Today I experienced one of my most frustrating and disappointing moments as a parent so far. I was that parent with the toddler having a total meltdown in public, complete with kicking and screaming. And I was lucky enough to have that meltdown with a baby on my hip.
I have always known this time was going to come. Ever since Jarvis was born a year ago I have spent hours trying to juggle them both; working out how to carry a newborn and keep a toddler from sprinting off in the car park, learning how to breastfeed and simultaneously read a book or draw, and how to try to settle a screaming baby at the park while ensuring my toddler doesn’t make a dash for freedom. And today I had to try and get from inside day care, out three closed doors and into a car with a screaming toddler who refused to walk and a baby who can’t walk.
Austin is toilet training and had managed to pee in his shoes, so day care had put him in some loan ones. All was going well until I took the loan shoes off and Austin declared he HAD to have those shoes. We have never seen a tantrum as epic as today, so I just assumed his protests would quickly calm down and off we would go in his now dry shoes. Twenty minutes later he was still having a meltdown on the floor of his day care room and after trying every form of bribe, coercion, and downright extortion every parent knows well, it appeared my only option was to throw two kids and two backpacks under my arms and just go.
As expected Austin kept screaming, but what I didn’t expect was the complete lack of help from every staff member (who had been outside during the meltdown but were very aware of the scene) and the ten or so parents from the kindy that I passed on my way out. On Sunday I had been down at the shopping centre with Austin on my own and had experienced three individual acts of true kindness from strangers; letting me jump the queue for milkshakes (and coffee), distracting Austin in a shop before he lost it and taking my trolley back for me, all because I had a toddler with me. Today I had the toddler, screaming loudly, plus a baby and not one person offered a hand.
After some less than ideal hoisting of children one-handed into the car and eventually forcing Austin into his seat, I got into the car and burst into tears, out of frustration with the “Terrible Twos” and disappointment with my fellow parents. But I refuse to be embarrassed. Tantrums are part of life with toddlers, and often they choose less than ideal times to have them. But an offer from another adult would have gone a long way to making everything so much easier.
We managed to make it home and I poured a glass of wine while Austin refused to get out of the car. After some gentle persuasion he came inside, finally agreed to a cuddle and calmed down. Over an hour of tears was eventually stopped with the promise of Weetbix for dinner. Out of all of it I did get a nice cuddle on the kitchen floor (while Jarvis played with the washing machine, microwave and one of Evans $3,000 guitars) but I would much prefer to get my cuddles the old-fashioned way – normally in my bed at 2am while I am trying not to fall out!
Parenting is tough. Really tough. But that is why there is wine.