I was at the grocery store loading up my bags in my car the other day, and I looked to the side and saw a mama putting her toddler into the car with a good amount of force. I’m not talking child abuse here, just a little bit more aggression than is typically needed. I didn’t judge. I KNEW. I had been there and I felt for her. It immediately brought me back to one of my worst, most frustrating parenting days.
I think my kids were probably two and three and a half. I needed milk and probably diapers and a couple other random things, so we walked into the grocery store and I grabbed a basket. (Rookie move: always grab the cart.) We walked around and loaded our things in and my kids were being crazy. Running around, grabbing stuff, just being normal. But it was almost dinner time, and my patience was low. I’m lugging a gallon of milk and a loaded down basket and trying to corral them close to me. My son was…how do I phrase this?
Oh yes. Being a complete psycho.
So we get to the checkout line and there is a line, and I put my stuff on the belt and he takes off running, down the aisle behind me. I’m standing with my three-year old and thinking, “do I leave her here and run? WHAT? Tell me?” I turn quick, drop the basket, and in the process my wallet drops and all the money and change falls out. I freeze, yell at her to “stay and don’t move and I’ll be back!” and run down the end of the looooooong aisle and grab my son. He thinks it’s funny and runs faster. (Not funny.) I haul him into a side hold and want to die. He’s struggling and crying, I’m so freakin’ angry, and I run back to my daughter. I somehow clean up my wallet off the ground, gripping me to my side in a fireman hold, and pay, and I am seeing red. The cashier (bless her heart), sees I am losing it and bags my things and asks if I need help (no thank you, I say! I just want to get home and kill my kid!) She tells me it will be okay. I don’t agree.
I get to the car with a cart that the cashier had found, with my kids, and without my sanity. I put him into his car seat SO HARD and I am muttering through gritted teeth about how long I will put him into timeout and how ANGRY I am. The whole way home I tell him this, and I am in tears and just done. At home I go to get him out of his car seat with anger, because he needs to KNOW how mad I am and that he made me so angry, and as I am unbuckling him he falls to the side onto the garage floor and hits his head. And I’m mad about it. I’m mad because now he is crying and I can’t punish him and I just want him to know how hard that was for me in that store. He needs to know that. Instead, I have to console him, which I don’t want to do.
I don’t remember what happened next. I probably got him an icepack and unloaded the groceries and made dinner. I probably gave them baths and put them to bed and then after thinking long and hard, felt guilty for it all. Guilty for the things I said. Guilty for not knowing how to make it better. Guilty for making the decisions that set it all off in the first place. Guilty for not wanting to console him when he fell because I really wanted to punish him more.
I look back at that mama and see how hard it was, daily life, and how each moment often called for more than I was capable of at that time. I wish I could tell her to just take a breath, take each moment, and keep going. And you know what? She did that. She did that day in and day out until her kids got a little older and it got a little easier to go to the grocery store. I no longer have to chase kids in the grocery store or put kids in timeout (much, ha!), but those days are still inside of me. I remember them when I see other’s dealing with the same pressures, and I KNOW. Those days are hard. Babies and toddlers and grocery stores (and restaurants) are so hard.
Life is hard, and so are you. We can do this.