This past Saturday I made a quick stop at Target to buy a wedding gift. Standing in the crowded checkout line with the aroma of pumpkin spice latte all around, I was in my happy place. The business of the day was behind me, and my weekend was about to officially start. And then it began. A piercing shriek rose above the low hum of shoppers. I quickly turned to see a toddler in the line next to me kicking, screaming, and in general throwing an all out temper tantrum. As I stood in the crowded line awaiting my turn, the child continued to scream drawing looks from all around. The sheer volume of his cry made me cringe, and I could hear other people discussing what a scene this child was making. The screaming never stopped, and the mom eventually carried him out, kicking and screaming.
Here is what I want to say to his mom but couldn’t because of his demand for her attention in those few moments:
Thank you. You are doing a great job as a parent. I can hear you calmly tell your child that he is not going to get a treat because he was not well behaved, and he is trying to wear you down and break you. But you are holding your ground and that is not easy when you are in a public place with all eyes on you. You realize that giving in to appease the judgmental eyes and snide remarks of those around you will not produce a kid who is self-disciplined, well mannered, and marked by good character. You realize that while giving in to your child may befriend you in your child’s eyes, you will have lost his respect for you as a parent. You realize that even “just this time” of giving in makes a lasting impression on your child and opens the floodgates for other appeals and requests. You realize moments matter in raising kids. You realize that public embarrassment is a price worth paying for raising a responsible young adult. You keep the end result in mind even when the present moment is uncomfortable. I can tell that you are tired, pushed to the limit, and emotionally worn down, and even though you feel defeated, you are winning this battle in the war of raising a good kid.
Your screaming child today will one day be a pleasure to have in class as a student. He will be respectful to me and kind to other students. He will understand rules, the importance of working for things, and the value of self-discipline. So thank you for doing your job as a parent. Now drag that screaming kid by Starbucks before you go home and get a venti pumpkin spice latte to drink during his nap.