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February 18, 2009

That Mom

DSC_0020 We've all been there.  You're in the grocery store trying to acquire the items on your list so you can move on to more important tasks.  You're pushing your cart along, minding your own business, when suddenly you hear the shrill protest of a child who is not getting his way.  You can't help it; you turn and look.  Where is that awful noise coming from?  What is wrong with that child?  And why won't his mother do something about it?

Then you turn the corner and you see them -- the weary mother looks like she's being drug through a Jack Bauer investigation and her errant child is carrying on as if someone was inflicting mortal harm.  She wants desperately to finish her shopping trip and get the heck out of Dodge as soon as humanly possible, and her child is unrelenting.  Maybe you've been there or maybe you haven't, but you surely have an opinion about how said child should be handled.  You cast a glance of pity, or perhaps disdain.  You mosey on your way, thanking the dear Lord above that you aren't walking in her shoes today.

Despite three children and nine years of parenting, I had never walked in those shoes until last week.  Yep, you guessed it.  Last week I was That Mom.

It had been a long day.  The girls had been to school that morning.  I picked them up, brought them home for a quick lunch, then returned to school to pick up my son before we made our way to our annual dentist visit.  On the 25-minute car ride, my 3-year-old fell asleep.  Even though she was rudely awoken upon arrival at our destination, she patiently sat on my lap and watched intently as her sister received her checkup, and then agreeably hopped into the chair for her turn.  She was a model patient until it came time to x-ray her front teeth.  She closed her mouth tight and wouldn't relent, and we didn't force the issue.  

From the dentist's office, we stopped at Target.  We made it through Target without incident.  By then it was after 3PM.  I knew I was pushing it, but Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard was BARE and I had to pick up some dinner fixin's before heading home.

So we piled out of the car and made our way into the grocery store.  I plopped a few items of produce into my cart and then left all 3 children standing by the cart while I walked a few paces and started rifling through the tomatoes.  While I was selecting tomatoes, I heard the fight break out.  Both girls wanted to push the cart.  My son, being the big brother, tried to intervene.  It was not pretty.

A seasoned veteran of such altercations, I finished selecting tomatoes before calmly walking back to the cart where I informed my son of his rightful position in the family (which is NOT Parent) and told the girls that I would be the only one pushing the cart in the store.  Both of the older kids acquiesced, but my 3-year-old was having none of it; she was determined to push the cart.  

I proceeded to pick her up in a vain attempt to console her, but that only angered her more.  I decided to put her in the seat in the front of the cart where she would be contained, and that was the final straw.  She fought me with strength that belies her 3 years and 3 months.  I had seen her temper flares at home, but we had never had an incident of that magnitude in public.  Actually, scratch that.  There was that one time at the airport. In that situation, I had no choice but to hold her until her temper ran its course.

In this situation, however, I had the opportunity to flee.  And flee I did.  I looked at my older children and said, "We're leaving; follow me," and proceeded to vacate the premises as rapidly as I could with a flailing, screaming toddler in my arms.  For the first time in my life, I left the cart in the middle of the produce department, food and all, and high-tailed it to the car, screaming toddler and all.

Once we reached the car, I placed my daughter as gently as I could in her car seat and strapped her in and informed her in no uncertain terms that her behavior was unacceptable and we would deal with it at home.  I strapped myself in my seat and grabbed my Blackberry and texted the following message to my husband:

"I just fled the grocery store with a rabid child.  I'm on my way home.  You can figure out dinner."

I know, I'm a gem.

By the time we reached the house, she was subdued and repentant, but I knew there had to be consequences or it would happen again.  She has been as good as gold ever since, with a short pep talk before entering any store.  Well, that and that we haven't actually GONE anywhere except Wawa.  In all honesty, the drama of that day could have been avoided if I'd been a little more considerate of her limits.  She's three.  She had been out all day with barely a smidgeon of a nap.  It was entirely understandable.  And yet, I have two other kids who have NEVER acted that way a day in their lives!  Maybe I've gotten lazy and I've parented differently with her, who's to say.  But I prefer to think that every child is different, and this time I got a doozie!  Don't get me wrong, she's a sweet as can be when she wants to be, but she is one strong-willed woman. 

Now if I can just channel it in the right direction. 

This is an original post to Philly Moms.  When Jo-Lynne isn't dragging 3 kids all over town, she blogs at Musings of a Housewife, and she is the owner/editor of Chic Critique - a beauty and fashion blog written by regular women for regular women.  Photo credit: Jo-Lynne.

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