There are lots of ways we can react when we see someone else’s child throwing an unholy fit in the middle of Target: sympathetic smile, judgey-judgement, pretend it’s not happening, just be thankful it’s not us this time.
But sometimes (and definitely not every time – read the situation) offering a helping hand might be just what that momma needs to not lose her own mind.
I decided to start 2020 off on the right foot: with a trip to Target. There were a few things I actually needed, plus those Christmas markdowns were calling my name (50 cent wrapping paper? Yes please!) So I loaded my toddler into the car seat and hit the road.
Since it was just one week past Christmas, we had a little chat in the car: We were there to buy these specific things. No extra treats. No presents. After all, she had plenty of new things to play with at home. And she agreed! “Yes Momma.” I let myself believe I was crushing it, because obviously at that point, I was.
All was well. We grabbed the necessities. She even wanted to walk beside me rather than ride in the cart, and that was even going smoothly! Still. Crushing. It. Then I remembered one thing that wasn’t on my list: a new calendar for the fridge (don’t tell me about your digital scheduling tools. I’ve tried. I can’t do it. If it’s not written on that calendar or in my planner, it doesn’t exist). So we took one last detour down the office supply aisle.
That’s when she spotted it. A glittery purple notebook, with obnoxiously bright stickers all over it, with a built-in pencil pouch.
“Momma, can I get this notebook?”
“No. We talked about this in the car, remember? No new things today. Plus, you’ve got notebooks at home already.”
And that was all it took to set it off. The loudest screaming and crying fit that my child has ever thrown in public. Her protests included the old standby, “But I want it!” and my personal favorite, “They’ll kick me out of kindergarten if I don’t have this notebook!” (We’ve also been talking about starting big girl school in the fall, so she’s obviously been giving it some thought.)
I thought about caving. It would have been too easy, right? It was probably less than $5, and wouldn’t have made much of a difference in my total Target tab. But I decided to remove it from her hands, set it back on the shelf, and navigate us towards checkout.
The cries continued. And they were getting louder. The lovely girl working checkout that day in aisle 7 tried to distract her to help stop the cries, but nothing worked.
As we rolled out of the door (very, very quickly), I locked eyes with a woman. She gave me a quick sympathetic smile as we flew past, as I wanted to get us back in the car as quickly as humanly possible.
I found myself at my car, trying to figure out the best way to get my child back in her seat, get my groceries unloaded, and get the heck out of dodge. That’s when the woman walked up beside me and very sweetly asked, “Would you like me to load your things into your trunk so you can try to get her settled?”
I almost rejected her out of habit. I’ve got this! I don’t need help! I do the helping! (I’m a type 2, almost to a fault.) But I took that one extra second to start speaking, and apparently that was all it took.
“That would be wonderful. Thank you.”
After wrestling my still crying child into her car seat, I turned around to tell her thank you once again. She told me to think nothing of it. A quick conversation led us to realize that she knew my in-laws (of course, because it’s Lafayette), and then I was back in the car, and we were on our way.
Despite the fact that the tantrum continued for most of the way home, I finally felt like I could catch my breath. This woman’s three minutes of kindness had kept me from having a breakdown of my own in the parking lot. It doesn’t always take a huge effort to have a huge impact on someone’s day.