I've worked in children's retail now for ten years. In that ten years I've seen my fair share of tantrums. I've seen howling on the ground, I've seen whining that would pierce your eardrums, I've seen kids hit their parents. And even before I had kids I had picked some basic do's and don'ts for shopping with kids. That kid being totally ignored by his mom? He's going to freak out when she swoops him up and leaves without acknowledging what he was asking about. That mom who keeps saying no to the whiny girl over and over only to give in at the last minute, frustrated and blaming the kid? She'll do that every time and the whining will only get worse. But I also learned this: kid's freak out. Its part of growing up. Sometimes it has to do with being tired, sometimes its about being hungry, sometimes its just too hard to be three. I remember Fin's first tantrum. Josh and I both just stood there, our mouth's agape. There was no rhyme or reason. I think he was mad because I wouldn't let him climb through the clothes racks. I wasn't embarrassed so much as bewildered. We scooped him up and headed out. When Parker was younger she had a handful of episodes so bad I had to leave full carts in the middle of the aisle. I've seen the death stares. Heard the comments under people's breath. Felt my face go red and my palms sweat as I leave a store with a screaming child in tow.
Today Parker and I went to Walmart. While we were checking out the girl behind us in line proceeded to throw a fit over a Barbie. She looked older and I found myself thinking, man, she's a little old for that (she looked around seven) and then thinking why did that Barbie make it all the way to the counter if she wasn't going to buy it. But I mentally stopped myself. I don't know anything about these people. Maybe she's really tall for her age. Maybe she snuck that Barbie in the cart. Maybe she was up all night sick and now her mom has to drag her to Walmart for something. But the older woman checking us out was having none of it. "Ridiculous! Can you believe kids like that?" She muttered to me, perfectly loud enough for the other mom to hear her. "I'm a great grandmother and I would NOT stand for that." and on and on. I was just half smiling and nodding, when I finally spoke up and weakly offered, "Well, we all have those days!" She just huffed. When I got to the car I was overwhelmed with a feeling that I should have stood up for the mom a little bit more. I've had strangers try to comfort Parker after I have calmly told her that her behavior is unacceptable and try to ignore her tantrum (and I'm talking seconds here, not like I let her scream for ten minutes). My friend had an older woman tell her to "shut her baby up" while in Target. Her infant daughter. I know a toddler who towers over her friends, so everyone thinks she's a good two or three years older than she is and her poor mom gets flak because people expect her to act like a five year old, and not the two year old she is. Pass judgement all you want in your head. But your stares? Your comments? They aren't helpful. It only makes a frustrating situation that much more stressful. I try my best to help frazzled parents out when I'm at work. Offer a sticker for the toy the baby won't give up. Help them with their bags. Sometimes all it takes is just a knowing smile and a kind word. Or just plain ignoring it. Because when it comes down to it, more than likely you have no idea what the real situation is. Life isn't black and white and not every wailing child is a spoiled brat.