Sunday, October 19, 2008

the secret parent handshake

The other day a toddler at kiddywampus threw a tantrum – the kind of awe-inspiring, full-body kicking on the floor followed by a quick boneless move accompanied by an ear-piercing banshee scream only a toddler body could produce. The toddler experts would have given her a perfect score with bonus points for endurance. The Mom went from embarrassed to irritated to overwhelmed to mortified. She had Had It, and the day was young.

And this is where we parents need the Secret Handshake.

I looked at that Mom and there were a million things I wanted to tell her. I wanted to give her a big hug, a cup of coffee, magically soothe her darling and then whisper, “Honey, I have 3 kids and could tell you stories of tantrums no new Mom should ever hear. Of trips to Target – where the aisles and checkouts are virtually empty until I say No to the princess boo boo patches and suddenly the sky starts raining customers, all of whom are looking at me like I’m the Worst Mom On The Planet and I wish I could melt into the floor but I’m not giving in because now my back is up too and I will never buy a princess boo boo patch in my life. Ever.”

I want to tell her, “I have been where you are right now, and you’re doing a great job, so you hang in there because in 14 years when our dearests ask for the car keys we’ll wish to be back here in this moment where we can keep them safe right beside us.” I want to say, “Don’t apologize for her wailing on the floor because we’re all in this together. And the next time you are out shopping and hear a wail look over because it will probably be me with my darlings, in the princess boo boo patch aisle.” But I really can’t talk over the screaming – so I grin, give her my best “we’ve all been there” shrug, and hope somehow she can read my mind.

We really need the Handshake.

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