The other day I was talking to a mother about her parenting journey and she said something that resonated with me: “In that moment I was saying to myself, ‘Yep, I’m that mom'”. Can you guess what moment we were talking about? I’ll give you some hints: Target, shopping cart, and grapes. The moment she was talking about was the one where you’re busily trying to finish your grocery shopping when your kiddo has a meltdown in aisle C18. The moment when you’re almost finished, cart full, and suddenly you’re having to parent a child who is full on banshee screaming over the tampon box he couldn’t open or the candy she couldn’t eat. The moment you notice the couple at the end of the aisle hastily choosing which flavor of Doritos to buy while giving you a look of pity with a hint of fear. That moment.
I have yet to meet a mother who hasn’t experienced that moment. Yet, when it’s happening, we feel like we are the only ones who have ever muscled through a meltdown in the middle of aisle G23: “Yep, I’m that parent”.
Well, I’m that mom, too.
I’m that mom that was sitting in the middle of the Christmas decorations with my toddler taking a “time-in” because she had just hit me. I’m that mom that has debated leaving a cart full of groceries just to escape the on-lookers while my daughter is screaming, “Help Daddy!” because I was trying to put her in the cart after she’d just run into a main aisle and was almost hit by another shopper. I’m the mom that cried discretely in IKEA after my daughter tried to get on the escalator without me then proceeded to scream-cry on the floor in front of the escalator preventing other shoppers from enjoying a leisurely stroll through the show floor.
I’m that mom, too, and I know I’m not alone.
Now, I know I haven’t talked about fathers yet in this post because I can only speak to my experience as a mother but I’m pretty sure that fathers have similar experiences, right? I know that my partner has. How he and I experience these moments and react in these moments, is different, but we both feel the anxiety and stares. We both want to run out of the store, from the playground, or out of the restaurant because it doesn’t feel great being “that parent”.
We all are “that parent” at some point.
We are all that parent because our littles’ brains are developing in ways that, honestly, don’t always make sense to me. Like, why does the emotion processing portion of your brain develop far before the logic processing portion? Give us parents a chance!! So of course we’re going to be “that parent”…our children’s brains don’t yet have the capacity to logically process their world; they process it through emotion, relationship, and boundaries.
As one of those parents who has tried to manage a meltdown in the middle of public, I have two suggestions on how to solve this problem.
One: Take a deep breath: you are not alone. Know that, trust that. I imagine if it were possible to get ahold of video feed from stores we would see parent after parent have “that moment” and we would know we are not alone. So breathe. A deep breath can keep us from crossing into our own grown-up version of an emotional meltdown. And when we respond to our children’s heightened emotions with a calm presence we are modeling respectful, attentive and present behavior.
Two: I propose that stores install a “Parent Button”. It should be red, giant, and maybe glow…because when my toddler is screaming, the last thing I need to do is try and find the “Parent Button”. On the button there should be a symbol of a parent wearing a cape. These glorious beacons of hope should be sprinkled throughout the store for speedy access.
Let’s say you’re wee one is unable to manage themselves in a manner that makes you feel like a successful parent (because let’s be honest, that’s why it’s so hard…the “you’re a bad parent” tape starts playing in your head #impostersyndrome). You look around frantically, and there, at the end of your aisle is a giant, illuminated button. An angel sings, you are saved. You run as fast as your cart-pushing feet can carry you, give the button a very enthusiastic high-five, and “Isn’t She Lovely” starts playing over the store speakers because in that moment I might need Stevie to remind me that this small person who is causing my heart rate to increase is also absolutely incredible. Incredible.
A calm and gentle voice interrupts Stevie Wonder: “Assistance in aisle C18”. Before you know it, other parents rush to your aid with snacks, coloring books, and some chocolate (that’s for you). Wouldn’t that be AMAZING!?
As a parent I occasionally forget that I am one in a sea of parents who have their own we are “that parent” moments. I am not alone in this journey and I will most likely never be. This article was written because I believe their is power in being vulnerable and honest about our individual experiences, and as we are more open, we will find that we are not alone in this messy, challenging, beautiful, and exciting club called Parenthood.
Was this article helpful to you? Leave a comment; I’d love to hear you story! Please remember my conditions for posing comments; disrespectful comments will not be approved. Also, if you’re an executive of a department store, feel free to contact me about the “parent button” so we can come up with a plan!