So… Hands up if you know what you’re doing when it comes to disciplining your kids?
Personally, I thought I was a pretty good parent when it came to discipline – and that is saying a lot, because I’m not the kind of person to go screaming my strengths from the rooftop. But with tantrums…I thought I was definitely the one in control, and quite honestly, I was rather proud of myself for all of the ‘work’ I had put into it. This all changed when I realised I was being judged (somewhat unfairly), by many of the patrons at a popular shopping complex at the weekend.
My husband and I (suffering from temporary insanity) decided that it was a good idea to have a ‘look’ around at the shops after having coffee – taking our three-year-old and six-month-old with us to ‘enjoy’ the experience. What does an enjoyable shopping trip usually consist of? For me – a couple of bargains, laughter, hair flicking in the change rooms (only in the dimly lit ones), a few overpriced items that I will regret later, and just enough bags to adequately fill the pram basket without causing it to explode.
Spoiler alert – none of these things happened.
The entire shopping trip was taken up with the tantruming performance of my adorable but argumentative toddler. It began just outside Target, when she was put in quiet time for being rough with her baby brother. Despite the name being ‘quiet time’ - Daisy was being anything but quiet. Think of the worst toddler tantrum you can imagine. Have you got the picture in your mind? Now make it ten times worse. Yep. Now you’re there, that’s exactly what Daisy was doing. Full leg thrashing, screaming, punching the air, rolling around and around all over the ground. Shoppers were stepping over her, trying to navigate their way around however they could. I was breathing deeply, standing aside waiting for her to be quiet so as her actual ‘quiet’ time could begin. My husband and I were giving each other hushed pep talks on the sidelines – ‘she can’t scream forever’ and ‘we have to follow through’. Despite this, I felt my heart begin to pound as the anxiety crept in. Probably only two full minutes had passed, but the scene was starting to get to me. I made the mistake of looking into the faces of the passers-by, and I noticed that there was a common ‘look’ I was being given by many of them. They were glaring at me after seeing my child and rolling their eyes, wagging their fingers at me for my tantrum management techniques. Many people were giving my daughter sympathetic looks and following them up a stern flick of their eyes towards me.
Not one parent offered an expression of kindness. No one walked by and leaned into my ear to whisper you’re doing the right thing, hang in there. Amidst the sea of parents streaming past - who had no doubt been in similar situations themselves, there wasn’t a single person to offer any reassurance to help us make it through. No one to offer what my husband and I could have really used at the time – two double espressos, and stat.
I don’t know why, but this surprised me. As parents – shouldn’t we be trying to maintain a united front? Support the parenthood? Not judge each other in the middle of shopping centres for the way we handle incredibly difficult situations. I mean, at the end of the day, we’ve all been there, and most of us are doing the very best we can.
The tantrum eventually subsided. Daisy served her time. My husband and I were able to give each other an exhausted high five as we climbed into the car. We all survived. But I’ve made a mental note that next time I see a similar situation playing out, I plan to walk to the nearest coffee shop, purchase two double espressos and give them to the parents – for strength, for encouragement but most of all, as a reminder that we are all in this battle together.