This is a shout-out to all you mothers who were staring at me and my screaming daughter the other day at Target.
Yes you, blonde woman who stared at us as you pushed your cart with your own precious wonder who was behaving calmly to your car. Where you proceeded to give several frowny looks to us while you buckled your child in, unloaded your cart, closed the back hatch of your SUV…I’m so glad you found us so very curious that you had to glance our way not once, not twice, not even three times, but at least four!
And you, dark haired mom herding your two kids to your vehicle. Thanks for sparing a couple glances our way, with that unmistakable look of “WTH?” that was sent our way.
What neither of you, or the other women who paused to stare at our spectacle, might have caught onto was that my screaming child has special needs. She had gone down the rabbit hole of uncontrollable emotions, and we had left the store because she wasn’t listening to me, got mad at me, and slapped me in my torso area.
I do hope that while you gaped at us, you noticed my almost saint-like patience. Admired it even. I’m sure at least one of you many rubberneckers thought “Wow, I am SO glad that’s not MY child.”
Or maybe you saw me giggle when my angry child shooed me away. Seriously. She shooed me. “Go away!” she said as she made the shooing motion with her hands as she sat on the bench outside the store I put her on in hopes she’d calm down enough that we could go back inside.
“I can’t sweetie. I have to stay here.” Stay here and count the amount of heads swinging our way as you scream blue murder, like the trio of ladies walking by, stealing glances. Thanks for noticing us.
Usually, when my daughter has a melt-down, I put on my blinders and focus solely on her. The rest of the world drops off my radar and I figure out how best to help my child through this situation. But that moment in Target, I started noticing how many people were watching us. The people in the aisle nearby, stopping to look at who was screaming and why. The woman walking towards us, who look startled by the scene we were creating. The mothers, pushing their own children along, giving me the side eye, making sure I was doing no harm.
And I noticed one major thing, amongst all those faces who I deliberately started making eye contact with…
Not one of you came near us.
Not one of you even gave me that smile of mom solidarity that we sometimes give another mom dealing with a screaming child. Probably because my child is twelve and not visibly disabled, so is an anomaly to you.
Most definitely did no one stop to offer to help or give an encouraging word. Then again, none of you called the cops on me, so there’s a bonus, because so many of you were checking to make sure I wasn’t the cause of my daughter’s screams that I started to anticipate at least store security coming to check things out.
It was eye-opening for me. I got to see what goes around me while I waited for my daughter to calm down enough outside the store to let me coax her to our own car safely. Which finally happened after several minutes. Though you all kept your collective eyes on me as we made that trek and as I buckled her in. I got the feeling a couple of you were waiting to see if I’d lose it once we were at the safety of our car. Sorry to have disappointed you with my remaining-calm demeanor.
I’ll admit, I did have some anger in me. Not at my daughter – my daughter’s cognitive disabilities combined with puberty means that sometimes we have a meltdown such as this. She can’t help it.
No, I was feeling peeved at you lot who stared at us like we farted in church. I get it, we’re an oddity. But after the first glance, you can stop. Or you know what? Give an encouraging look, a smile of “Aren’t kids awful?” comradery. Note my calm attitude and carry on with your life. If you are feeling very daring, come over and ask if you could help out in any way. I really didn’t need help, but another parent in that situation might be grateful if you pushed their cart to their car so they could steer their upset tween safely through the parking lot.
But for God’s sake, don’t stare at us like we’re a train wreck getting ready to unfold. It’s just rude. And if your mama didn’t teach you that, this mama will. It’s rude and only makes a parent in that situation feel more frustrated and more alone.
Meanwhile, next time my tall special need tween has a tantrum in Target, I’m going to keep my blinders on – the view is better.