During one of my holiday jaunts to the grocery store, I witnessed a young mother attempting to deal with a raging child. The little girl, who appeared to be about 3, threw a temper tantrum as her mother continued to deny her demands to purchase a toy. As I traveled up and down several aisles, I caught glimpses of the drama. The child really worked hard to get her way. She flung herself on the floor, she swung her arms at her mother and screeched, “But I want it!” Her mother tried reasoning with her, encouraging her to stop and failed at attempts to get her back into the grocery cart. Eventually the drama concluded as the young mother picked up her flailing child and exited the store.
As I turned down the next aisle, several women began to comment on the drama we had just witnessed. One woman stated, “Oh, I remember those days.” Another commented. “I felt so bad for her,” and a third lamented that “toys are not needed in a grocery store.” And what pleased me about these comments was the bystander support this young mother was receiving. Not one person who spoke cast a stone or spoke negatively. Instead, these parents responded empathetically to the mother’s attempt to manage her child’s incredible outburst.
And though this mother was given a lot of support, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that she was not there to receive it. I am sure the young mother left the store feeling embarrassed and extremely frustrated, as many of us do when faced with our children’s challenging behaviors. We wonder what we have done wrong, or feel completely inept as our attempts to control the situation fail. And the reality is we have all been there. We have all been faced with parenting challenges. And not a one of us is a perfect parent.
I wonder, what would have happened if any of us had offered our support to this mother? And what prevents us from stepping in to help? For me I think I hesitated because I believed she could handle it. That she would make the decisions and take action based upon what she believed to be best for her child. I mean, who am I to offer support to a stranger? And yet I felt sad that this young mother was unaware of the support others had for her.
And maybe when faced in the future with a similar situation, I will choose to offer my help. Because one thing we can all attest to is that support from others who have been through what we’re experiencing is extremely valuable. It is helpful to know we are not alone and that all parents face similar challenges. There’s safety and comfort in numbers!