Unless your kid is perfect - which I highly friggin' doubt - you've had to deal with your fair share of the dreaded middle-of-store-meltdown.
Usually toy-related, but not always, the MOSM is loud, ugly and makes you wish you could evaporate or pretend the child belongs to someone else. Neither of which really works, believe me I've tried. Evaporation is just physically impossible, no matter how much you pray to the temper-tantrum gods and kids have this nasty habit of swinging at you or latching onto your legs screaming "NO, MOMMY!!" and it kind of spoils the "who's kid is that?" act, does it not?
I love F to pieces. 99.7 per cent of the time he is the sweetest little boy any Mommy could ever wish for. He's full to the brim with unexpected bursts of love, surprise kisses and snuggles, not to mention he's so damn cute it hurts. He is shockingly caring, unbelievably smart and he never shuts up (which I take full responsibility for). But then there's the 0.3 per cent of the time that I wish I could pretend he's not mine, and he decided to use all of that today. One melt-down was bad enough, but he didn't stop there. That would be too easy. No, we laid on the floor in three different locations and kicked, screamed and acted generally nasty. Super duper.
I hate seeing the MOSM. I can usually sense it coming and try to escape to higher ground before the tears drown me, kind of like when you see rats right before a major disaster. I'm the rat, only less germy and hopefully more attractive, but I have been known to wiggle my nose and give stink-eyes. Sometimes, we escape to a less populous spot, but mostly not. Today, I managed to miss the signs altogether.
It all started with the fact that we're living in a hotel room and F hasn't seen his own toys, slept in his own bed or been in his routine for the past four days. We've been eating in restaurants or ordering in at weird hours, and spending a lot of time in malls and stores because you can only sit in a hotel room for so long. He hadn't eaten a proper lunch, mostly because it's generally frowned upon to stuff food down an unwilling child's throat and I was tired of arguing with him to eat his sandwich. Finally, it was the three-year-old "everything is mine" mentality that did us in.
We went into Chapters partially because I wanted a Caramel Macchiato at Starbs and Mom wanted to get some books for the little monster himself. In we went, walking hand-in-hand (F and I, not Mom and I - although that would have been significantly less embarassing), through the Best Sellers and into the Kid's Section. Four other kids happily played around the Thomas and Friends train table. F tried to fit in with their dynamic, but they were not having it: I'm talking absolutely no sharing. He was hurt, but he handled it pretty well (read: no tears) and we decided to go look for books he might like and check out the different toys. When the mean kids had finally left, I let him go back to the train table and he was stoked.
He played there alone for about five minutes before the next kid came along. F asked him to play with him, and they drove little Edwards along the track and flew Harold over the Island of Sodor. Then, kid number three came along and it all went to shit.
"Get Mater off the track. You must put him back on the road" F said, getting increasingly emotional. He reached over and put his hand on the other kid's hand. I semi-intervened, knowing that F was just trying to maintain control over his game. "We don't put our hands on other people, sweetie", I said gently. Realizing we were about to open a can of worms, I suggested we go get a treat. F got agitated, spit at me, and then started screaming. I picked him up and started carrying him out of the store. Having skipped breakfast and lunch, I was absolutely starving and desperately in need of caffeine. "Let me take him, he's just angry with you right now" my Mom suggested.
She's pretty well always right, so I left him sobbing onto her shoulder. I figured by the time I got him a juice and myself a large, hot, caffeinated, delicious soy caramel macchiato (excuse me while I drool on myself) he would be totally calm. SO WRONG. He was worse than when I had left him. He was screaming, hitting, kicking, flailing on the floor, spitting and screaming some more. Aaaaaaaaaaand, MORTIFIED. He eventually calmed down, but we had two repeats of this before the day was out.
The reality is that toddlers have meltdowns. Every parent or caregiver has dealt with it, and we all feel like shit when it happens. The looks of pity, disgust and utter fear we get from the other shoppers don't help, and that sense of "how can my kid be acting this way?" just seals the FML deal. Learning that you can't always have what you want is a hard lesson - especially for a spoiled kid like F. I know he's spoiled - he's my only child and I want him to have the things he wants whenever I can make that possible. My parents absolutely dote on him. But F has also had a little life filled with unease and change - he's been shuffled around with me for the past three years, from my return to school when he was an infant, into our new home, back to my mom's and now on this new journey. He's not old enough to process it and he's not old enough to understand that wanting something doesn't make it his, and we both survived the meltdowns - even if just barely.
And I love him too much to really pretend he's not mine anyway.