I took my three youngest kids for lunch at the food court in the local mall the other day. My toddler had a meltdown and was doing the high-pitched scream. Yeah, you know the sound.
As I’m trying to manage my stressful moment, an elderly woman looked over at us and shook her head in disgust. I had to take her to task on it because I hate passive aggressive communication. I wanted her to say the words – that my kid was out of control and I was a crappy parent. I wanted her to stand by her dirty looks. When I asked her why she was shaking her head, she stood by them alright, informing me that I should do a better job of “training” him. I almost had a temper tantrum myself at that point.
I suggested that if she found it too noisy, perhaps a café rather than a mall food court might better suit. Another suggestion I offered was that she come to my house and reform my entire collection of unruly children, all the while giving me some parenting lessons. Then I asked her to consider that next time she sees an exhausted mother struggling, why not offer to give her a hand? Mrs. McJudgerson was all criticism with nothing helpful to offer.
When the spectacle came to an end, another elderly woman made her way over to us and supported me, reminding me that people like that are not worth a second thought. Her support turned my anger into sadness. My lip began to quiver, then came a quiet tear and then another.
Why was I so sad? I was confused myself at first.
I was sad because this woman is the reason mamas worry that we are doing a bad job. She is the reason mamas feel too overwhelmed to take their three small children on an outing. She is the reason mamas get trapped at home, socially isolated – because they are afraid of going out there and being judged.
I was also upset because I’m worried about this toddler of mine. His tantrums are outrageous because his language is so delayed. He’s almost two years old and has no words. I’m scared that I’m about to travel down the autism road for a second time – a trip I really didn’t want to have to take. It felt like this woman in the food court was rubbing my face in it.
I took comfort in a couple of things. First, that karma has a way of repaying debt. Second, I am eternally grateful that she is not my mother-in-law. Imagine being related to that parenting expert!
What would your reaction have been?