I’m *that* mom

Saturday was a visit to Gymboree for the first time. Bella has been so clingy lately, I actually thought about letting parents know right off the bat, “Please do not make eye contact with her. Do not talk to or touch her IN ANY WAY (even for safety reasons) and avoid walking within 3 feet of her perimeter. Also, if she starts walking to you – it’s a test. Run away – again, avoiding all eye contact. Thanks so much.”

But of course I didn’t, and while she played nicely, she fell apart several times at things other kids rolled right past. I could feel the other parent’s glances at her after a few times of that. I was determined not to let it get to me or her. She’s just this way lately.

While on the parachute, Bella was being fussy. She didn’t like all the noise, she didn’t like other kids touching her, and while trying to get back to me, she stopped in front of one of the dads and he reached out to pat her arm and said, “Hi there!”

I should have told him.

She completely lost it and screamed bloody.frickin.murder, her eyes as big as saucers and then fell over trying to get away from him.

As I picked her up and she sobbed as if he had beat her mercilessly, I glanced at him apologetically and saw the look of, “Wow, you should really control your kid.”

It was at that moment I felt about two inches big. Because I knew exactly what he was thinking – with his daughter standing there laughing at the bubbles and playing with the other kids. He was wondering why my daughter was so spoiled and temperamental, and why I didn’t do something. After all, I’m her mom. I should know what to do.

I know how he felt, because I am *that* mom who feels the same way.

I am the mom that I used to look at and judge. The one with the child who was totally off their rocker at library, or a playdate, or at the park. I would make quick assumptions about her and her unruly child. Obviously she didn’t pay the “right” kind of attention to her kid. She needed to be firmer/nicer/more attentive/less attentive. I felt a mix of sorry and disdain for her – because certainly she was trying her best but obviously she needed to step it up a notch. Kids shouldn’t be allowed to act like that.

So as I sat there, embarrassed and feeling a little panicked at the level of trauma Bella seemed to be taking this too, I had the strangest thought come over me.

“I don’t know what to do right now.”

There wasn’t a single thing I could do about her not wanting to be on the parachute, having people talk to her, be touched, or join in the fun. It was as if a ton of bricks hit me as all the parents looked my way while my child continued to melt down and I couldn’t force her to feel any other way. I had no idea what to do. I was holding her, but other than that I didn’t know how to react. I scanned my memory for any thing I had read on this kind of stuff – laugh it off, encourage her to get back out there, let her be, take her away, tell her it’s ok, keep holding her…

I didn’t know. So I just sat there with her in my lap.

It was then I thought, “I wonder if this is how every parent feels at some point, but I’ve just never known it at this level.” I have never had such a moment of awareness about myself like that before. It was almost an out of body experience, because I knew how I felt – and I knew how they felt looking at us. I’ve felt their way many times.

It wasn’t pleasant, but it changed my perspective on being a parent. Completely. In those few seconds, I think I must have gained 10 times the empathy I’ve ever had for anyone handling a upset child. The realization that there must have been many times someone sat in front of me with no clue how to handle a meltdown and saw me and others judge them with our eyes as they scramble.

No one wants to be that mom – the one that makes assumptions and wonders why the other mom’s kid is completely out of control. But it’s very, very easy to be.

Some days we will be the mom that just doesn’t know what to do. That is struggling with trying to figure out how to control a non-verbal child in a world of, “Let’s just raise our kid with rainbows and hugs – no hard words or nasty looks when they act up.” I know how that feels now. It’s impossible. So I learn to let go a little and empathize a lot more. To just show with my eyes to another parent, “Hey, we’ve all been there.”

Hoping that maybe someday I’ll look up from calming a screaming child, and see that reflected right back at me.


Comments

  1. I totally know that feeling. Over the past 6 1/2 yrs, and 3 kids, I have been “that” mom many times. It’s humiliating, frustrating it’s just plain awful. We all go through it, no kid is prefect all the time. Every parent has those moments. When they are as small as Bella is you cant really sweat it, because there is nothing you can really do about it. You just have to let them have thier freak out, and encourage them to continue to play afterwards. I hate getting the look though, it feels like everyone in the room is watching you. Now when I see a mom dealing with a tantrum I make sure to give her a smile and let her know we have all been there.

    • Yeah, 1 is a hard age because it’s really before understanding and discipline, but after “Here’s a boob/bottle – now shut it.” :)

  2. Great post! Just this past summer, I was at a theme park with my 2.5 year old and my 5 year old. The baby was melting down for absolutely no discernable reason, and she had pooped. As I struggled to hold her down and hold it together in the bathroom as she kicked me about the head an shoulders, another mom came by and asked if I needed help. In that moment, I felt a fabulous sense of mommy-solidarity. And it felt so good to know that, while other people in the bathroom may have been judging me, that ONE mom knew what I was going through and wanted to help. I pledged to try to be THAT mom from then on.

    • That is really, really neat. There is always a little part of me that worries if I offer someone will be offended, like I was implying they can’t handle it. But this makes me thing twice about that.

  3. Aw, im sorry I didn’t know you felt that way. :( Dont know what to say other than I love you guys!

    • You know I love you. :) Like I said, it was just a moment of that. I know we talked already, I just didn’t want to leave your comment hanging out there.

