I used to think to myself, "How sad, she doesn't know how to discipline her own child," whenever I'd see a mother in public with an out of control screaming toddler. Today I was cured of ever thinking that again. I became "that mother."
It happened at the mall. My daughter threw her first real temper tantrum, and I had to decide at that moment what I cared about most: what people thought of me, or teaching my daughter an important lesson. We were in the crowded food court, of all places, and she didn't want to go back in her stroller. I had a very good reason for needing her to be in the stroller at that moment. She couldn't have cared less. So began the very loud, high-pitched, red-faced, whiney scream that toddlers are so famous for, big alligator tears streaming down her face, legs kicking and arms flailing.
I remained amazingly calm, squatting down and talking to her in an attempt to reason with her, but to no avail. So I made the decision to simply ignore her and put the obnoxious squealing pig in the stroller anyway. I was sure everyone was staring, mouth dropped open, at the poor mother who couldn't control her child, but I didn't care. She was going to learn right then and there that she can't always have her way. We were close to the Chinese food place when this happened, and the man on the other side of the counter smiled sympathetically and handed me a fortune cookie still in the wrapper, hoping the cookie might calm her down. I knew it wouldn't, but I thanked him anyway and "tried" giving it to her. She responded with a violently shaking head. So I gave the fortune cookie back, saying with a laugh and raising my voice in hopes others would hear me, too, "Sometimes, you just have to ignore them," and began pushing her along in the stroller. In a matter of seconds, she calmed right down.
A round of applause from the crowd of people might have been appropriate at that moment; after all, it was quite the show, starring my daughter, the wild animal. Whether or not she learned anything from that experience remains to be seen. Whether or not I made the right decision at that moment can be debated among all the women out there who have never yet been "that mother."