I’ve taken to Twitter (@frazzled_mammy) and one of the topics that cropped up from Irish radio station 96FM is “Parents. When your child is having a public tantrum, what’s the least mortifying response from strangers? Wry smile or total indifference?”
I tweeted back. Oh, believe me, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to have the place wailed down and you feel every disapproving eye looking at you judgementally.
You imagine them thinking “Dreadful mother, no control,” but really, once you get a chance to raise your head, come up for air after prising Tantrum Toddler from the supermarket floor, you find very few are staring. One or two might disapprove but generally people have enough sense to ignore or maybe smile empathetically.
What parent hasn’t been subjected to a similar sufferance? Like war-weary heroes we like to share our horrific experiences – the ordeal of facing your foe and surviving the trauma, to crawl out the other side, relatively sane. I guess my worst public humiliation was the shower scene.
Swimming is an important life skill. I wanted my children to learn which was why I brought my then four-year-old to the pool for tuition. Despite his wails of “I’m sick – don’t want to go!” he overcame his aversion. Armed with inflatable wings and eye-goggles, he began to propel himself across the water, while gleefully kicking at mother and sister.
The downside, however, was the subsequent shower. With terror in his eye to rival Psycho’s Janet Leigh, each time we exited the pool he railed “I don’t want a shower, please, nooooo!” Maybe it’s my tough love approach, but I callously ignored those pitiful pleas and heart wrenching screams for the greater good of shampooing chlorine out of his hair.
My tough stance was tested, though, one day. The moment we were out of the pool, the tirade again started, continued in the changing room but I was having none of it. As I slung the towel over the bar and lined up the shampoo and gel, a lady getting ready for her swim kindly commiserated “No one likes having a shower, do they?”
Warm water spouted and sprayed from the nozzle nailed high on the wall. Through the soap and steam his slippery limbs fought my firm grip. He kicked, roared, howled, scratched and scrawled at my bare, wet arms. Both his hair and I were getting in a right lather.
As his screams were reaching decibel-breaking barriers, an irate well-dressed woman poked her head around the screen and said “How long more is this going to go on for? It’s dreadful. Can’t you make him stop?
Hair dripping, soap in my eyes and arms throbbing from his pinching and punching, I glared at her and the other onlookers. Instead of sarcastically retorting “No, can you?” or pointing out that he doesn’t possess a convenient on/off volume button, I launched into an apologetic rant “I know you probably think I’m the worst mother in the world, but I’ve got to wash him. He hates showers. He likes baths but there are no baths here, so I’ve got to shower him. He hates showers, but I don’t know how else to do this. I defy YOU to do any better.”
“Well, please make him stop!” With one final rinse and protest under said shower, we both calmed down. As I dried and dressed him in an embarrassed silence, I wondered if her concern was for his well being or that her serene surroundings were shattered by his roars?
I was so furious about her interference I wanted to challenge her again but she was gone. Interfering busybody! Couldn’t anyone see that he simply didn’t like being washed? Every hissy-fit and tantrum thrown by screaming kids in supermarket aisles, for example, doesn’t necessarily mean that the parents are Wicked Warlocks of the West. Can’t people like her have a little more understanding?
Yet, if the situation was reversed, I might be the very one to check if a screaming child was OK. So, in answer to the tweet, a wry empathetic smile to a Frazzled Mammy is probably the best response!
Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy! ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2014
Maeve O’Keeffe is a Cartoonist, Illustrator and Journalist in Cork, Ireland
Contact blog www.frazzledmammy.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet@frazzled_mammy