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  • Writer's pictureGina Heumann

Hug a Mom Today

All parents have been in a store, restaurant, or public place when their kid is less than perfect. It’s a hard place to be. It’s embarrassing. And now that we’re in the era where people would rather pull out their phones and record this horrifying public parenting moment and post it on the Internet, the results can be disastrous. I had many of these incidents as the parent of a RAD kid, but one stands out above the rest because I was publicly ridiculed by some holier-than-thou woman with a wagging finger and a scowl.

The Target Meltdown

It was August and we had just spent an hour in the local Target store loading up the cart with school supplies and groceries for the week. My kids were about 8 and 11, and I was feeling pretty psyched that I was accomplishing something and things were going well. I was just getting ready to leave, and discovered the boys had wandered off into the toy aisle. All I needed to do was retrieve them, pay, and head out for a successful outing. That wasn’t going to happen.

The 8-year-old, who was suffering from some sort of mental illness that we hadn’t quite figured out yet asked for a toy, and I had two choices:

  1. Give in, buy the toy, and call it a success. It wasn’t that expensive after all, so is there really any harm? OR

  2. Say no, teach him a lesson about not always getting your way, and brace for a rage incident in a public place.

Either option didn’t seem that great. Although the first one was awfully tempting, let’s face it – it’s not considered good parenting. Either way people are judging.

I chose the latter, and it did not end well.

Meltdown of All Meltdowns

Now, normally when you say “no” to a kid, there might be some tears, but they’ll get over it. Maybe you can distract them with a cookie that’s already in the cart or show them a funny video on your phone. Normally, the incident is over fairly quickly. But not my kid.

No, my kid doesn’t take the word “no” lightly. He screams. Not just a regular scream, but one of those blood-curdling ones that causes neighbors to consider calling CPS. People in the parking lot could probably hear it. He also destroys things. So he starts throwing things across the aisle, as I’m frantically trying to pick them up. He’s not so small that I can just scoop him up and carry him out of the store and he’s flailing his arms trying to hit me. At one point, he latches on to the column in the aisle that’s holding up the building, and now I have to somehow pry his arms off and drag him out of the store. Great. I’m sweating. I’m embarrassed. And I’m about to leave this giant cart full of goodies that I’ve just spent an hour trying to fill.

The Mean Lady

I manage to drag him towards the door, other kid in tow, and no cart. As I’m about to escape, this older woman approaches me wagging her finger and scowls, “You should be ashamed of yourself. I raised six children and none of them EVER acted that way in a public place. You are failing as a mother.”

I don’t remember how I reacted to her, as I was completely in shock by what she said. I spent every day feeling like a failure as a mother and her judgment didn’t make it any better. Instead, I cried the whole way home, and most likely, the rest of the evening. My kid, on the other hand, continued to scream at me for about three more hours, trashing his room for the millionth time. Reactive Attachment Disorder, the diagnosis we eventually received, comes with some VICIOUS anger.

How Should We Treat Other Moms

I think we can all agree that this isn’t the way to treat our fellow sisters. Let’s have compassion for other moms and give them encouragement rather than judgment. We NEVER know what’s going on in someone else’s home, and most moms are doing the best they can. So here’s a few ideas for how you can better react to a mom who’s struggling in a public place.

  1. Ignore it. Walk away. It’s really not your business to get involved, unless you are a licensed therapist who can actually provide good advice. Remember the old phrase, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? It’s still a good rule.

  2. Say a kind word. “I’m so sorry you’re struggling. We’ve all had hard days with our kids and you’re not alone.” Do you know how much that would have meant to me?

  3. Offer a hand. “Is there anything I can do to help you?” I’m not sure if I would have had an answer, but it would have been nice to be asked, rather than judged. There was an amazing story recently about a group of moms who formed a support circle around another mom who’s kid was throwing a tantrum in an airport, and it really gave me hope for humanity.

  4. Be nice. Ever since that incident at Target, I really try to offer support and hugs to other moms, rather than judgments. Sometimes, I have a stack of $5 Starbucks gift cards I carry with me just for this purpose, and I say, “I’m so sorry you’re having a rough day… stop and get a coffee on me later.” People are SO thankful when you’re nice to them.

Life is hard enough without the haters. Hug another mom today!

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