet. And isn't that a major difference between children and adults? That they are loud where we are quiet? That being the case, why should adults be let off the hook for throwing a tantrum--directed at me, no less--right out in public. I should scold my toddlers but these grown ups get off Scot free? No. I'm done.

Perhaps my children aren't the only ones who need to learn a lesson, who need to be called on their behavior.

Yesterday, I was in the Goodwill with my twins, doing our yearly dump-the-old-toys run. I usually let them inside for a bit after the drop off, and on this day, they'd found an old broken shell of a camera that they were sharing beautifully. Until the end. Just as we were about to leave, one of them freaked out over having to share it and dissolved into loud, toddler-crocodile tears. She wailed away for about 30 seconds before I got to her, and I talked her down. The whole scene took no more than three minutes from start to finish.

There was a couple in line who stared at me, absolutely aghast, as if I were the worst mother in the world and should never leave the house again. When I looked up from my now-calmed child, I saw the woman still gaping at me. Really?

I squatted down to my child, and said in a very loud voice:

"Dulce, would you like to apologize to that lady for making her stare at me in utter shock and disgust while you tantrumed?"

Dulce looked up at me, wide-eyed, and shook her head.

"That's okay," I said. "Just remember that some grown up people aren't used to little girls making a ruckus."

And we left.

Kids do things that kids do. Adults do things that adults do. When you are an adult, and you do something that a child would do, regardless of how quietly, it's unbecoming and unattractive. Think about where you are. Think about the family on the other end of your weapon.

By all means, if a parent just ignores a screaming kid for a while, well, retaliate as you should. But for those of us (most of us!) like me who are working their hardest to keep everything under control, give us a break. Your tantrum isn't making your experience any better, is it? It's not making mine any better either. And you probably don't like when it's turned around on you like that. So what's the point?


If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list. It would mean the world to me. 


  1. The stares I dislike the most are the ones from parents with older children. I believe most of them are deluding themselves by thinking that their precious darlings never, ever had bad moments in public.

    If I look over at somebody else's squalling child, it's usually in sympathy, and only very briefly. Sometimes I'll joke with the parents, "They never warn you about THAT in the parenting manuals, do they?"

  2. When I get those stares I like to tell myself, "That's her 'shocked and impressed' face, because she's thinking that she'd slit her own throat if she had to deal with what I'm dealing with right now." And then I go about my merry way, convinced that the other shoppers think I'm the most super awesome mom ever. ;)

  3. I had a rant myself about these so called adults who treat children like they are lepers instead of the little people they are. The death stare is irritating, but what gets me even more is when my son, now 2 years, 9 months old, is being sunny and sweet and practicing his manners. He'll say hello to someone as we go through the store or walk down the street. Some will smile and say hi, which makes his day. Others give me or him or both of us nasty looks or just act like he didn't say anything. I've begun to tell him, "Honey, it's very sweet of you to want to say hello to that (man, woman, child), but they don't want to talk to you. I'm sorry, I know it's not nice, but not everyone has good manners." I say this in a normal voice and I really, really HOPE said rude person actually thinks about it next time a little child learning social skills and trying to practice what he's taught says hello. It takes two seconds and you move on. Grown ups? More like need to grow ups.

    Lisa P

  4. Classic. How did that lady react after hearing you say that?

  5. I just started reading your blog today thanks to Navigating the Mothership. I LOVE this post! I do not actually have any children of my own but I know the feeling from my experiences as a nanny. People can be so rude and I am so happy that you called that person out. You can not avoid tantrums and meltdowns completely, and when one errupts in public you do your best. I am the person in the store that will either help you with your bags if you have to carry your child out kicking or smile politely in a fashion that says "I understand completely" Again, so happy to hear of the way you handled this situation!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...