To the mommies

I watched from a distance in the grocery store aisle. Young Mommy, two littles in tow and one was pitching a fit.  My heart ached for her.  I so wanted to help but figured she didn't need the  intrusion.  She was having a hard time but trying even harder to keep her composure.  I knew the feeling. 

What tugged at my heart the most was the response of other shoppers.  Made me mad is a better description, actually.  The stares that seemed to telegraph disapproval.  The whispers and head shakes.  The lips pressed tightly together in a self-righteous smirk.  I time-travelled back down memory lane to times it had happened to me.  One instance in particular stood out.

Three kids, just moved, parents on overload, trying to get us settled, make friends, and fill up everybody's internal cup.  Not doing so well.  The littlest little was having a meltdown.  Publicly.  Of course!  The big sisters were embarrassed.  So was their mom.  I was trying to appear poised and in control of the situation, all the while trying to figure out what to do.  Whispering things that began calmly but escalated to threats in proportion to the stares and comments. The "advice" that drove me to later shed tears was the "the boy needs a spanking and you should take care of that right now".

  I started to shake.

Maybe she was right.  Maybe what he needed was some strong discipline.  Maybe I had coddled my only boy too much.  Maybe every single thing wrong with him AND his sisters was inextricably tied to my inept parenting. She certainly seemed to know what she was talking about and, in my insecurity, I decided she was right. In fact, those suggestions and more still keep me up at night from time to time.

But that time I saw something different than the more seasoned parent who freely handed out unsolicited advice.  Instead of a defiant kid yelling "no" at his Mom and screaming at the top of his (expansive) lungs, I saw a scared two year old.  A kid that thrives on order and control and security but whose little life had been in upheaval for 3 months while his parents changed jobs and houses and all things familiar.  A little boy who needed an undistracted Mommy that wasn't unpacking boxes and a hardworking Daddy that  could be home during waking hours. And hugs of reassurance.  And time to play instead of to run errands.Although it's true that I couldn't deny the scene before me, my interpretation was different than hers. What was happening right then was insecurity, not  insubordination. 

I wish I could tell you that I had enough confidence in my parenting ability to trust my gut.

I didn't.

And  seeing that Mommy squirm under the deprecating stares of the other shoppers, I remembered that feeling.  I wished that somehow I could infuse confidence and grace and security into her heart.  I hoped she could possess clairvoyance if only for a moment so I could tell her these thoughts.  Trust your gut.  This display of emotion does not have to define your kid. Or your parenting.  There's certainly a place for discipline and correction and I am not saying to give in to your kid.  I am saying, though, to give in to your gut.  Not your cronies.