Thank you to the mum in the Trafford Centre
This happened a while back, but it’s something that lodged in your brain and you told yourself you’d write about it one day – and you guessed it, today’s that day.
You and Toby were at the Trafford Centre and he’d been dragged round a fair few shops for things you needed and he was fed up, tired, hungry and cranky. You were in the food hall queuing for a table at a restaurant that was really busy. Toby kept climbing on a statue that was in the entrance and the staff asked him to stop. You asked him multiple times to get off it, but he wouldn’t listen; in the end you had to physically remove him from it. Long story short, nothing short of a monumental tantrum was to follow. He ran off, threw himself on the floor, kicked, screamed, spat, just basically acted like a feral animal that’d be safer for everyone if it was behind bars!
You walked over to him and tried to explain why he couldn’t climb on the statue and that you were both fed up and it wouldn’t be long. He screamed to go away and that he hated you. Passers-by watched with that look of ‘she really needs to get a grip of that kid’, the kind of look that at one point would have made you die inside, the kind where you can feel the prickles up the back of your neck and all the blood rushing to the surface of your cheeks... You know the look pretty well, maybe even because at one point BT (before Toby) you would have done the same – jumped to conclusions and judged.
Rather than allowing the feelings of embarrassment and frustration takeover, you sat down next to him in the middle of the floor of a jam-packed shopping centre and asked him to calm down. You spoke to him calmly and told him it was ok and that you were also hungry and tired of waiting. You could imagine the confusion of passers-by and looks of what a strange thing to do. But here’s the thing, you know your own child. Dragging him up, shouting, causing a scene would only have aggravated the situation more. You’ve tried. At one point you would have dragged him out kicking and screaming, embarrassed and too humiliated to try and sort the situation out with an audience. Too afraid of what others might think. But you’re ok with it now; let them stare if they want to. You were doing what you needed to do. You know that you need to get eye-level with Toby to show him that you understand. An adult standing over a child lying on the floor is pretty intimidating and authoritative, but an adult at eye-level calmly explaining why a child can’t do what they were doing makes more sense.
Toby soon calmed down and you were able to pick him up and take him back to the queue. As you got up you noticed a woman sat adjacent, also on the floor. She was feeding her baby with a toddler sat at the side of her, probably watching some crap on YouTube on her phone and eating an ice cream. She smiled and nodded at me. It was an “I understand” nod and in that moment nothing or nobody else could have reassured you more that you were doing the right thing, than another mum in exactly the same situation who just ‘got it’. To her it was probably nothing but a smile, but to you, it was the confidence boost you’d been waiting years for.
You were a young mum, or should you say, you are a young mum, You were 19 when you fell pregnant with Toby. For a long time you felt judged and embarrassed by the kick-offs and the tantrums; you’ve dragged him out of many a shopping centre, supermarket and soft play in sheer humiliation and sat in the car and cried. Rung your mum and told her “I can’t do this”. But in that moment, with that fellow mother’s tiny little gesture of understanding, it all came flooding back and you felt immensely proud of yourself and what you’ve overcome. Because you can do it and you are doing it. It may have taken a while to find your confidence with this whole parenting thing – nobody can ever prepare you for how hard it is – but you’ve got it now (well, most days!) You didn’t take to it like a duck to water like others, you’ll be the first to admit you haven’t enjoyed every waking moment. You’ve struggled, you’ve felt out of your depth, like you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, like you’re not the right person for the job, but in that very moment, you felt like shouting from the roof tops – you’re actually doing it. It’s been one hell of a ride but you’re doing it. And you’re still doing it.