She can't control her kids

Yesterday I wrote about my bad day. What I didn't tell you was how the day began (which might explain a lot).

As any good mother should, I dress and brush my offspring and we walk to the library for that SAHM staple, Story Hour. There, along with other blandly smiling and dark-circle-eyed mothers, we sing "Twinkle, Twinkle" and "Open, Shut" and listen to the soft-spoken librarian reading King Bidgood's in the Bathtub (really good!). My two sit attentively like the in-public angels they usually are. We do a simple craft before thanking the librarian and her sweet volunteer and go on our way.

All's good! We've gotten some fresh air and exercise, some education, I'm feeling confident with my new haircut and push-up bra, and my children have made me proud.

We head downstairs to pick out our weekly DVDs. E.T. and Oliver. Now it's Mommy's turn to choose her visual brain-suck of choice. I find them each a book and some slightly disturbing giant hand chairs on which to sit while I quickly grab something. Little Lady is happyly absorbed in a book on wizards and witches but Tator isn't overly impressed with the polar bear book I offer. I sweetly ask him to give me just one moment. Crawling under the circle of cupped hands is more appealing to him. So, I ask him if he'd like to help Mommy pick out a movie. And I turn to go.

And he's off. I swing back around and he's disappeared. Hoarsely, I whisper-yell for him. But he's nowhere to be seen. Then, over the other side of the reference desk I spot his curly tete.


And he's off again. Like a baby elephant he's pounding through the still of the computer-gazing, paper-reading, and book-browsing public. I speed-walk after him, and the game is on. He squeals with joy (or fear at the look on my face?) as he corners bookracks and knees.

Tator, STOP!

Each time I get within reach I miss him by millimeters. Here I am, a grown woman running through the library fuming like the dragon on the wall of the children's reading room. And the imp is having a blast knowing his mother is playing this wonderful game of cat and mouse.

Finally, I have him cornered, and in front of a woman trying to quietly research, I wrestle my screeching child to the ground. The look she gives me is one not of sympathy or empathy, it's more like disdain. And at that point I feel only disdain for myself. I cannot control my child and, like an idiot, I lost my senses to the point that I humiliated myself in this public place. My anger flares.

With captured child held tightly in my arms I grab my bag and instruct Little Lady to leave the movies and come! NOW!

I march out, careful not to catch anyone's eye. I throw Tator in the stroller and power-walk the fifteen minute walk home in half the time. Little Lady is near tears because the movies were left behind. I try to soothe her with the assurance that I am not angry with her.

Tator tearfully says, "you not happy with me, Mama?" He is sent to his bed once home and he has the grace to stay put for a half hour. When he calls to me we talk about why he had been sent to bed and says he's sorry for running away. He is hugged and kissed and sent downstairs to join his sister watching PBS.

I remain on his bed, still trying to disperse the darkness pooled in my chest.

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Anonymous said...

You haven't experience complete public humiliation until you sheepishly track down a Target employee and ask them to help search for your child, which you lost somewhere in the clothing racks. At least you were trying. Some people think it's perfectly normal to play a squealing game of tag in the library. I do have one piece of advice (and this is probably just because I'm a guy) - I don't leave. I want to leave, I'm embarrassed and humiliated and I really want to take my kid somewhere private for a Long Discussion but I force myself to stay. Sometimes the tantrum or behavior lasts a couple minutes, sometimes more but we stay and finish shopping, or haircuts, or lunch at a decent restaurant, or whatever task we set out to do even though if it takes longer than anticipated. This requires mental fortitude to ignore people watching and momentarily bury my shame but things generally get back on track pretty quick, especially since my kids have figured out that I don't blink. Every once in while a fellow parent or onlooker will give me a "thanks" or "good job" if they stay around long enough to see the situation return to normal. Regardless of how bad the child behavior was, triumphantly leaving a roomful of people who just witnessed you corral a child and patiently bring them back to being a well-mannered public citizen is incredibly fullfilling (at least in my head, and that's enough to keep me going the rest of the day).

joanna said...

I truly wish I had had the peace of mind to stay. There is this temporary insanity that takes over, ya know! As soon as I got home I knew all the things I *should* have done. I will really try to remember your advice next time - thank you!

Noble Savage said...

God, J, you're having quite a day, aren't you! Again, so familiar. Been there, done that, still doing it. Sigh.

I like Anonymous's advice though, I should heed it as well. Must. try. to. ignore. stares. It's really hard though. The Great Eyes of Disapproval are upon us all, parents of small children most of all.

joanna said...

Happy post next time, promise! I got some good writing therapy done today.

I forgot to say earlier to Anon that tantrums are ignored around here too. Thankfully, they rarely happen in public. Our kids have learned that whining and yelling get the exact opposite of what they want. However, breaking specific rules (running away, for example) are not. The natural consequence of him breaking that rule was to not get his movie. Unfortunately, neither did big Sis!

Iota said...

I found this post via the Noble Savage.

Please don't let the darkness pool in your chest for too long. I'm impressed that you can get a 3 year old boy to sit and sing and listen to stories in a library setting. Lots of 3 year old boys wouldn't do that! I used to go to a singing group, where the children would sit with moms doing pretty little action songs, while my boy was the ringleader in the breakaway group climbing the chairs dangerously stacked round the edges of the room. He only liked going to that group because they got cookies and doughnuts after the songs. I'm not sure quite where I'm going with this comment, except to say, so many of us have been there. Public humiliation is horrible, and if you've had a girl first, and a boy second, the running away thing may be coming as something of a shock.

I think that libraries are the worst. Why is that? Do they have a component in the librarian's training to teach them how to convey 100% disapproval while seeming friendly and helpful?

joanna said...

Iota, my children love music and stories and somehow - no idea how - they tend to be good in these situations. I am very grateful for that! They make up for it at home, believe me! And yes, the boy has taken me by surprise!!

p.s. I'm also a Brit transplant from Somerset.

Neva Campbell said...

This should be titled 'Ode to SAHM's Everywhere'. I have been in situations like this so many times. Thanks for sharing it.