by: Esperanza Cherry
“ No! I don’t want to!” I heard a little boy scream as I saw his mother place him in the shopping cart. His screams continued as he kicked and cried trying to escape from where he was placed. I watched in horror and disgust as the mother did nothing to quiet him or scold him for his behavior. She continued to shop as if she was oblivious to the child’s outrage. As I saw his tomato red face filled with streams of snot and tears, the only thing I kept thinking was, when I have a child I will never let them act like that. I will be consistent and address the issues immediately. I will never have this problem.
Fast forward some years later: “No Mommy, I do it myself!” my two year old daughter screams at me as she slams the metal door of the bathroom stall in my face. I quickly shove the door back open. I get into the tiny stall even while having my two month old strapped to my chest. “ Aliyah, I said I have to help you sit on your potty seat” I say in my stern, I’m in charge voice as I attempt to sit her down. “ I said no! Stop it!” she screams with her face full of fury. It’s as if her voice is telling me, I’m the real boss. Aliyah kicks and screeches trying to break my hold, uncaring of her surroundings or the confined space we are in. What’s worse, she doesn’t care about the audience she created. She couldn’t care less about the woman shaking her head at me while making comments about her ears hurting from my daughter’s screams.
In my frustration I still try to address this issue as I always do because hey, I said I would always be consistent with my kids. But at this point I have reached a whole new level of anger; I’m angry that my child is acting up and I’m angry at this woman who wants me to notice her judgmental comments and disproving facial expressions. Then mostly I notice I’m angry because I am not in control of this situation the way I thought I would be when becoming a parent. I become painfully aware that my perfect plan on how parenting is going to work isn’t so perfect.
I thought I knew the secret to how to have impeccable well behaved children and I would be able to have magical days with them filled with reading books, playing and skipping merrily hand in hand through museums with my children. Instead I was in a museum bathroom dodging my daughter’s foot from giving me a bloody nose.
I believe God has given me situations such as these in my parenting to humble me and teach me that I cannot do this on my own and I’m not supposed to. I need to seek Him in my parenting always. He has helped me realize no one parenting style is the right one and that I will have to constantly adapt. All parents are different and guess what? All children are different and learn differently too. Something that works for someone else may not necessarily work for me.
I sometimes think back to that day at the grocery store and wish that I could have given that mother a word of encouragement, maybe have told her that she was doing a good job keeping her composure or that things would get better. I now know that there could have been a million reasons why she didn’t chose to discipline her child in that moment and none of them mean she is a bad mother. Maybe she just wanted to quickly get the groceries she needed and get home on time to make dinner. Maybe she was tired of disciplining him all day and wanted to give herself a moment to collect her thoughts or maybe this wasn’t her child at all and she was just babysitting. The point is I have no idea; I took those 15 minutes I saw of her parenting and assumed I knew every detail about how she mothered. I presumed this was how her child always behaved instead of thinking maybe he was exhausted and just needed his nap.
I think of this boy and then I think of my Aliyah and how sweet and kind she is. Maybe this little boy was like my Aliyah, a caring mostly polite child who has her challenging moments while figuring out the world around her. I wish I would have been a comfort to him too, perhaps acknowledged him and helped him to smile instead of cry. I know I wish that woman in the museum would have done that for me when I was in the bathroom stall instead of shaming me. But mostly, I wish I wouldn’t have cared about her, because those few minutes she saw can’t compare to the spectacular moments I have constantly with Aliyah. My caring about what she thought about my parenting robbed me from an opportunity to pray with my heavenly father for peace and wisdom in this situation.
I am thankful that through these situations, God has allowed me to realize the need to set aside judgments and instead show compassion and encouragement towards others whenever I can.