I got a text today. “Mom, I am sorry for every time I lost my temper when I was little.” it read. As soon as I saw the text I knew what it was about. My daughter was at a store somewhere with Helene’ The Toy Strewing Pre-schooler, and had had a melt down. When I got to talk to Ashley a bit later, I learned that my darling granddaughter did not get something she wanted quite fast enough, and so reacted negatively. They then had to do the “walk of shame” out to the car. She didn’t say what her husband was doing at the time, but he was probably delegated to take care of checking out their purchases. Either that or he pretended not to know them. Little brother Isaiah who has moved up to toy strewing toddler status observed it all, in his usual laid back fashion. He may have been taking mental notes for future opportunities.
The “walk of shame” entails a parent dragging a child who is doing their best to display their disgust, disappointment, or fatigue by crying at a decibel level and pitch designed to cause dogs to hide their ears under their paws, and for everyone within hearing distance of that distressed voice to stare. What makes that walk even more worse is the reduced pace and ability of the child to get out the door and to the car fast enough.
The apology was because Ashley knew that once upon a time she was the kid and I was the beleaguered parent trying to drag someone kicking and screaming out to the car while being utterly mortified at my offspring’s behavior. Having three kids, I’ve been a participant of the walk of shame several times. Except my kids usually had their meltdowns at the furthest point in the store from an exit. I could almost hear what others were thinking as I’d drag the protesting offspring through the building, siblings trailing behind.
The looks on other people’s faces would always be a mixture of pity and disgust. The ones displaying pity one can likely assume had once been in my shoes, having one of their own act as my little one was acting at the moment. The ones displaying disgust probably didn’t know what it was like to have a cranky three year old who’d rather be doing anything but waiting in the paper goods aisle for her mother to decide which paper towels to buy. They may have thought that I was a bad parent, lacking discipline, or was a bad parent, having done something really mean just out of their view, thus causing the distress of my child. At least that is how I imagined it, hence my walk of shame.
Little kids, especially under the age of five are often irrational when it comes to having to wait for something. Add being tired, bored, or hungry and their emotional triggers can be that much more touchy. We’ve all been witness to how kids can act rather badly in a very public setting and wonder why they don’t act how we feel should be more appropriately. We simply forget that they are not grown-ups yet and haven’t yet mastered the art of grown-up behavior. We understand that 15 minutes is not all that long, they do not. We understand that having a screaming hissy fit is not the best way to get what we want. They are still close enough to the diaper stage in life to remember that it’s worked well before, so why not now? Still it is difficult to have patient to little people who are anything but.
Thankfully though children grow up. They learn better communication skills, a better grasp on the passage of time, and by the time they start kindergarten that meltdown stage has mostly passed. Kids learn a little bit on patience and how to behave in public, and parents discover brand new ways to be embarrassed by their kids in public.
I am enjoying watching these events in my grandkid’s lives from an observational perspective. Yes even the accounts of my little darling’s being really really bad. When I see a harried parent trying to calm a very upset pre-schooler, I am sympathetic, remembering what it was like to be in that situation. I am glad, of course that I am not currently in their shoes. Very glad.
And to my daughter? Apology graciously accepted.