The other day I read a post on another blog with the same title as this one: Dear Mom with the Screaming Kid at the Grocery Store. I wanted to offer a different perspective.
My days with screaming toddlers were not that long ago, and I want you mamas still there to feel encouraged. Because, Mama–you who feels like she’s not cut out for motherhood and at her wit’s end day in and day out–you need to know there is grace for you.
Dear Mom with a Screaming Kid at the Grocery Store,
First of all, Mama, you need to know that it’s going to be OK. This, too, shall pass.
Your baby won’t scream forever; your toddler won’t always throw fits in front of strangers.
They will grow up, and what ails them now won’t bother them then. You will slowly but surely learn how to calm them down, how to teach them when and how it’s appropriate to show frustration and when and how it’s not.
But, right now, your little one is simply learning, and you, dear one, are learning too.
Mama, there is grace in the learning for you both.
When your little one starts screaming, you may feel like every single customer in the store is boring a hole through your back. You may want to disappear.
I know I did.
While an occasional bystander might be judging you, the vast majority of us other mamas aren’t.
If our eyes are on you, Mama, it’s in empathy because we remember.
We remember going on two hours of sleep from breastfeeding ’round the clock and rocking in the glider with little sick ones.
We remember scrubbing pee pee accidents from the carpet and wiping booties and boogers all day long.
We remember living in a fog of postpartum depression and popping Advils like candy to ward off those sleep-deprived headaches.
You need to know that we aren’t all standing there judging you. We aren’t all critiquing your every move.
We know that your public reaction to your child’s display of frustration is not an indication of the type of mother you are in the privacy of your own home.
Because when we realize how humbled we all really are in so many ways, it’s hard to look at someone else and notice their faults. It’s enough to deal with our own shortcomings, much less what we might perceive to be yours.
Someone might have told you to just leave with your child and let the groceries wait.
And, Mama, I don’t deny that it’s a good idea. If my 3-year-old were to throw a fit in a store right now, that is probably what I would do (and have done in the past).
But I’ve been mothering for over seven years now. We’ve done this toddler gig three times. I now know what to do. I am no longer flustered and embarrassed like I was.
But there was also so much more going on in my life when I had a screaming toddler at the grocery store, and maybe you have things going on in your life,too, that nobody knows about–especially the random stranger at the supermarket.
Do you know what was happening with me when I was in your shoes?
I was still reeling from marriage problems that rocked our world and nearly ruined us.
I was steeped in postpartum depression. Climbing out of bed in the morning was all the strength I could muster. I wanted to pull the covers over my head and stay there.
While my infant cried and my toddler screamed, I was worried about getting through the line and paying for my groceries before that month’s WIC checks ran out.
We wouldn’t have eaten any other way.
There were the months when I couldn’t have left my groceries sitting and returned to the store later because I did not own a car, and the person who had given me a ride was waiting for me in the parking lot.
If my family was going to eat this week, this grocery trip was it.
To all the seasoned mamas in the grocery store, let’s make a pact to give these new mamas grace, OK?
Let’s give a sympathetic smile instead of a judgmental glance. Let’s offer to help carry their bags instead of complain under our breath that they are taking too long while their little one calms down.
Let’s remember that we never, ever know what someone else is going through.
Perhaps their marriage is falling apart. Perhaps they just received a horrible diagnosis. Perhaps they just lost a loved one. Perhaps they can barely pay for those groceries. Perhaps this precious child has special needs and looks “normal” but absolutely cannot act the same as other children.
There is a time and a place to speak the truth of how to discipline children into a young mama’s life, no doubt.
But judging someone in the grocery store–when you do not know her name, do not know her story, and are only basing it on an isolated incident is not that forum.
Go in grace, dear Mama with the screaming kid at the grocery store. There are lots of us mamas cheering for you.
I could have used that grace a few years ago when I couldn’t go to the grocery without my then two-year-old crying, because he did it EVERY TIME. We didn’t know how to help him with the issues that he was dealing with at the time and he didn’t know any way to deal with them other than to scream at the top of his lungs. I don’t know how many people were sympathetic, because they weren’t the ones talking. I do know there were plenty of people who would make critical comments to me when my son would take a breath. The comments ranged from “You should take him out of the store when he acts like this” (but then we would never eat), to “You need to beat it out of him!” (yes, a stranger actually said that to me). There was even a suggestion for an exorcism. None of the comments were helpful.
We have since learned how to help him manage his issues, and now people tell me what a sweet child he is. And I have learned to extend grace to people who are fighting battles that I know nothing about.
Good post! The advice to leave the groceries drives me crazy. How impractical! When I have worked so hard to get to the store, spent an hour getting the groceries and then my kid has a meltdown. I should drop it all? Ill just have to come back and repeat the process. I do my best to keep my kids happy in thw store( there are usually icees involved), but kids cry. That is a fact of life:).
I completely agree! Leaving the store means you have to come back with them at another day or time. That is not necessarily better.
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
Yes. This is so true. We really don’t know what is going on, and like you said, when we have plenty of our own issues humbling us, we realize that we are all on the same playing field in need of grace. I will also add that you don’t know what is going on with a child either. There could be extra stresses causing him or her to act out a certain way. Even common things that nap transitions, teething, older siblings starting school, and so on could be leading to extra whiny or defiant behavior at the time. I know right now, my three year old hasn’t napped in four days. We weren’t sure if he was ready to stop sleeping and change to a rest time in the afternoons instead. But watching how the missed naps are affecting him– he clearly needs to keep sleeping in the afternoons! He would be the whiny kid at the grocery store if we went today 😉
Alisha @ The Savvy Bump
I much prefer this perspective, thank you! I remember when my daughter threw a temper tantrum at Target. She was never like that at home, I did not know what to do! I felt so embarrassed and awkward, I just wanted to cry. I always remember that when I see another mother having a hard time. We should not judge people by one moment we see in their life. You can’t go wrong with grace.
My kids are 1 and 3. We just got home from a target trip where my 1 year old screamed for 15 minutes in-line while the cashier helped someone figure out their target red card number. A nice older lady cooed and talked to my daughter – momentarily calming her cries. She waited for me after check out to tell me how sweet my kids were. That is what I need! Encouragement! Thank you for this post – it is so relatable!
This literally made me cry. It was a very sweet perspective on what we all encounter most likely every time we are in a store. I personally always try to assess the situation and see if there is any way I can be helpful. If not I give a kind smile and say. Don’t worry they will be teenagers before you know it and you’ll miss these days.
To all the Moms out there with crying babies at the grocery store (or any other store for that matter), I promise not to judge you or look at your kids with “the look”. Our son is now 10, and just as Erin says in this story, they grow out of it. You will be able to say “remember when….” before you know it. Hold your head high and don’t worry about what negative nellies do. They were probably screaming kids when they were that age as well. God bless!!