I was the stereotypical mom walking through Target with a screaming two-year-old this morning.
Unlike our typical public outburst, though, which is usually followed by shame-fueled sobbing in the parking lot, today I have RISEN ABOVE and believe I have reached a higher level of motherhood. Whether I’ve become desensitized to the cries of my offspring or have just developed a newfound ability to cut through the ruckus to get a job done, I realized I am no longer fazed by the antics of hellion children in public.
At the height of this morning’s pandemonium, my blood pressure remained steady. My voice was calm and still, knowing nobody was sick or hurt. I was deliberate and level-headed, never wavering or giving in to demands. And then, when it became clear there would be no redirecting or coming back from the edge of tantrum, I walked out — baby strapped to my chest, three-year-old’s hand in mine, and a raging two-year-old on my hip, flailing backwards and screaming. My expression was stoic, Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” blaring in the background (or possibly just in my head?), and there was a swagger in my gait as I strut through the parking lot. Shades down. LIKE A BOSS.
I think this liberating phenomenon is one that must be reached after dealing with a certain amount of child-centric BS and public humiliation. If there are any moms out there who were able to maintain this level of cool with their first, my hat is off to you. For me, I felt like I had finally just gotten my black belt in motherhood.
The details of everyone’s meltdowns are inconsequential. Kids cry and whine and experience emotional outbursts no matter how good a parent you are, and there have been many times that this behavior would have caused a self-conscious panic to rise in my throat. I’m a sensitive person by nature; this is why I started wearing boy deodorant to the grocery store. But being able to distinguish the myriad of potential causes behind your child’s most epic shitstorms, having the courage to still do what you came to do, and making the best of a teachable moment in the face of public scrutiny… well, I think it’s something to be proud of.
So I’d like to take a moment to recognize the strong, unflappable moms everywhere who are able to confidently and casually take care of business — while keeping their children in check — no matter where they are or who else sees them. Here’s how to know if you, too, have made the cut:
1. Volume ain’t a thang. You may be so used to your kids’ noise that you don’t even notice at first. But when you do, you aren’t afraid to speak up to reign in the crazy. I’m not talking about yelling; I mean you are the one pulling over your grocery cart and reminding your children what’s expected of them over the cacophony of whining. You are able to cut through the cries to distract them with a game of “I Spy” or by singing shamelessly to make them smile. No nervous nellies here; your volume and its propensity to attract the attention of passersby is the lowest concern on your list.
2. You aren’t afraid to make the (parenting edition) walk of shame. If you’re going to threaten to turn this bus around, you’re willing to back it up and leave. You scoop that little screamer up out of the puddle of despair she’s formed on the floor and head for the exit. She might cry harder. She might throw elbows and legs like she’s on fire. People may watch and wonder if you’re doing something illegal. But you push through, soldier, and you maintain your composure the whole way to the car. Then you have a talk, and if you’re feeling bold, you may even go back in for more.
3. You don’t hide from the gazes of onlookers. Of course they’re watching you — because you make them feel better about themselves, or because you’re entertaining, or because they’re seeing themselves in your struggle and sympathize but don’t know how to help. You meet their concerned gazes with a smile that says you’re in control and also, “Don’t worry, he won’t really throw up!” You know there’s no need to shrink or avert your eyes because you are owning the situation. Apologies not necessary; you know you are simply parenting, in the strongest sense of the word.
4. You use your elevated status for the greater good. On my way to the exit this morning, guns metaphorically blazing, another mom with a fussy baby on her chest and a toddler in tow passed us, coming from the opposite direction. In what became the most gratifying moment in recent memory, WE HIGH FIVED and then kept moving. If you see someone struggling to maintain her self-assurance in the face of a hungry/overtired/bored/fussy kid(s), you show her that you get it, and give her the courage to fight the good fight — for the hope of well-behaved children, peace through the errands, and women with the confidence to shoot for both.
So here’s to swallowing our pride, to teaching our children how to behave in public first-hand, and to always making sure we drop the mic BEFORE the automatic doors slide closed on the days we go out with a bang.