We've all been there. You're in a store, shopping with a toddler. She isn't behaving correctly, and you need to be firm. People are looking. You know you look like a sucker. You know they think you can't control your child. And they're right. You can't control your child. And you know why? Your child is another human being who isn't supposed to be controlled by you. Your child is supposed to learn to control herself. It's a tough lesson for parent and child.
I was in a big box store at the beach with my daughter when she was about 2 1/2. I don't even remember why we were there. I don't remember if we were trying to buy groceries or what. I know she was in the seat in the grocery cart, and I was not happy with her behavior. Honestly, it has been thirteen years, so I don't even remember what she was doing. Was she yelling? Was she throwing things? Was she crying? I just don't remember.
I do remember my reaction.
After countless efforts to get her to behave correctly...talking with her, reasoning with her, bribing her...she was still not complying. I stopped the cart, picked her up, and carried her out of the store.
She screamed. Loudly. She thrashed wildly. People were staring. I didn't care. I needed to get out of there with her. By the way she was acting, some folks probably wondered if I was taking someone else's child. But mothers knew. They knew she was mine, not only because she looked just like me, but they've been there too. They've had to make a decision on how to handle a situation in front of other people, and they knew people were staring then too.
She screamed and cried and yelled all the way to the car. I even saw someone I knew as I was buckling her into her car seat. I got her buckled in and quickly closed the door...so I didn't have to listen to the incessant wailing. I spoke briefly with the friend I hadn't seen in seven or eight years, explaining my child was having a meltdown. This particular friend doesn't have children, so she probably thought we both needed to be locked up.
I got into the car, and my daughter was no longer screaming. She was just sad. I didn't even speak till we got back to the condo. When we stopped in the driveway, she was calm. She was exhausted, I'm sure, from losing control. I unbuckled her from her carseat and sat in the back seat with her, holding her in my arms and explaining that I love her, but I didn't like the way she behaved in the store. I told her I was sad too. We cuddled for a while before going inside...and cuddled some more when we got there.
As much as I hated the moment, I loved the later result. Any time we were in a store, and she started to misbehave, all I had to do was say, "Remember that store?" She would look at me with those big brown eyes, and I could see that she remembered. She knew how to behave correctly, and she would prove it to me immediately.
Did I feel terrible about the incident? You bet...at the time. I felt like a terrible mother. Later though, I realized we both learned from it. I still hated that she had been so upset, but I was glad she remembered it, and I was really glad I never had to do it again. Yep...I never had to drag her out of a store kicking and screaming again. She remembered the lesson.
Sometimes, we have to do things we don't enjoy in order to get to a better place. That day, my daughter and I both learned that lesson. It was a painful way to learn, but we learned.