Last weekend we went shopping. Both the girls need fall clothes that fit, and a cold front was coming. After we paid for a few coordinating separates (and one lip balm a certain seven-year-old chose in a desperate attempt to spend her allowance within 24 hours of receiving it), the four of us headed out.
Mark and Annalyn walked out the doors at a normal pace, apparently forgetting they were in the company of a toddling toddler. I pulled her out of the cart and set her down, asking if she wanted to walk (versus being carried). “Yeah,” she said. So I reminded her that she’d need to hold my hand. “Yeah,” she said. And then promptly began running away from me. Away from me and away from the doors, straight into the juniors section.
I scooped her up and turned back toward the doors, holding her under my arm like a football. Or a screaming toddler.
She then dropped her sippy cup, wailed about her sippy cup, grabbed her sippy cup. I hauled her outside, enjoying the stares of fellow shoppers, and then tried setting her down again. She held onto my hand – and then sat down in the middle of the parking lot. And then she laid down in the middle of the parking lot and said, “Night night.” IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PARKING LOT.
I scooped her up AGAIN and finally made our way to the car. Where Mark and Annalyn were waiting and wondering what was taking us so long. I summed it up for Mark like this: We’ve now reached the stage where every exit looks like a kidnapping.
Seriously, you guys. It doesn’t matter if we’re leaving the library, church, the store, a friend’s house – ANYWHERE. We play this game of “carry me, let me walk, I DO IT MYSELF,” and no matter what tactic I try, I end up with a hollering toddler, indignant that I won’t let her do whatever it is she wants to do. Which is, typically, run straight into traffic.
The result? My sweet, hilarious, strong-willed baby screams her head off like I’m abducting her. Awesome.
We were in the middle of this exact situation when I ran into an old friend yesterday.
The girls and I had stopped at Taco Bell after church, and we’d had our fill of tacos and nachos. And tomatoes. (Strangely, Adrienne loves tomatoes and I’ve learned that picking them off my tacos isn’t enough. She needs a full side order of veggies!) (She does not get that from me.) (ANYWAY.)
I dumped our 547 pieces of trash and handed the car keys to Annalyn. I knew Adrienne would pull her usual stunt as soon as we started to leave, so I thought having someone at the ready with the keys would expedite our exit.
And my plan would’ve worked if it weren’t for those pesky kids…
To make a long story a teensy bit shorter, I’ll just say this: The plan didn’t make a single thing easier or better. The baby threw a fit, and Annalyn couldn’t work the car key fob. I reacted predictably. “C’mon! I gave you the keys 10 minutes ago, Annalyn! Unlock the doors!”
It was right then, as I was regretting my short temper and still standing outside a locked car down with a squirmy, angry toddler in my arms, that I saw my friend Ben walking across the parking lot.
I’d seen my friend Erin a few months ago, but I hadn’t seen her husband Ben in years. So of course I was happy to see him and wanted to say hello. But…UGH…I was so embarrassed to be caught in such a lousy moment!
Even before our lunch at Taco Bell, I’d been having a bad day. My allergies and my hormones were conspiring to keep me at low-level miserable all morning. And it’s possible I’d hit snooze too many times to take a shower. So what I’m saying is that I was not at my best – and then it got worse until I was yelling at my children in parking lot.
Not exactly when I want to run into an old friend.
As we drove home, everyone buckled up and happy-ish again, I mentally drafted a Facebook message to my friend, something light and self-deprecating about how her husband caught me yelling at my daughter after feeding both my children fried chips and liquid cheese.
Then I realized what I was doing. I was apologizing for having a bad moment – and having the nerve to do it in public.
Now, did I owe my daughter an apology for snapping at her when she couldn’t unlock the door for me? Yes, and I told her I was sorry as soon as we got in the car. Is it possible I was short with my old friend in my embarrassment and anxiety? Maybe. But since he’s a parent himself, I realized later that our collective misbehavior probably didn’t faze him.
I’m not sorry my friend caught me in a bad moment. I’m not sorry I HAD a bad moment. I mean, sure, I wish I hadn’t lost my patience in that moment. And, obviously, I wish Adrienne didn’t feel the need to make such dramatic exits and Annalyn was quicker on the car key trigger. But bad moments happen, and it’s not the end of the world. Or proof that I’m a bad mom or [fill in the blank judgment].
Today’s parking lot encounter wasn’t the first time someone has “caught” me (or my kids) in a bad moment, on my (or their) less-than-best behavior. And, considering we are all still humans in my house, it won’t be the last.
Bad moments happen, tantrums happen. Patience and tempers are lost, meals or naps are missed, and bad moments happen. And sometimes our friends (or, even better, strangers – yay!) are around see them. When that happens, I’m not going to be embarrassed. Or at least I’m going to try. Because, assuming I didn’t deliberately do something hurtful, it will just be a bad moment. Not the end of the world and not something to dive into a sorry spiral over.
So I won’t be sorry when I’m caught in the middle of a bad moment — and when I catch someone else in the middle of THEIR bad moment? I’m going to smile kindly. I’m going to offer a hug or an, “I’ve been there.” And I’ll remember how widespread these bad moments are the next time I hear a loud, “Hi, Mary!” as I’m wrangling a small child in the middle of a parking lot.
Old friend, I’m glad I saw you yesterday. If you noticed the volume coming out of my kids and me? Well, it was a bad moment but it was also totally normal. But you know that, don’t you? You’ve had a few bad moments yourself, I bet. Maybe next Sunday we’ll get to Taco Bell at the same time and we can see whose toddlers (or which parents) melt down first.
What do you do when someone catches you in a bad moment?
This post is part of the 31 Days Writing Challenge. To read all the posts in this series, click here. And to learn more about this challenge or to find more series to read, visit Write31Days.com. Apple photos courtesy of my brother, James.
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