It’s no secret that my middle child is tough. She was born on her own terms (approximately 10 minutes after we pulled into the Emergency Room at the hospital) and has pretty much done her very best to live by her rules, and her rules only, every day since. Don’t get me wrong, like every mother, my love for her is fierce and unwavering, but there have been many a days over the past four plus years where I have found myself wondering if either of us would survive to see her 18th birthday.
While the majority of our – let’s just call them “challenging moments” – are dealt with at home, this weekend I got the horror of experiencing one of those times in public. For some reason, my daughter decided she did NOT want to go to her weekly gymnastics class. And her way of telling me this was to start screaming and crying as we were about to walk into class. I’ll spare the details, but just know there was a lot of screaming, thrashing on the ground, hitting, biting and kicking going on (and in case there is any confusion here, please note I was the one on the receiving end). In hindsight, I suppose it’s a very good thing we were in public, because this forced me to keep my angst and frustration in check and remain fairly calm – well as calm as one could be while getting a beat down by a four year old in public.
Now there are a million and one ways that I could have, and maybe should have, handled this situation. But in the heat of the moment, all I could think about was for the love of God, please exorcise the demon that has apparently taken over my child. I tried to calm her down and wait it out, but as I mentioned, this child only likes things on her terms and at this moment, she was having none of it. So ultimately after about 20 minutes of this pure chaos, I scooped her up and carried her out of there and drove home.
I cannot even begin to describe everything that was going through my head during all of this. But for starters, I was pretty mortified. I could only imagine what all these other parents and kids were thinking while watching this shit show go down. On top of that, I just kept wondering what the hell is happening and how do I make it stop. But mainly I was questioning every ounce of my parenting existence and wondering just what or how many mistakes I had made for this unexpected outburst to occur.
And then it happened…as I was firmly reminding my daughter for the third time that we indeed do NOT bite and was milliseconds away from bursting into tears myself, a stranger came up to me, half put her arm around me and said, “Hang in there. We’ve all been there. You’re doing great.” That simple gesture was exactly what I needed. I chuckled back and asked if it was too early to start drinking. And another fellow mom piped up and answered, “It’s never too early! Besides it’s Saturday.” Meanwhile, yet a third stranger had silently began cleaning up my spilled coffee that somehow, not naming any names, was hit out of my hands by a certain little person. These small, yet paramount, gestures gave me the strength I needed to hold my shit together, face that tiny little devil and be the parent I needed to be. Because let’s face it, what I really wanted to do was throw my own tantrum, high tail it on out of there and head for the nearest bar – sans child.
The point of this story (besides having written proof to someday show my daughter just why she’ll be the one taking care of her dear old elderly mother because dammit she owes me) is not to illustrate her challenging behavior. She’s four. She is the product of two extremely stubborn people. I get it. All kids have their moments, that’s just part of the fun of being a kid. My point is that they say it takes a village to raise a child, but just what that village is can be a matter of perspective. Some people may be blessed to have lots of family and friends nearby to help them when they need it. But for those that don’t, maybe it’s that one simple pat on the back that is enough to help you hold it together and keep moving. It was for me. And for that, I’m grateful for my own “village” consisting of understanding strangers and fellow parents who have been, or still are, in those parenting trenches. Cheers to all of you!