There’s No Crying In Parenting: One Mom’s Valuable Lesson

From about eighteen months to four years old, our son kept his meltdowns private. His behavior started small at first–random hitting for no reason, throwing temper tantrums, and what seemed like normal “terrible two” behavior, but on some sort of cocktail of Adderall and Mountain Dew.

As he has gotten older his behavior has grown with him. We’ve gone through the spitting phase, the name calling phase, the tantrum in the floor as if his bones were made of limp noodles phase, and the screaming at the top of his lungs phase. When he turned four (two years ago now), he escalated to directly hitting us…on purpose. The first time he punched me I may have audibly started talking to the Lord as an intercessor for my husband, lest he be overtaken by the Spirit and hand him own behind to him on a silver platter. I am almost certain Madea overtook my mouth as I cried out to the “Lort” on his behalf.

Fast forward a year and he has graduated to public displays of crazy. The first time was epic and I will literally never forget it. At no point in my 34 years of life had I ever been so…I want to say humbled, but the more accurate word here is humiliated. Not the time I split my super sweet maroon-colored Guess jeans in gym class in sixth grade. Not the time I got busted in middle school Sharpie-ing a Nike swoosh on my Payless high-tops because I couldn’t afford the real ones. Not even the time they posted our mile run times above the water fountain in gym and I was dead last with a light speed time of 18:18.

No, nothing thus far had ever made me feel so small as that moment in the Florida diner.

We were on our way back from a work trip to Orlando and everyone was hungry. We don’t get to travel much so we love to check out little mom and pop type of places when we’re out of town. We stopped in this little diner called ‘Eddie’s’ in Nowheresville, Florida for what the Yelp reviewers said were, “Florida’s best chicken and waffles.”

We held hands and ran through the rain to get inside the restaurant. I held our then six month old daughter, on my lap and helped him manage the coloring sheet the hostess had given him as Spence made his way to the men’s room all the way in the back of the diner. Forks clanged and men laughed from the bar. As I was helping him sound out the words on his children’s menu and he colored Spiderman on the page, I noticed there were two women sitting in the booth directly beside our table.

They were both well-dressed and appeared to be in their late 60’s. One had on an oversized necklace that reminded me of the costume jewelry my aunt used to wear and the other had that kind of hairdo women have who would rather donate their arms to science than get wet at the pool. I imagined they both had large, flamboyant broaches for every holiday neatly displayed in some sort of well-lit case in their bedrooms. They hadn’t noticed me…yet.

When he finished coloring he wanted to tear the paper because, naturally, Spiderman wouldn’t live in the same realm as a children’s menu. He began tearing the page and I watched it happen as if it were unfolding in slow motion. The paper’s tear went from the center of the page and, like an earthquake’s line in the dry desert clay, separated Spiderman’s foot from the rest of his body.

“Noooooooooooooooo!!” he scream rang out across the small diner. Once filled with the loud bangs of forks and knives, the chatter of old friends catching up, and that guy who’d had one too many at the bar, fell silent. Deafeningly silent. His eyes filled with tears of rage and he crumpled up the limbless Spiderman and threw him under another family’s table.

“Pick that up please.” I said, attempting to keep calm as everyone watched the dinner show they hadn’t paid for.

“No! I will NEVER pick it up!” he screamed back.

With everyone watching, he stood to his feet as though he’d had a change of heart and were going to pick up the balled up menu. Instead, he grabbed a chair from the table beside ours, where a man sat eating by himself, and he threw it.

He. Threw. A. Chair.

By this time, all eyes were on us.

The entire diner was paralyzed and I looked up to see Spence tearing through the crowd to get to me. He’d heard him yell all the way in the bathroom. Without a word, I handed our daughter over to him, took him by the arm, and walked him outside to the rain. We walked passed stunned faces, horrified looks, and the hostess who looked like she might have her finger on the last “1” in 9-1-1. I smiled, walked him out in the pouring rain, across the street, and under an awning where he proceeded to hit me, kick, scream, cry and flail backwards so hard that I had to position myself between his head and the abandoned store’s brick wall behind me.

I took deep breaths and talked to him until he calmed himself. “Listen to me breathing, buddy. Deep breaths. Match my breathing,” I said as I fought to hold back tears.

Once he had it together, we walked back into the restaurant. I thought the original walk of shame was the worst thing I’d have to face that day. I was wrong. Try going through that meltdown and then staring back at the faces of those who just spent the better part of the last 20 minutes talking about what your kid just did and made guesses at how you might handle it.

I smiled and walked him back to the tables around ours where he picked up his crumpled up menu from under one table and replaced the chair at another. He apologized to the man who had been eating alone when he lost his mind and threw his chair as if he were tagging in Rick Flair in an early 90s wrestling match. “I’m sorry I threw your chair, sir,” he said with his head hung in shame. The man smiled back his forgiveness.

I sat back down in my seat just as the two well-dressed ladies were getting up to leave. I desperately wanted to avoid eye contact because I was certain they had judged me the entire time. I was convinced they’d finished their salads and lemon waters over conversations about “kids these days” and how terrible of parents Spence and I must be.

Instead, the lady with the necklace stopped just behind our table on her way out, turned to me so I had to meet her eyes with my own, and smiled. She mouthed the words, “You did a great job.”

I mustered a faint smile in return and lowered my head. I could feel the hot tears streaking down both sides of my face.

I had never felt so completely alone as I did during that meltdown and the moments after. I may always remember that feeling, but I will never forget that woman’s smile. Her muted approval reminded me that no matter how many people are staring or pointing fingers, no matter how many people disagree with the parenting decisions we make, I am doing the best I can and that is good enough.

