My daughter was still adjusting to her first week of preschool when I saw a reminder in her backpack to bring in a family photo tomorrow for show-and-tell. There was still time before dinner, so I figured I could walk up to the Walgreens down the block to get a photo developed. My daughter wanted to come along, and as it was something we've done dozens of times without incident, I obliged.
"If you want less a**holes in the world, smile at the mother with the screaming kid. She's done exactly what makes her a good mother."
But somehow the unstable sleep schedule and utter exhaustion of four straight days of full-day school caught up to my otherwise well-behaved child. While waiting in line, she saw a bag of candy she wanted. I said no, but she wouldn't stop begging and, eventually, shrieking. Long story short, I ended up carrying my daughter, hysterically kicking and crying, out of the store and halfway home before I eventually stopped and just let her finish her meltdown on the sidewalk.
I got a handful of dirty looks and head shakes from passersby, and of everything that I was dealing with in that moment, it was those adult reactions that made me the most upset.
Catherine Belknap of the mom-vlogging duo Cat & Nat perfectly explained why it's utter nonsense that parents get judged when their kid is having an epic public temper tantrum.
"Mothers with kids who are acting up are most likely amazing mothers who have told their kids no for something, so if you want less a**holes in the world, smile at the mother with the screaming kid. She's done exactly what makes her a good mother," Cat wrote in a Facebook PSA.
She continued with such alarming specificity to my personal encounter that I wondered if she happened to be near that very Walgreens: "And when you see her marching forward with that screaming kid in tow, it's most likely not neglect, it's self-preservation. Because acknowledging that screaming child is like pouring gasoline on a fire."
And if these perfect strangers think that there's a time and place for these meltdowns, think again.
"Tantrums and throw-downs can happen at any time, at any age, at any place . . . we don't choose it –and most moms are treated as if THEY ASKED FOR IT," she added. "Trust us, it's not our top choice to have a screaming uncontrollable wet fish of a child."
She concluded: "Before we go throwing mothers under the bus for their children's behavior, let's remember that that behavior is most likely because of great parenting."
Not to toot my own horn, but I firmly believe that to be true. I could have caved and given my child the bag of gummy bears, but she didn't need them. Plus, once she started whining, I was trying to teach her that acting out wouldn't be rewarded. I don't deserve a Mother of the Year trophy by any means, but I at least haven't earned the displeasure of explaining myself to perfect strangers while a 4-year-old stomps in the background.
As Cat said, "Stick together . . . we all need each other."