What I wish I could tell you when you see my child having a tantrum

In this moment I don’t know what to do. But I am trying really hard.

What I wish I could tell you when you see my child having a tantrum

Dear grocery store onlooker,

It’s me, the mom with the messy bun (but not in the trendy way), coffee stained shirt (also not trendy), and screaming toddler you saw in the store today. I wanted to take a few moments to talk to you.


You see, even though I looked (and felt) totally out of sorts, I still noticed the way you stared at me, and I’ll be honest—it stung. There were a thousand things I wanted to say, but the aforementioned screaming toddler prevented me from being able to.

But now he’s tucked quietly into bed and I am ready to share some thoughts.

It’s normal

Tantrums. Are. Normal. Period. This wasn’t my child’s first tantrum this week, and he probably wasn’t the first child to have a tantrum in that store today. Every child has them. I mean, it kinda makes sense—he’s only been on this planet for two years and sometimes he doesn’t know how to deal with his big feelings. (I’ve been on the planet for over thirty years, and I sometimes need help with my big feelings too.)

He is such a good kid

I know it’s hard to imagine that based on what you saw today. But really, he is the sweetest and funniest little guy. He fills my heart with so much warmth and happiness. That wasn’t him. He was temporarily taken over by some powerful stuff, but in his core he is so good.

There’s probably a really good explanation for it

He was hungry. I stretched him a little too far past his nap time. He’s getting a tooth. Any one of those reasons is reason enough for him to have a total meltdown. I know he made your shopping trip less pleasant. But I promise, he’s not trying to give you or me a hard time. He’s having a hard time. Big difference.

I’m on the verge of tears too

I’ve been up since 5 a.m. I’ve already made 3 breakfasts (for the same person), done a load of laundry, gone to a play date, and as you know, gone grocery shopping. And for the record, I haven’t been thanked once today. I’m not trying to complain...I’m trying to explain.

I love this job, and I know that I am lucky to be in the position to be here. But I am so utterly exhausted. And stressed. And full of self-doubt. I looked away when you looked at me so that you wouldn’t see my eyes well up with tears. That was a really hard moment for me.

In this moment, I don’t know what to do...

I’ve read the books. I’ve Googled “how to deal with tantrums” 50 times...(51 after today.) I’ve tried timeouts, ignoring them, hugging it out—all of it. But right now, I feel totally lost. And kind of alone. If I could make it stop I would. But I can’t.

...but I’m trying really hard

I love that kid so much and I am trying so hard to be a good mom. And I’ll be honest, I think I’m doing a pretty good job. Perfect? NO WAY. But everything I do comes from a place of love and good intention. (And also a place of coffee.) I have to trust that when I act from my heart, I am parenting well. Even when it looks like the scene you saw today.

So please don’t judge me.

Please make sure the looks you give me are compassionate and the words you say are kind. You may have been in my shoes once yourself, or you may be in them soon. We’re all in this together.

And to the people who have parents backs—thank you

To the mom who made eye contact with me as I was leaving, smiled and said, “You’ve got this”—you will never know how much that meant to me.

Thank you for giving me that.

Thank you for understanding.

Thank you for throwing me a lifeline when you saw I was drowning.

Mostly, thank you for speaking up. That two second exchange allowed me to take a breath and remind myself that I do have this. I am good at this. It is going to be okay.

When I got into my car and started crying, it wasn’t because of my toddler’s tantrum. It was because of the kindness and solidarity you showed me in that brief but powerful moment. You reminded me that I’m not, in fact, alone in this. Thanks to you, I’ll have the courage to try again tomorrow.

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