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Choose Your Own Adventure: The Toddler Meltdown Series

“You’re not a real parent until you’ve been through that,” he laughed from a few feet away in the parking lot. This guy I hadn’t seen in years had happened upon us at the tail end of my daughter’s first very public meltdown. I was standing in the grocery store parking lot trying to soothe her, wearing yoga pants and a sweatshirt and looking as though I hadn’t showered in a few days.

Probably because I hadn’t.

RELATED: 11 Ways to Make a Toddler Melt Down

Basically, it wasn't an ideal situation to be running into a past acquaintance. I wanted to scream, “I swear, my life is so much more put together than this!” But I knew her tears would only drown me out, so what was the point?

I wasn't sure what set her off. Perhaps a nap that was cut prematurely short or molars that had her in pain and unable to explain. It was also possible she was just being a toddler, exerting whatever control she had on the universe around her.

I was told that kids do these things.

But as I panicked in the middle of the grocery store that day, my daughter pulling things off shelves and clawing at my face while strangers looked on, clearly judging me as a parent, I ran through the list of options in my head only to realize in defeat — there is no winning when it comes to the public toddler meltdown.

Don’t believe me? How about we play a game of choose your own adventure. These are the options you are presented with at the height of any public toddler meltdown. Choose your own fate, and then you can let me know how it all turns out.

Let’s start at the beginning. Your kid starts to lose it in public. You have two choices:

A.) Pack up the panicking toddler and leave immediately.

B.) Stay and try to finish your errand.

What do you choose?

For those of you who opted for A: You go home without groceries and wind up eating trail mix for dinner. Plus, your kid has now learned that anytime they are over running errands with you, all they have to do is turn up the tears to get out of there. Good job, Mom. You lose.

For those of you who opted for B: Your kid is still crying and strangers are still watching, waiting to judge you and your parenting abilities based on how you handle this meltdown. You find yourself with two more choices:

A.) Walk away from your child for a moment, just as you would at home, sending the message that tantrums don’t get attention.

B.) Hug your toddler and try to calm him or her down.

What do you choose?

For those of you who opted for A: Some nosy bystander calls Child Protective Services and your kid spends the night in foster care while you try to convince the judge you are perfectly fit as a parent. Good job, Mom. You lose.

For those of you who opted for B: Your kid bites you. Hard. You are now left with two more choices:

A.) Cry out in pain and yell at your child, possibly even slapping him or her on the hand to get your message across.

B.) Choose to ignore the bite and the meltdown, going about your shopping as though nothing is happening at all.

What do you choose?

For those of you who opted for A: Your child only starts to cry louder, now making it clear to all shoppers in the nearby vicinity that they are hurt and scared ... of you. Random strangers are looking at you like you are the worst parent on the planet. Good job, Mom. You lose.

For those of you who opted for B: In order to get your attention, your kid starts grabbing whatever is within reach and throwing it on the floor. Random shoppers gasp at your inability to control your child and quickly usher their own children away from the scene.

Oh, is that a broken jar of spaghetti sauce on the ground? We didn’t do that!

Keep moving.

RELATED: Stuff Kids Ruined

Your only option at this point is to grab the necessities and head to the nearest register as soon as possible. Your kid has crossed the line and there is no recovering now. Just pay, apologize and run while hoping and praying you don’t run into anyone you know on the way out.

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