Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hindsight is Always a Better Parent Than You

Today was a momentous day. A milestone that shall forever be enblazened in my mind. The record books shall show that on this day a checkmark was placed next to an all important stepping stone to becoming a seasoned parent.

Today, Landon completely embarrassed me with an all out throw down in public.

I feel like I should get a medal. Make it chocolate.

Don't get me wrong. Landon has cried in public before. Freaked out even. But never has he so unilaterally created a scene of destruction and mayhem as he did today. And this following a toddler storytime, which meant he succeeded at stealing the attention of every single mom in the Worthington Library away from their own book-ripping child to stare at my thrashing son while simultaneously pretending not to notice.

When Landon does something, he does it all the way.

Dear Landon,
 I'd really appreciate a warning next time.
The woman who gave you life
It began with the little computers in the children's area. Landon loves to play on the computers (he especially loves to wear the giant headphones that barely stay put on his little noggin) so after the lovely storytime we went over there to read a couple online books. He was fine for about 5 minutes until he decided he wanted to explore the rest of the library - with his headphones still on. Though I explained that the headphones couldn't leave the computer, he decided to test the theory himself and made a sudden dash for it. Needless to say, Landon went one way and various computer equipment went another.

Yet he hung on. He hung on to those brown little plastic headphones that were most likely borrowed from a senior center's audiology department with all his massive toddler strength. He was furious - FURIOUS! - that he couldn't take them with him. I tried to wrangle him, clean up everything and pry the headphones from his white-knuckled little hands. He screamed, threw himself on the floor and when another kid tried to sit in the seat he recently occupied, he tried to wrestle that kid down.

I knew my reaction to all of this was going to be watched and judged, even by those women pretending somehow not to notice the banshee rolling on the floor. So it was time to perform. While simultaneously trying to clean up everything and prevent Landon from taking out another kid, I remained calm (more of a stupor, really), I offered him choices (okay, we can sit back here at the table and listen to headphones or we can go explore the library, which would you like?), I validated his feelings (Wow! You are angry! So angry because you can't take the headphones with you!). I did everything by every single book I've read.

Guess what happened? The kid FREAKED. And continued to thrash and scream. And throw. And act like Naomi Campbell.

Don't give her headphones or there's no telling WHAT she'll do.

I've had some time to think about this and, since hindsight is a way better parent, I realized what was missing from all the parenting strategies.


My goodness. Come on, Angelos. Mom Up. Have some freakin' backbone.

What I should have done, at the first sign of tantrum, is pry the headphones out of those death grip fingers, pick the screaming child up, tuck him - thrashing and arching all the way - under my arm and take him away (far far away) from the scene of the crime. THEN I should have done all that validating stuff.

I remembered coming across an article about this recently on the website Psychology Today. It's taken my first public humiliation to realize that I need a combined approach for my son - asserting firmness while validating feelings. I have thus far tended to be heavy on the "touchy-feely let's get kids to agree to everything by offering options and rewards" side. But sometimes you just have to say "these are the rules, and this is what we do." The modified "because I said so."

So, if you're still with me, that's what made this such a momentous day. First humiliation. First major parenting lightbulb. They seem to go hand in hand, I hear.

So what about the veteran moms in the trenches? Any parenting lightbulbs of your own, or any good tantrum fighting tips? Any other good places for storytime? I don't think we're welcome at this one anymore.


  1. Wyatts new thing when he doesn't get his way is to find something and throw it across the room. This ends in a time out really fast! Sorry about your public tantrum thats rough. I have friends who still let their kids act like that in public and dont remove them and its their 3rd!! They just stand there and say Im sorry to them!Sometimes the light never goes off I pray I am not one of those!! The 2's are so fun :)I would have gone into shock if I was you. At least you did something!!

  2. I cannot even tell you how much I love this post! Can you please get THIS published in the Cbus parent's magazine? I echo you in every sentence. Though I don't think anyone is ever perfect at this, and there is a time and place, and it is good to be patient/ give naughty child choices, there is just sometimes no better method than just pure parenting and gaining control of the child. Setting those parameters is sooo important, and merits better overall behavior in the end, in my opinion. I certainly know I'm not always on my game, but I just couldn't agree more with you on this one. "Mom up," I love that! You're an awesome mom, btw.