John Lewis and My Toddler's Top Three Public Meltdowns

We've all been there haven't we? Maybe a risky dash around Tesco a little too close to naptime? Or a bit too long spent trawling a shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon in search of a fancy dress costume for next week's preschool party? Maybe it started because they were tired or bored or because you refused to buy them a Kinder Egg or maybe for no other reason than they felt like being a bit of an arsehole. Toddlers can be like that. The bottom lip goes, the whining becomes a wail, limbs start flailing and before you know it, you're dealing with a code red tantrum in the middle of the confectionery aisle. The back of your neck prickles and you suddenly feel very hot. Panic rises in your chest as you attempt to pull this squawking, faceplanting human to its feet. You become acutely aware of strangers around you looking, eyerolling and, in some cases, even tutting as you fail to restore order. You know that you are at best being stared at and at worst being heavily judged on your ability (or lack thereof) to control this demonic creature whose extreme decibels are disturbing their shop. And it's horrible.

I was dismayed to see the story about a mother being asked to leave John Lewis - a 'family' store that will quite happily take parents' cash for a Jigsaw Junior kimono or a dolly furniture set - because her toddler was throwing a tantrum this week. Worse still were the comments accompanying the story. So much intolerance. So much judgement. Lots of 'I don't want to hear a child screaming when I'm doing my shopping' or 'why didn't the mother just take her out' and even a few 'bad parenting' remarks. Seriously, shut up. Controlling a tantrumming toddler is like trying to bath a rabid squirrel. And it's stressful and humiliating enough without such a lack of empathy from grown adults who (unlike small children) should be slightly more aware of the feelings of others.

Being in the chaos of a public tantrum can be a daunting and lonely experience so to show my solidarity to the poor mum who was unceremoniously chucked out of John Lewis, I thought I'd share my top three most excruciating tantrum experiences and how I dealt with them badly.

The one where I covered him with groceries to drown out the noise
My first ever experience of a public screaming fit (I'm not sure that babies can be classed as tantrummers?) was when Jack was just a few months old. I'd taken him to Tesco and put his car seat in the trolley as I shopped. For the most part he'd gurgled happily but by the time we reached the checkout he was writhing and grizzling and just as I was packing my shopping all hell broke loose. And we all know what an ear-piercing baby cry sounds like don't we? I honestly didn't know what to do with myself. The noise was deafening. The groceries were hurtling towards me and piling up. He was turning scarlet. People were looking concerned. The checkout lady said 'Do you want me to give you a minute so you can pick him up?' and I replied 'No, no keep them coming, he'll be fine,' as I frantically stuffed my shopping bags full then placed them around him in a bid to somehow drown out the noise! I probably looked quite insane and very un-motherly but this was first experience of public meltdown and all I could think about was getting out of there and never setting foot in public with him again until he was a teenager.

The one on the plane
Is there a worse place for a toddler to kick off than on a plane? No option to 'take them outside' then is there? Just you, your screaming child and hundreds of pissed off passengers in a confined space at 30,000 feet. Joy! In fairness to Jack, he wasn't tantrumming out of naughtiness or defiance that time. We discovered in a Spanish doctors a few days later that he had an ear infection so the flight was probably very painful for him. Not that that would have placated the holidaymakers in the row in front of us. You could practically feel the 'FFS why us?' vibes radiating off them as he squealed and sobbed no matter how much I rocked and hushed and tried to distract him. At one point I took him to to sit behind the cockpit to escape the furious glares and over-animated temple rubbing of the other passengers and would have quite happily skydived out of the misery had I been offered a parachute. Of course I understand that listening a to child cry all the way to Majorca is not a pleasant way to start your holiday, but it wasn't particularly enjoyable for me either especially when there was no obvious reason for it so I was scared as well as headachey. When we got off the plane an elderly couple asked if he was OK, they'd been worried. And that made all the difference.

The one where I cried in a car park
This happened fairly recently. I'd taken Jack to soft play by myself and although he's been potty trained for ages now, something about the excitement of the ball pool and bendy slide often leads to accidents while we're there. I'd gone prepared but after two trouser changes my patience (and my emergency stash of baby wipes) was running out. After the third accident I'd had enough of this shit (literally) and so I calmly told him we'd have to leave. This did not go down well. Juggling his bag, my bag, his shoes and our coats I managed to drag him out of the door without too much trouble - after all soft play is full of screaming kids anyway. It was when we got to the car park that things really turned sour. Not only did he attempt to run amongst moving vehicles but he managed to get me with a cracking right hook to the jaw as I wrestled him into his car seat. I shouted then. Really shouted. Then leaned against the car and burst into tears as he thrashed about and banged on the car window like something out of The Walking Dead. Another mum approached me to ask if I was OK and that just made it worse. I muttered sorry to her about twenty times then got in the car and sped off, before she could get my number plates and report me to the authorities for being a shouty, snivelling wreck of a mother. We didn't go back to that soft play for months as I was so worried I'd see her again.

So there you have it. My toddler's top three, most memorable public tantrums. Every time I felt humiliated and crap and out of my depth. But luckily, amongst the judgmental stares, there were people on each occasion who offered kindness and helpfulness too. I can't imagine how much worse it would have been if I'd been confronted or asked to leave somewhere. So the next time you see a mum out in public with a tantrumming toddler, try to remember that however annoying it is for you, it's a hundred times worse for her. She isn't a bad mum, it isn't her fault and her toddler is actually doing something quite normal - albeit shouty. Offer her a smile instead of a tut. The world works better when we are kinder and more tolerant of one another.


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