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33 Replies to “There’s No Crying In Parenting: One Mom’s Valuable Lesson”

  1. I didn’t realize what y’all were going through until I read your blogs. You are in my prayers. I know this must be so exhausting. Take care and know I love yall. Auntie Sara

  2. As a parent of a child with Bipolar Disorder, this happened to me countless times as she was growing up. Even such a small thing as “we can’t go to McDonalds because they are closed” could be enough to set off a nuclear meltdown. We usually didn’t get the chance to go back and apologize, we would just leave. It wasn’t until she was diagnosed at age 5 that we finally had a name for the problem, and it made all the difference to me, internally. She wasn’t a “bad kid”; we weren’t “bad parents”; it was biological. Her brain was wired differently and this was who she was. Once my mind shifted, I could separate the behavior from the child, and while the raging continued, the way I felt about it changed.

  3. My son has ADHD and DMDD and I can relate to this so much. It has been incredibly isolating, as regular parents just don’t get it and I feel so many are judging me and blaming his behavior on my inferior parenting. It’s been lonely but meeting a couple other moms with kids who have behavior problems has made a big difference.

  4. Oh hun, I know how difficult it can be to question everything you do, especially when it comes to looking after young children as you are worried that people might judge you. But I think that it is so sweet that the lady gave you some encouragement and mouthed that you were doing a good job. I can imagine that parenting must be exhausting but as long as you try your best that is all that matters x

  5. Parenting is hard, and we all worry that we are doing a good job or not, and worry about the looks if our child is having a meltdown while you are out. What these people who look and tut or do whatever do not know is anything else but those few moments. When mine were younger I just used to either ignore or look back, as a parent who has been through this I always try to give a smile that says don’t worry we have all been there you are doing fine

  6. You are doing an amazing job! I am not yet a parent but I give you major applause for being such a good mom. I can imagine that it is a lot of work and exhausting at times. Don’t ever let anybody make you feel as if you aren’t parenting right. You are absolutely killing it! Nobody has the right to question you. Keep it up xx

  7. My goodness, I just need to say that you did a great job handling Briggs. Pacifying and calming down kids at such moments and making them realize their mistake is a great task. Though a mom will for sure cry witnessing such a moment, I must tell you I need to learn the patience to handle such situations.

  8. And that’s why I still have a little faith left in our sex. I detest mom shaming and I love it when the beautiful nature of moms shines through to other moms. Yes you did a great job and I am sorry that you felt judged the whole time, it’s not fair! Good job momma!

  9. As a mummy of five this has been me so many times! It’s so hard sometimes, being a parent is the hardest Job in the world. Doing the best you can is a great start.

  10. My sister and her husband had problems with my nephew when he was about 4 – 9 years of age. Finally diagnosed ADHD and given a script for Ritalin which helped a lot. But also my sister and BIL learned a lot about better parenting methods so it was a mix of boundaries and leading by example along with the medicine. Today my nephew is a thriving 25 yo independent young adult with a good job and a nice girlfriend, and you would have no idea he had extreme acting out and little self-control once in his life if you met him. There is hope!

  11. The truth is parenting is hard, as a father of one i must confess i haven’t come across this sort of situation before, but women who had are really trying and strong. Reading through your post i can imagine what you have been faced with.

    1. Thank you for reading and for being honest with the dad’s perspective. I know my husband deals with things differently than I do but that doesn’t mean one is right and one is wrong. Thanks so much for reading!

  12. Ooooh what a twist – I didn’t see that coming at all, so glad she gave you words of encouragement instead of judging. Kids are hard work – keep up the amazing work.

  13. I never realized that how much agonizing or draining would it be for our parents when we scream or fight or just throw random tantrums. I cannot really understand your situation at this moment, but I stand by you. May God give you all the strength and best of luck !! Stay strong, love 🙂

  14. Parenting is such a task for sure but kids are blessings from God. I remember how I’d steal from my mum, throw stones at her whenever she canned me and even bite her in front of guests. She could even be left without a word to say as people looked at her with ‘hey-you-are-spoiling-your-kid-just-cane-her’ eyes. It feels so bad when you think people are judging you because of your kids’ behaviors but very hopeful when they come around to encourage you. I know you’ll be well with your kids, all the best!

  15. Being a parent really is the hardest job in the world. You are doing an amazing job and I’m so glad people around you, like the ladies in the restaurant, can see it.

  16. Parenting is hard, as you said, even I have those moments when I constantly ask myself , are we doing a good job or not, and always worry about what others would think..but now I make a conscious effort to get over it! You are doing an amazing job mama! keep going !

  17. This is such a great post. You’re a fantastic writer. I get used to reading posts by people who are ok writers and just like to blog but this was amazingly told, it touched my heart AND it surprised me. I thought the lady at the end was going to say something mean! Ugh, great story. You’re certainly brave.

  18. I am glad he has you for a mama, and you can get him the tools he needs to handle and manage his passion. Hopefully he can apply that passion to something that will inspire him and those around him. Praying for Briggs. My son is bo-polar but he did not have his first episode until he was a teenager. We had a rough decade. He is 28 now and doing a better job and managing his emotions, I refuse to call it an illness, though I know it is one, but if one knows how to use the right tools to manage it, it doesn’t have to be a lifetime handicap. My prayers are with your family.

  19. I was the child in this story for my mom. Diagnosed with bipolar (around 14) she got to enjoy my teen years with the additional splash of full on meltdowns, depression, and extreme rage because I had no clue what was happening to me. Maybe it was the fact that she has bipolar as well, but she seemed to always know the best way to care for me. I sure pray I can be half the mom she was for my kids if they end up inheriting it as well.

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