  4. I was *that* mom in Starbucks on Thursday morning as John flung himself around on the nasty floor. Good times. And you’ve heard him on the phone. What must you think? Give yourself a little credit, too. Some of what Bella is going through is probably stranger anxiety, and some of it is probably all because of that fun reflux. Sarah and John both did this. We held them so.darn.much.all.the.time b/c of the reflux and the crying and the pain, that when they got mobile and the reflux got under control, and we, as parents, felt sane again, and began to venture into the world, it was all overwhelming. Plus, I work at Gymboree and let me tell you this: the first time is hardly ever pretty. The bright colors, the loud music, the crazy kids running everywhere, a loud teacher. Bella may want a smaller class. Or maybe an Art or Music class. You did the right thing by comforting her. Good job!

    • I almost started to cry when I read your comment, because I never thought about the reflux thing. I have SO MUCH guilt because of that, hardly ever taking her anywhere that first 6 months because she threw up all the time. And I forget about that, you know? That is more than likely a big reason why she is so clingy.

  5. Oh honey. How frustrating. And I know that I have been guilty of giving those sideways glances at other parents and their out-of-control kids, until I had Ella. Cause now, realistically, all of us mothers have been there at LEAST once or twice. Gaining that empathy is just part of the journey of motherhood. That is of course unless you’re a mom who gave birth to some kind of freakishly quiet and docile child (I’m pretty sure the odds of a child like that are akin to winning the Mega Millions or being struck by lightning twice). Meanwhile, don’t beat yourself up and cut yourself a bit of slack. Bella may be a high needs child, but she’s YOUR high need child. You know her limits and if they’re exceeded just calm her down the best way you know how. No one can be a better Mama to your Bella than you and now that you’ve recognized that you’re even more of a Super Mom ; )

  6. Girl, first of all, you are the best writer and I fricken love your blog. Second, everyone including that dad has been there. Kids are kids and you just don’t understand until you have them. Bella is so cute and she is cute when she cries. She will grow out of it. Love you.

  7. Liv is really rough around other kids. I don’t know what to do either. I get super embarassed and I make sure to address it immediately but she’s only 16 months and doesn’t really understand…as much as I try and want her to. So, I hear your pain…bc I’ve gotten a few of those “control your child” looks.

  8. FANTASTIC post. Thank you so much for sharing. We have all felt that way at one time or another and it helps to remind ourselves it happens to us all!

  9. I think we’ve all been *that* mom from time to time. I try to remember that when it’s *my* kid having the meltdown of the century — that (hopefully) everyone else isn’t really staring at me and that they’ve been there before, too.

  10. Sometimes kids are so overwhelmed, they just don’t know how to stop, even if they are getting the comfort and loving they wanted in the first place!! I just got back from a restaurant with my family, and baby girl was just rotten. Even I was giving her the stink eye for most of the night. Tyler was super good throughout the whole meal, and then decided to roar/scream at the people next to us. The guy was completely understanding, but the woman said, “Are you f***ing kidding me?” So, yeah, I was *that* mom, and I just had to stop caring what they thought about my kids or parenting style. I’ll never see them again, and they don’t know how I parent. Once again, great blog. You’re amazing!!

  11. hey. give yourself a break. yes, she had a meltdown. but it was because she wasn’t comfortable. she wasn’t hiting, biting and taking other kid’s toys (although some day she might do that too, mine’s already not sharing, EVER and scratching at people.) you did exactly what you should have done. you comforted your child. if people were giving you looks it best have been in empathy because they understand that this is a stage children go through, if they don’t, if they really thought it was lack of control, then they’re jerks.
    We all have moments where we don’t know what to do or how to react. You just do the best you can because you KNOW your child. you know what she needs and you give her that.
    Long comment, but darling, you’re doing fine. You’re not in this alone. Bella will grow out of this stage, keep taking her out around other kids, let her get comfortable and before you know it, she won’t even know if you’re in the room.

  12. dude i feel you.

    when alex pitches her fits in the middle of Target i’m mortified. completely.

    it’s karma.

  13. my only advice for those types of situations is to hug her as much as she needs & let her move at her own pace. there are going to be lots of boo-boos, lots of hurt hearts. it breaks our hearts a little each time but we need to show our kids love, understanding and help them get back up and try again. even though it might kill us.

    judgy mama eyes be damned! EVERY parent will find himself completely helpless with all eyes on them. whether it’s now or when the kid is a teenager. don’t pay them any mind! you do what you need to for Bella and that is all that matters!

  14. my only advice for those types of situations is to hug her as much as she needs & let her move at her own pace. there are going to be lots of boo-boos, lots of hurt hearts. it breaks our hearts a little each time but we need to show our kids love, understanding and help them get back up and try again. even though it might kill us. judgy mama eyes be damned! EVERY parent will find himself completely helpless with all eyes on them. whether it’s now or when the kid is a teenager. don’t pay them any mind! you do what you need to for Bella and that is all that matters!

  15. I am new to your blog and glad I found it. I can relate and I feel you. Things will get better and having a high strung child will eventually fade away as they get older. Hang in there mom your doing a awesome job.

  16. I know exactly how you feel. Dustyn is so sweet, but he gets very crazy around a lot of kids.

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