Toby went on his first ever school trip today, to a local farm. He was so excited to go, and watching all the children come back to school off the coach, it was clear that they all had a lovely time! George was asleep in the back of the car after a fun morning at his friend’s house playing dinosaurs. Bliss!
I had to nip to Sainsbury’s (other supermarkets are available) for a couple of things, and given that George was napping, and Toby was in high spirits, straight after school seemed like the best time to go. I passed my driving test almost 2 weeks ago, so it was nice to make the most of our new found freedom.
We arrived at the supermarket, I parked up, and decided to let George have another 10 minutes sleep. Toby wanted to ‘drive’ so he sat in my seat, and I went in the passenger seat. Toby and I spent 10 minutes laughing and playing, then got ready to go in.
I woke George up, and somehow managed to lift him out the car without squashing my 6 day overdue baby belly. He was cheerful, and clearly happy to see Toby. I carried him to the doors, and then I asked a question that ruined his entire life, or so he made out.
“Do you want to sit in the trolley or walk, darling?”
Well. My little darling started to scream as though someone was torturing him. My lovely, quiet, polite little boy was making a noise I have never heard before. I could make out the words ‘no’ and ‘carry’ somewhere amongst the uncontrollable crying.
I stayed calm, explaining that it would hurt Mummy’s tummy to carry him too far, and that he could walk and hold my hand, or sit in the seat, but he had to choose one of the two. I used my best calm voice, that tells everyone else listening that ‘I got this’.
I didn’t ‘got this’. ‘This’ was nowhere to be seen.
I put him down to walk, so he tucked his legs up, refusing to stand. I lifted him back up to put him in the seat of the trolley, so he straightened his legs so I couldn’t sit him down. I returned him to the floor, where his legs miraculously shrivelled up again like a withered plant. Picked him back up. LEGS OF STEEL. Put him down. LEGS OF JELLY.
The whole time I was doing this, he was screaming in a fit of rage that the Hulk would be proud of. I was calmly saying things like “Let’s not be silly, come on now George” and giving him cuddles to try and soothe him in between. My maternity jeans kept rolling down because of the sheer size of my bump, and my top kept lifting up, so everyone got a nice view of my stretch marks. Toby was getting bored of waiting so was staring to swing off the trolley, making it harder to get George into the seat, resulting in me needing to ask him, in my now ‘not so calm’ voice to “Please just let go of the trolley and stand nicely!”. I was clearly struggling with these kids, and it was very entertaining to all the passers by who stared and gawped.
I finally convinced George to get into the trolley. That lasted all of 15 metres. HOW DARE I HAVE PUT THE BELT ON HIM. He wanted to get out. The screaming resumed. Holding hands with a 4 year old, trying to steer a trolley, whilst sitting a toddler back down is no mean feat. I made it all the way to the card aisle without cracking. I walked with my head held high, and my voice not even showing signs of the distress I was feeling. Toby set about choosing two cards, whilst I continued to try and calm George down. The card aisle is the quietest aisle in the world I think. The aisle where people go for peace. Where you can’t even cough without feeling impolite. George was asking for a cuddle in between cries, so I picked him out, and gave him a squeeze that instantly calmed him. He rested his head on my shoulder and told me he loved me. ‘I got this’, once again. Toby chose wrapping paper and George chose a gift bag. It was lovely for approximately 30 seconds. Then I made the mistake of asking George if he wanted to carry the bag or put it in the trolley. LIFE RUINED AGAIN.
Meltdown City. Population: George.
We kept walking, George was trying to grab hold of my leg instead of my hand. But, ‘I got this’ so carried on walking, reassuring him that it would only take a minute, and if he still wanted, he could go in the trolley.
I remained outwardly dignified, but obviously frustrated, as I practically dragged him, waterski style, to the other end of the shop for the one other thing we needed. Toby pulled the trolley from side to side, making George scream more.
Items chosen, we went to the tills. The same behaviour continued. I tried to calm him, tried to reason with him, and even tried to tell him what was going on, and how I expected him to behave. It was useless, he just was not going to stop screaming.
I somehow managed to get both children back to the car. Put them in their seats, and got myself in.
I could finally break. I started crying the second my door shut. I let out all the frustration and anxiety that had eaten me alive inside the shop. The horrible feelings that I was hiding because people needed to see that ‘I got this’. The feeling of shame and embarrassment because of people’s reactions to my children’s behaviour. The pain from seeing the looks of disgust as my toddler had a huge tantrum that was un-ignorable.
I cried for 10 minutes. Both the children asked what was wrong, and all I could tell them was that Mummy’s heart was feeling a bit hurt.
People had tutted, muttered and looked on disapprovingly the entire time I was there. Comments of ‘naughty’ and ‘not in control’ were heard. I felt humiliated.
I WAS in control. In control of my own actions. In control of myself, by not letting myself snap and scream at my kids. Of course a swift smack to the legs and a “Shut the fuck up” would have got out some frustration, but that isn’t the type of parent I am. I try and be a gentle parent, and treat my children how I wish them to treat others. Of course I raise my voice, but it is rare. My children are wonderful, kind hearted and well behaved boys. Most of the time.
Not one single person gave me a sympathetic smile, or that knowing look of ‘we have all been there’. Every person just stared and judged the snapshot they were seeing.
Of course they weren’t to know how amazing my children normally are, or how sweet and polite George usually is. But these grown adults looked at me struggling, and made me feel an inch tall. The brave face I put on was not convincing, yet people still felt the need to comment on my boy’s behaviour, and how well I was dealing with it.
If you ever see a person having a hard time with their children, especially a Mother who is about 11 months pregnant, give her a smile, or ‘the look’. Don’t make her feel like a faliure, because for all you know, she could be fighting a battle, that your kindness could help her win. Her life might be so incredibly hard at the moment, that she is on the verge of something unimaginable, and you letting her know that she’s ‘got this’ could be just what she needs to get her through that shopping trip, or that day, or that week.
I knew George’s behaviour wasn’t great. I knew that he was being really loud. I knew that he was making your trip to Sainsbury’s a little less peaceful. I also know what empathy and sympathy are, and people in this world do not show enough of them!
Toddlers will be toddlers, and parenting will always be fucking hard.
Love you Jason xxxxx