I admit that I have had my moments of judging other parents. Noticing a kid under a certain age drinking a soda might make me cringe. Watching a consistently rude child on the playground might make me wonder if they’re the kid of the dad/mom/nanny on his/her cell phone oblivious to the scene around them. Seeing a child swatted publicly makes me uncomfortable and I wonder if it’s more than spanking at home.
Is it right? Recognizing parenting behavior that contradicts my own style and disagreeing with it is certainly okay. The judgey, sometimes sanctimonious “well, I’d never” that I admittedly feel in those situations, yeah, not so good. But we’ve all been there, right? I’m fairly confident I’m not alone in taking a modicum of pleasure at someone else’s parenting nightmare’s expense…at least it’s not my kid throwing all the groceries out of the cart. (Tell me I’m not alone in this.)
But lately, it is my kid.
Pumpkin has a horrible habit of randomly screaming. More accurately, of screeching a sound akin to getting your hand stuck in a door while biting ants nibble at your ankles and pigeons peck at your hair. It’s a blood curdling, no spinning it, scream.
It’s bad enough at home where a screech might pierce the air when his older brother takes a toy. Lately, however, it’s become very public. There was the restaurant while we were on vacation where I spent most of the meal outside with the toddler so his overtired screams would not disturb the other diners. There was leaving the Children’s Museum where Pumpkin voiced his displeasure at leaving with bursts of screeches I so desperately tried to ignore while hustling us out the door.
Then, this morning, there was the botched set of errands. The library visit was chaotic, with screaming ensuing every time I tried to distract Pumpkin from pulling a set of Caldecott winners off the shelf or running through the vertical blinds at the picture window. Perhaps my first mistake was thinking a change of scenery would help, but we braved the trip to Party City to pick up a few supplies for Peanut’s upcoming 5th birthday party.
It started so well. I kept my energy level high. A nice grandmotherly type complimented how cute the kids were as we strapped Pumpkin into the cart. Then, at aisle two, the screeching commenced. I heard someone gasp. The same grandmotherly type said something to the effect of “He’s not messing around.” I tried to distract. I tried to cajole. I firmly told him no. And then he screeched on aisle three when he couldn’t reach the balls, then screeched when he dropped the ball, then screeched when I tried to hustle us to the next stop in the store. Finally, the store manager peaked down the aisle and asked if everything was okay.
Needless to say, we got the heck out of dodge. We were in the store for a total of 10 minutes.
I drove home in tears.
What do you do when you’re that mom of that kid? How do you explain that you’ve tried time outs? You only run errands when the kids are well rested, fed and normally happy? You do everything you possibly can to make the experience pleasant and the kid screams like that simply because he sees a baseball across the store and I turned the cart the wrong way? I’m at the point where I want to beg those people for help. If you know so much better, then please, tell me. Help me. Make it stop.
But I can’t. Or I don’t. Instead, I simply feel defeated every time I strap the kids back into their car seats, my errands incomplete, my dignity shuffling along a few paces behind. It makes me question whether I’ve got the right stuff for this gig.
I know this too shall pass. Eventually, I’ll figure out what works or Pumpkin will grow out of it or he’ll start a new trend and everyone will start screeching like banshees at random moments in public (the next flash mob trend anyone?). Until then, I think I’ll stock up on earplugs and become a hermit since we obviously can’t leave our house.
On the upside, I’m providing a public service. Some other mother at the library or Party City might have been having a bad day today and instead left thinking at least that’s not her kid.