You skipped your nap at school yesterday. It was no surprise, then, that I also received reports of you not listening and acting wild.
When you don’t nap you go manic. Crazy eyes manic. Bad. News. Bears.
When I collected you from your classroom you wanted to be picked up, put down, now back up. You swatted wildly at things hanging from the ceiling. You wouldn’t maintain eye contact. Your eyes were huge; like you were taking in every possible stimuli in your vicinity, and that’s probably exactly what you were doing. You were steadily over-stimulating yourself.
Which is why taking you to the grocery store was such a dumb idea. Rookie move, Mom.
The moment we entered the store, you bolted from my side straight for the nearest brightly-colored display: candy. Thanks so much, grocery store people.
From then on it was touch-and-go. You’d stay within an eight-foot radius of me while I strung you along with an enticing game of ‘finders keepers’. “Buddy, popcorn! Can you find the popcorn? Go get it!” You never did find the popcorn. You couldn’t see anything that wasn’t shiny or brightly colored. You found Mickey Mouse fruit snacks, chrome sunglasses, Ninja Turtles mylar balloons, but none of the items on our list.
Eventually, we – I – found the essential items we had come for and made a bee-line for the nearest empty self-check-out station. I’d scan an item and throw it on the belt…scan, toss, scan, toss. Only…why weren’t any of the items showing up on my total? Which is when I realized that the belt was weighing the items as I tossed them on…it was also weighing the little hands that kept trying to catch the items as they went passed. If the weight didn’t match up, the machine voided the item. Great.
Eventually I was all backed up. Half of the items at the other end of the belt hadn’t been scanned. The machine beeped wildly at me and the attendant showed up just in time to see me smacking your hands off the belt for the umpteenth time. She looked me up and down before she perused the items on the screen.
“Ma’am, you haven’t scanned half of these items.” Are you trying to shoplift? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; you beat your children after all. (Judgment implied)
We sorted out my items while you got distracted by the bright, shiny candy wrappers in the aisle. I was on my last two items when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that you had something in your mouth. It was a package of mini donuts. You were methodically biting them through the bag; One. By. One.
I yanked it out of your mouth and Lost. My. Sh*t.
“This is NOT yours! What were you thinking?? You broke this! Yes, that’s bad!” I threw the dang donuts on the scanner then turned around and gave you a purposeful smack on the back of your hand. I looked you in the eyes, “Do not chew things that do not belong to you!”
I’m sure I looked like the Witch of Aisle Five at this point. No other patrons were even cueing behind me and the scene we were making. When the last item was scanned I looked up in time to see the tail end of a naughty boy Run Off.
I abandoned food, aisle, purse – everything – and pursued the fugitive. I caught you by your shirt collar in the neighboring check-out aisle and hauled you bodily into the correct aisle. Your feet did not touch the floor. I considered for a moment the danger of actually hurting you and – by the grace of God – managed enough restraint to place you gently on the floor in front of me. “Do Not Run Off. STAY.” You did.
I payed for and bagged my groceries.
On our way out I handed you the decimated donuts. I looked you in the eyes and said in my ‘fear of God’ voice, “You do NOT damage things and get to keep them. Chewing things does NOT make them yours. Do you understand? Put these in the trashcan.” You did.
You fought me as we crossed the parking lot. You did not want to hold my hand. I strapped you in to your car seat and looked you in the eyes. “You need to listen. You need to do as your told. I love you.” I kissed you on the forehead as you pouted at me with angry eyes. “Buddy, when you run away from me it scares me.” And then you started to cry.
I don’t know if I finally broke through to you by letting you know that you had scared me or if your tiredness finally overwhelmed you, but I was grateful for your tears. It meant the manic monster had abated. It meant you knew you had behaved poorly. Something had sunk in.
We drove home and I thought about the scene we’d made in the grocery store. I had deliberately not looked at any of the other patrons in the store. I was embarrassed. I lost my patience. Had I been a bad parent?
It’s hard to recognize good parenting sometimes. People think good parenting looks like clean, well-behaved, happy children. That isn’t good parenting; that is the RESULT of good parenting. The result of a lot of hard work, strung out nerves, repetition, and consistency.
Good parenting – the verb; the on-going, in the trenches stuff – is messy. Not letting your child get away with bad behavior is good parenting, but do you know what that looks like? It looks like an argument, a tantrum, a frazzled parent, and discipline.
Children should not eat food that is not theirs. Children should not run off. Children should listen and follow instructions. Making sure children learn these things is called parenting. Sometimes parenting looks like a crazy lady losing her sh*t at the grocery store, or the swimming pool, or the restaurant.
I don’t know if anyone recognized that in the grocery store yesterday. I don’t know how many people thought, “poor kid.” I don’t know if anyone was quietly sending me support while I slogged through my parenting moment. I do know that you, Buddy, learned something. So, even if it was messy, and embarrassing, and hard – it wasn’t a wasted parenting moment.