I still remember the days when I was young and single. I'd be out in the mall shopping or eating at a restaurant when suddenly my shopping or dining experience would be interrupted by the sound of a screaming toddler. You know the sound or, at least, variations of it:
Wahhhhh! I don't want to. I don't want to. No. No. No.
Okay, and if the child was still too young to verbalize his or her feelings, then the meltdown would sound more like screaming and shrieking.
In any case, usually at times like this, I'd roll my eyes. Perhaps I would even glare at the exchange between mother and child. I almost always had an opinion. Wow, that mom can't handle her kid. I know my kids would never behave like that.
Oh, if I could ever take back those words or those ridiculous judgements, I would. Really, I was young, single, and never had any siblings. I honestly didn't know what it was like to have a toddler, and so, like many people, I sat on my high throne, casting disapproving glances to others.
Fast forward. Now I'm the one with the screaming two year-old having meltdowns in stores, restaurants, and even at my place of work. It doesn't happen all the time, but there are a few...um...interesting moments like--
The time I placed a monkey backpack leash on him at the airport. He revolted so tumultuously that he made my husband spill a smoothie on the plush new airport carpet.
The time that he screamed, kicked, and almost tried hitting me while I was trying to pull him away from the elevator at work.
The time that we had a heated exchange in the parking lot because he wouldn't go into his car seat and kept sneaking around me to get to the driver's seat.
Yes, these are less than stellar moments for the baby books. And all of a sudden, like magic, it became roll reversal. I had my audience of judges, and I was THAT mom. I was now the mom that people were glaring at...I was the mom receiving scolding looks from passerbys. It was embarrassing, frustrating, and humbling all at the same time. Was this karma coming back to get me?
Today, I now know what it's like to be a mom with a toddler. I've now learned that toddlers don't always listen, and their anger and stubbornness only become amplified when they haven't taken a nap. When I see a mom in this meltdown situation, I cast a sympathetic glance and maybe even call out, "Oh, I've been there." It's the least I can do. After all, you know the mom doesn't want this kind of attention. She's not deliberately trying to ruin everyone's dinner. Her child just doesn't know any better.
I've now made a promise to myself. Even when my little boy is older and grown, I will not block out those less than stellar toddler days. Yes, they might not be fun at the time, but they carry a life lesson--a lesson that sometimes we all need to sit back, chill, and not take life so seriously. The moment, the tantrum, the screaming will pass, and in the end, we'll always love our toddlers just as much as we did before they started to misbehave.
Oh, and to those onlookers who are still casting disapproving glances, especially those who have been moms themselves...please, be patient. The interruption will pass...I promise.