Dear mom of the 3 screaming boys in WalMart,
I hear your boys before I see you. Three precious little ones who are, I’m sure, all under the age of four. Their faces are red and tear-streaked, their mouths open mid-wail. I resist the urge to cringe, not at the sound of their screams, but because I’ve been in your shoes and they are tough ones to stand in in that moment. I feel for you.
You don’t make eye contact with anyone and your embarrassment is palpable.
I know that right now it seems like every eye in the store is on you, judging you. You can feel the glares searing into your back and think that the whispers and low talking must all be about you.
I search for the words to say to you, words that would help and soothe but they don’t come. I don’t want to say anything that may offend. You have put up a wall that speaks to not being approachable, though I know it’s just out of fear that someone will say something cruel. And some surely will. There are those who have never been parents or those who have forgotten what it was like to have peanut butter in your hair and soggy Cheerios stuck to the bottoms of your shoes.
Here is what I want to say to you:
I have been where you are. Most of the stares of the others in the store today are those of mothers who have vivid memories of standing in aisles that felt like they were more crowded than they were and narrower than they were just by virtue of the awkward situation they found themselves in. There is little more mortifying than a child having a long and loud tantrum in public, except perhaps three children having a long and loud tantrum in public!
You are doing a good job. Just the fact that you are still here, breathing through what surely feels like a nightmare is evidence that you are doing a good job.
This meltdown is not a measure of your parenting skills. Kids get tired or hungry or grouchy or sick.
You’re going to go home tonight and tell your husband or friend or mom the story about how your kids screamed the whole time you were in WalMart and they will try to sympathize but they won’t fully understand what it felt like in the moment.
Tomorrow, you’ll get up and start fresh. The next time you drive by a WalMart, your pulse will quicken, your mouth will run dry, and you’ll look away. But one day when you are desperate enough for supplies, you will load those three adorable boys into a WalMart cart once again and bravely walk through those doors, praying that this time will go smoothly.
And even if they have an epic meltdown that rivals the one today, you will survive it.
Hang in there. You’re going to get through this stage. I can almost guarantee it!
~from a mom who’s survived the toddler stage many a time!