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Why I Secretly Love it When Other People’s Kids Have Public Tantrums

Photograph by Twenty20

Everyone has had the experience of strolling through the grocery store aisle, peacefully picking up milk or detergent, only to come face-to-face with a child throwing a fit right there in the produce section. Or maybe it’s at a restaurant. You’re munching on your kale salad (OK fine, french fries) and the kid in the next booth over starts screaming about ketchup with tears streaming down his face.

I hear a lot of people complaining about children throwing tantrums in public, but can I let you in on a little secret? I love it when kids do this. LOVE IT. It almost makes me giddy inside.

Why? Because it makes me feel normal. And as a harried mom, that's kind of priceless.

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Every kid throws tantrums at some point. Every. Single. One. But when you’re a parent dealing with a child throwing a fit in the middle of a crowded store it can feel incredibly isolating. Panic begins to set in as you feel judging eyes burning a hole through you. It’s not easy trying to figure out how to deal with the situation and feeling like a bad mom because your kid is screaming. Again.

I still remember one time when my son decided to throw a tantrum during story time at the library. It was one of my first outing with both kids after my daughter was born and I was so proud that I had made it out of the house and to the library on time. But for some reason, my son was in a mood and kept interrupting the librarian with his constant screaming and whining. I decided to gather our things and get out of there. My face was hot with embarrassment and I just knew someone would be giving us the side-eye and a sigh of relief that we were gone.

I will feel solidarity with that stressed out mom and mentally fist bump her as she does what she has to do.

That’s why when I see a mother with a screaming child in public I feel relief. It’s not just me. It’s not just my child. This is all normal behavior and we’re all dealing with it in the best way possible. Sometimes kids get tired or hungry and don’t know how to express themselves. Or sometimes they’re just jerks. I mean, really.

Either way, there’s no reason to feel like a parenting failure when your kid has a tantrum in a public place. So instead of feeling annoyed with the assault on my ears, or judging the parent dragging the screaming kid out of the restaurant, I’m just going to take it as a sign that I’m a normal mom with a normal kid. I will feel solidarity with that stressed out mom and mentally fist bump her as she does what she has to do.

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I’m also going to feel incredibly proud of that mother because if her kid is screaming it means that she refuses to give in to his tyrannical demands. It will also remind me not to spoil my own child when they decide to throw a fit. We may all have different parenting styles, but I think we can all agree that we don’t want to raise spoiled children who turn into spoiled adults.

And let's be real, I'll feel relief for myself and proud of my own kid for not being the one throwing a public fit for once. I’ll give him a high five and say, “Thanks for not being the one today. I needed the break.” Then I’ll give the other mom a sympathetic nod and hope that next time, when it's my child, she won't be judging me.

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