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What Childless People Really Think When Your Kid Melts Down in Public

It might surprise you


Published on: February 08, 2018


I’m childless by choice and when I see a kid having a meltdown in a public there is one thing I always want to say to the parent: “You’ve got this.” I see the struggle you’re having and at that moment the compassion in my heart often fills me to bursting.

Some would argue that poor parenting is the real problem when a kid misbehaves in public. I know that’s true because I took an impromptu poll of my Facebook friends to find out their thoughts. But when I see a kid having a public fit, that’s not on my mind. All I can think is how hard that moment is for you, mom or dad. I see it written all over your tired, exasperated face

I see that you’re late for carpool and trying to be patient because the cashier is too young to ring up the lady’s alcohol at the front of the line. And now your kid is crying on the floor that’s seen 5,000 shoes since it was last cleaned and they may have just gotten some unidentifiable substance in their hair. And you’re going to have to touch those grimy clothes. And the guy behind you is sighing and shaking his head. I see that jerk too, and I’m going to gently ram my cart into his leg, accidentally on purpose, so that now he’ll be mad at me instead.

I see that you just want to get this one errand run so you have a well-rounded meal to put on the table for dinner when that little cherub will be post-nap and all smiles for daddy. That after dinner you’ll clean up the dishes and think about your school-age daughter’s problems with math and worry about when to get in touch with the teacher. Is it too early in the year? Too late in the year? Should you have done more toddler math? Have you cursed her to never remember times tables?

I won't tell you to cherish these years because I know better than that.

But I see that you’ve sacrificed the life you might have had like mine. The one where I’m free to run errands at any hour, take uninterrupted naps, talk on the phone without multitasking shoelaces and lunchboxes. I’m free to judge people who are doing the thing I’m not, voluntarily serving small people who won’t appreciate all you’ve done for several decades yet.

Does this mean I give carte blanche to parents when their children misbehave? No. I recognize the difference between a parent who is just disconnected from their child’s behavior and one who can’t help what is happening. I know the gulf between a kid who is kicking the back of my seat while mom scrolls through Instagram and one who is hungry, tired and overstimulated.

Fight that feeling that you’d like to crawl under a rock, because not all those eyes on you are judging. Some are like me and desperately want to run up and hug that kid and whisper to you to take your time because I’m going to take this little one to the bathroom and let them cry themselves out. I won’t do that obviously. It would be weird. But I want you to know that you’re okay. You’re not failing, you’re raising a child and this moment of childish behavior is just part of it. The small inconvenience of a noisy episode during my day isn’t going to hurt me, so don’t hang on to those feelings of guilt and sadness. I might even tell my husband about it later and how helpless I felt for you. I do think about you later, and I think you’re brave.

I don’t know what it feels like to be you, parenting a child. But I do know what it feel like to be judged and I will not do that. And here’s the important thing: If I feel this way, there have to be more people like me who do too. I want you to know that. You’ve got this.

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