Three years ago today was both one of the worst and one of the best days of my parenting. In fact, because this toy store tantrum went so horribly wrong, I learned so much.
My daughter and I had been in a small car accident. We were rear-ended, and I needed to replace her car seat.
Rather than sit in the small service waiting area, the dealership offered me a loaner until it was finished.
Thinking I was being smart, I decided to buy her new car seat while waiting for my van, that way we could make the 45 minute drive home without further stops.
My daughter was three. The van was supposed to be done by lunchtime.
Lunchtime came and went.
Realizing she would get hungry, I had brought snacks, but she was still hungry after my purse stash was gone.
Being a cautious mommy, I was putting her in each display seat, checking out the straps, headrests, safety features, seeing which were easy to buckle, but not easy enough for her to unbuckle, checking cup holders, etc.
I had finally made my decision . . . around an hour past lunch and well into nap-time, but my van was still not ready.My best worst parenting day, I learned real compassion for an EPIC tantrum. Click To Tweet
I should have known better.
Kids do not deal well with being tired or hungry. Three and hangry ain’t pretty.
In order to purchase a car seat at Babies R Us, we had to walk through about 50% of Toys R Us to use their open register.
What do you get with a tired preschooler and shelves of beautiful Christmas and Halloween displays?
A gigantic “Mommy, I want this!” meltdown.
She was inconsolable when I explained that we didn’t have the money for any toys today, but would happily put things on her list for Santa.
You know what else a three-year-old doesn’t understand?
It got ugly at the checkout.
She started screaming and crying, throwing herself around. And I realized then, I might have been able to make some different choices before we got into this situation, but for the most part, we were both coping as well as we could.
And she couldn’t cope. Epic tantrum!
I didn’t ignore her tantrum, just spoke in low deep tones to her. I picked her up and held her, through the judgmental stares of the cashier, but rather than feel vilified, for the first time, I realized HER INABILITY TO COPE was not a reflection of my value as a parent.HER INABILITY TO COPE was not a reflection of my value as a parent. Life is messy. Click To Tweet
In that situation, stuck far from home, it just was what it was.
I got her out the door, managing to stay calm, then the car seat box didn’t fit in the loaner car’s trunk. I had to reinstall her emergency seat to fit the box in the back seat.
While I was bent over, sweating, and burning my fingers on the metal buckles, she realized she had to use the restroom. The tantrum escalated as she feared having an accident in her pretty skirt.
I can only imagine the picture we made as I raced this excruciatingly hysterical child all the way back through the entire store, back past the judgmental cashier, to make it to the restroom just in time.
But we could not yet claim victory, I had to walk her past all the toy displays, again.
Hysteria engulfed her as we got closer and closer to the door without a new toy.
But I was not going to give in because she threw a fit.
I knew this wasn’t fair for her. She didn’t ask to be stuck running errands waiting for our van or way past nap-time with nowhere to sleep.
But I had no choice that day, and I learned that her reaction was understandable. In her little mind, the world had fallen from its axis. Nothing made sense outside of her little routine.
While I chose not to buy her a toy, I did choose compassion.
Sweet, sweet loves, I know this is hard. I’m so sorry this day has not gone our way, but I will do my best to get you some lunch and a nap as soon as possible. You will be okay. Mommy loves you. We’ll get through this awful day.
And we did.
A fistful of chicken nuggets and a milk and a repaired van put our day back on track.
Honestly, I’ve never personally seen a worse tantrum than the one she threw that day. Though her behavior was unacceptable, it was all she knew how to do. I could feel embarrassed and angry or see she needed my calm.
Again, I chose compassion.
As a parent, I learned to always carry back-up back-up purse snacks, and to seek the source of the tantrum not just the catalyst. Empathizing got better results than demanding she correct her attitude.Seek the source of the tantrum not just the catalyst. Compassion got better results. Click To Tweet
As a woman, I learned that reality is sometimes messy. Own it.
But as a Christian, I see myself in that tantrum.
All the times I thought I had prayed enough but God didn’t give me the answer I wanted. All the times life broke my heart, and I thought God didn’t care or wasn’t listening. I realized I’d been wrong.
I couldn’t hear Him over my tantrum.
I’ve learned to seek Him, knowing His perfect gifts trump whatever I thought I wanted.
He chose compassion for me each and every time, inviting me into His stillness, offering His peace for my panic.
When I throw an epic tantrum of my own, God reminds me, that I don’t have to cope on my own. I just have to . . .
Psalm 46:10 ESV “Be still, and know that I am God.
and calls me His – His sweet love, His daughter.