So last night, I took my toddler out on a mother-son date. We cruised around the aisles of a craft store (so many colors!), admired tanks of fish and turtles and guinea pigs at a pet store (*speechless admiration*) and finally settled in at a favorite local restaurant for some mac and cheese (him) and beef sliders (me). Why am I telling you this? Because the next time my kid has a meltdown in public and I’m feeling like the worst parent ever, I want it documented, that yes, good outings with a toddler — while rare and majestic like unicorns and reliable public wifi — are technically possible. In fact, they happen all the time. But like all of life's casual goodness being historically overshadowed by intermittent horror, the occasional public meltdowns are so epic and so traumatizing that it's all too easy to associate "taking a toddler out in public" with "you're legitimately insane if you think that's a good idea; dead god, woman, get a hold of yourself."
And you know, fair. Because taking a toddler out in public is not always as smooth as last night's outing proved to be. For the record, my son is great and wonderful and amazing, etc.; However — off the record — sometimes it's really effing hard to get things done when he’d rather be running down the aisles of Target, pulling boxes of crayons off the shelf (I know, what was I thinking, taking him out of the cart?). And so, I thought I’d offer a snapshot of what goes through the mind of parents when those difficult moments occur, since let’s be real, this is when the real parenting magic happens.
"Maybe If I Pretend Like Nothing’s Brewing, It Will Pass."
My train of thought is as follows: Act normal, act normal, act normal, act normal. I smile politely at the concerned woman noticing that my son's voice is growing more and more shrill by the second. Shrug. Mime a gentle laugh that subtly says, "Aren't kids wonderful?"
"Or Maybe If I Distract You With My Wallet Or This Pack Of Tissues Or This Gum Wrapper, It Will Pass."
What do you mean, you’re not entertained? You love playing with the contents of my purse at home on the living room floor shortly before we’re expecting company to arrive. Why isn't this distracting you?
"Obviously, If I Get Down To Your Level And Talk In A Firm Voice, That Will Fix Everything."
This is how you know I’m serious. I SEE YOU, CHILD. WE ARE NOT DOING THIS TODAY.
"When Did You Get So Fast? You Are Destined For Athletic Glory."
In between those moments of panic, I can’t help but feel nostalgic at how fast time flies and how quickly kids grow. Seemingly out of nowhere, my tiny bundle of snuggling joy has morphed into a graceful track star; a graceful track star who is making me look bad in front of all these strangers whose approval I suddenly need more than oxygen.
"Why Are You So Loud? Perhaps You Are Actually Destined For Operatic Glory. Of Course You Could Do Both, You Can DO Whatever You Set Your Mind To."
Maybe even musical theater? I mean those performers are super talented and in amazing shape, so yeah, I could possibly see that in your fut-...
"ALERT ALERT WE HAVE REACHED PEAK MELTDOWN."
Time to dig deep. What my favorite motherhood icons do? Beyoncé, Tina, Mrs. Weasley, and Uncle Jesse, hear my cry.
"But You LOVE Goldfish Crackers?! Why Are You Throwing Them?"
I’m not sure I even want to know the answer. But what I do know is that I’m definitely not handing you anything for the foreseeable future.
"Stop Arching Your Back, Please."
I remember not long ago seeing a quote online that trying to pick up a toddler who doesn’t want to be picked up is like trying to kidnap someone who doesn’t want to stop break-dancing. I really wish I knew who I could credit for that, because no one has been more right about anything, ever.
*Silently Recalling All The Times I Saw Other People’s Kids Acting Up, And Saying A Mental Shout Out To All Those Parents*
I'm not typically one to intervene, and so far, I've appreciated that other strangers tend to leave my family alone, too. But in this moment, I will totally take all the helpful vibes anyone feels inclined to send. Thanks.
"All These People Are Going To Think I’m A Terrible Mom."
Reason #1,658 that I'm glad to not be famous: the odds of this being filmed and posted to the internet are slim.
"I Cannot Effing Believe I Did Not Bring Any Apple Sauce Pouches."
I will never make this mistake again. (Spoiler: I will.)
"Oh Wait, My Attempt At Frantically Singing The ABCs Is Helping? This People Are Going To Think I’m An AWESOME Mom."
This is the best day ever! This day shall go down in history as the day my mom skills reached their peak, and when I achieved a new level of confidence and...
"Wait, Nope, Nope. Not Working. Nevermind."
This is when I keep telling myself that I love my son, I love my son, I love my son, I love my son...
"RIP, Abandoned Cart With Half Of My Shopping List Now All Alone In The Office Supply Aisle."
You were a trustworthy ally and companion. It was good while it lasted. Perhaps we’ll meet again someday. I've been defeated.