It was Saturday afternoon, my shopping day at Walmart, when I looked down to see one arm and two legs peeking out from under the clothing rack. I hear a whine turn into a wail, quickly escalating to a head-splitting scream. Arms flailing, legs kicking, it dawns on me that this child is in the middle of a one-person smack down. I’ve seen this before, watched as mothers worked to punish, pacify and reduce the effect that the event was having on the entire store.
I walked by those mothers in disbelief, I mean couldn’t they control their child? After all, he or she is less than three feet tall! I was certain this would never happen to me, and if it did, I would handle it so well. I would be the model mother—having control of all things at all times.
But on this day, as I peered through the hanging shirt sleeves that ended with dangling sales tags, the little girl I am looking at, well she’s mine. My motherhood exercise of pacifying and cajoling begins, but nothing I try works. Looking around to see how many shoppers are watching, I realize I have drawn a crowd. Each person in the audience was observing the reality that I was completely in over my head. The fact that I am caught surprised by my child acting this way should be my first clue that I previously misunderstood the mom job.
Before we take on this new role we think we will never have the screaming baby on the airplane, the two-year-old in a public tantrum. Ours won’t be the elementary school child that gets sent to the principal’s office. We believe our preteen will never march up the stairs in defiance muttering under her breath. It is someone else’s teenager that sneaks out of the house in rebellion. Our children will never run up the credit card that we gave them for emergencies only.
“Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on how to bring up children. Now I have seven children and only one theory: Love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved.”
I’ve got news for you, mom, you won’t experience all of the children challenges, but you will have your fair share. It really is just part of the amazing job of being mom. The best way to be prepared to deal with these encounters is to simply expect them. It’s so much easier to do any job, especially motherhood, when you know that along with the great moments of life, you’ll have a few of the difficult variety.
So here’s what to do, first make sure you’re the one in charge when they are still shorter than you. Take time before a flight to read up on how to take that baby on a plane. Stay calm and in charge as you pick that two-year-old off of the floor and head home for punishment. Let that preteen mumble occasionally, knowing she will come back downstairs at some point because she does have to eat. Make a plan for dealing with the teen rebellion, understanding it’s part of their growth toward independence. And watch over that credit card to keep them from breaking the bank.
Then, the simplest and final answer comes from this astute mother, Kate Samperi… “Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on how to bring up children. Now I have seven children and only one theory: Love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved.”
And remember this when you come upon that mother in Walmart: give her a quick hug, a smile and encourage her by telling her that you got through it and she will too.