The next time you witness a public tantrum, one mom hopes you'll consider reaching out instead of ignoring the situation—or, worse, glaring at and judging the parent.
When there's an inconsolable, screaming toddler in the grocery aisle or on the metro, we may think that the best route is to stay silent. Maybe the parent would rather we mind our own business. Maybe we're afraid we'll say the wrong thing by "butting in."
But Kate McLaughlin, a mom of two and a writer, thinks that more often than not, parents who are dealing with a child throwing a tantrum would be grateful for words or actions of support.
The mom realized this recently at Target when she witnessed a 3-year-old having an epic meltdown—with full-on kicking and screaming and flopping around—on the floor at checkout.
"I tried to catch the mom’s eye and give her an empathetic look, but she was too busy wrestling with her daughter to notice me," McLaughlin wrote on Facebook. "The mom was doing everything 'right.' She remained calm. She spoke to her child in a gentle, reassuring tone. She was as attentive as she could be while also attempting to pay for her assortment of $10 tees and seasonal decor."
But the child's tantrum only grew. The mom may have tried to stay calm, but her face was flushed and she kept apologizing to the cashier.
Parents who have been in similar situations know how frustrating and embarrassing it can feel when their kids are having a complete meltdown in a public space. They might think everyone's judging them and question their own capabilities as a parent. It can be tough and alienating.
McLaughlin knew this and wanted to remind the mom that she was not a terrible mother. But she second-guessed herself, thinking that it was none of her business and she should "leave the poor stranger alone."
On her way out, though, she observed as the girl continued to scream all the way to the parking lot and refused to get strapped into her car seat.
"I felt exasperated just observing, so I knew the mom’s blood pressure must be sky high. Go to her, Katie, I thought again. This time I did," McLaughlin wrote.
McLaughlin listened to her gut. She went up to the other mom and told her, "Sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to say you’re doing a great job." As the other mom started crying, McLaughlin added, "I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but you are rocking this."
"You have no idea how much I needed to hear that," the other mom said.
Stories like this speak to how even a bit of empathy can make all the difference. In March, a Texas mom shared how she was walking into Target when her 2-month-old son and 2-year-old son were in meltdown mode. A stranger offered to walk with them, hold the baby and calm down the toddler while the mom got the essentials she needed. The month before that, random women came together to help a struggling mom flying solo with her son at the airport.
"Let’s take the risk. That mom could have looked at me funny. She could have told me to mind my own business. But I took the chance and we are both better for it," McLaughlin wrote.
In the comments of McLaughlin's post is a screenshot by a reader that gave us all the feels.
"This has got to be that same mom! A childhood friend of mine posted this today," Becky Hubler wrote.
Even if it's not the same mom, reaching out to struggling moms clearly resonates with them. As McLaughlin ends her post, "Empathy instead of judgment. Support instead of silence. Community instead of isolation. This is the parenting revolution."