That said, one trending article did spark my attention - the one about the diner owner who yelled at a 2-year-old to get her to stop crying. Now I'm not going to go into specifics of that event because I don't want to reward bad behavior. You can do your own Google-sleuthing if you want more details. I'm not going to berate the diner owner, point fingers at the parents, or call out the thousands of "good for you!" internet comment posters for being insensitive and not knowing much about early childhood social-emotional development. I'm not going to do those things because I have certainly snapped my fair share of times when dealing with the nitty gritty of surviving a tantrum. My sympathy for all who experienced grave annoyance in that diner knows no bounds.
Instead, this post is a big ol' bear hug to all of the frazzled parents out there who are just trying to get by, day after day. It's for all of you who want to occasionally pull out your hair or punch yourself in the face, because surely feeling even a painful stinging sensation would be better than listening to incessant whining and crying.
This is also an olive branch to all of the innocent bystanders who are forced to witness epic pint-sized people nuclear meltdowns. Such extraordinary outbursts can come on suddenly and without warning (so much so that they inspired a hilarious blog, Reasons My Son Is Crying). Tantrums are bewildering, and would be a crazy spectacle to behold if they weren't. so. annoying. Red faces heating up close to the boiling point. Tears, spit, and snot flinging left and right. Clenched fists, crossed arms, flailing feet, wild eyes. And of course, there's always the hapless mom standing there punching herself in the face. Weird.
I know what some of you innocent bystanders think. I used to be one of you. Why in the #*&*! WORLD can't s/he control that child?!?!?!? My day sucked, and I don't get to kick, scream, and spit in the check-out line. What gives that kid the right?
I get it. But here's where empathy comes into play. Children are like wild animals, and parents are actively involved in the process of domesticating them. Much like a pet-owner hopes some day to get their puppy to stop pooping on the rug, parents are trying to get their kids to a point where regulating emotions is just a thing they intuitively do. (DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying kids ARE wild animals. It's a metaphor. Except sometimes they are. I'm a truth teller... I can't help it). Raising responsible human beings is hard work - the process is long and at times an intensely emotionally grating road to trek. Kids lull their parents into submission with sweet kisses, sleepy "I love you" whispers, and cute antics. But you poor innocent bystanders aren't privy to much of that (fact: cute antics are rarely apparent before high-pitched wailing signals DEFCON 1). It's no wonder you want to scream.
We all agree that tantrums suck. That's good news! We have common ground, and that's a good starting place. Next step: before we let our tempers flare let's all try to remember that feeling annoyance in the face of 120 kiddo screaming decibels (above the pain threshold!) is completely normal. Tantrums grate mom's and dad's nerves just as much (if not more) than anyone else's. Instead of snapping (mom,dad, and bystanders alike), try think of some alternative coping mechanisms. Take a deep breath. Walk away. Remove the child from the situation. Look for ear plugs in that checkout aisle. Pull out your hair. Do what you have to do to survive the moment, but remember to be civil about it. Screaming at each other in a restaurant and fueling the fire of a sordid drama on social media is maybe not the best route to take. That's just a grown-up version of a tantrum, and we should be past that by now.