Veteran Mom Help Saved this Rookie from Public Meltdowns


To the two women who offered me a little veteran mom help to diffuse potential tantrums today before they turned to full-blown meltdown status… thank you.

We are in full-blown toddler mode these days. My daughter is very smart, so happy, and generally very well behaved… until she isn’t. She’s two. She has big opinions, and big emotions, and sometimes they bubble to the surface at inopportune times. 

I try my best to avoid pulling out my phone when we are out running errands. (Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I know I am quickly approaching nap time, I have one more essential stop to make, and I pull up Netflix for one quick cartoon to allow me to Supermarket Sweep my way through the store.) But I would rather try and teach my daughter how to make it through the errands, rather than always distracting from the task at hand with a screen in her face.

Today we had two hairy moments… both in check out lines of course, for maximum exposure.

 shopping cart
The first of those moments was in Walmart. We started by standing in line to complete a return which always takes forever for some reason, no matter how many people are in line. We cruised through the Dunkin Donuts to grab a blueberry donut, which is Reagan’s favorite part of Walmart and usually buys me several aisles of contentment. We paced the aisles, grabbing diapers, a few craft projects for rainy days, and a couple various odds and ends.

By the time we reached the checkout, I knew she had nearly hit her wall because she kept asking me if she could walk. Along with avoiding screen time in stores, I also will do pretty much anything to avoid unleashing a toddler loose in a store while I try to push a full cart. So while we inched closer to our turn at the register, she squirmed and wriggled until she had Houdini-ed her way out of the seat buckle and was about to jump ship.

I attempted to wrestle her back in while keeping my cool and trying like heck to look like I wasn’t the least bit flustered. I put on my best, “Oh pshh… this doesn’t bother me at all! I’m a professional parent after all,” face and strong-armed her back into the seat while I clipped the buckle and tightened that sucker as far as it would go. She was less than impressed.

Then someone stepped in. A woman behind me in a motorized cart with a kind grandmotherly face quietly picked a magazine up from the shelf, flipped to some pages with animals on them, and passed it over, suggesting I let Reagan look at the pictures.

I didn’t feel judged. I didn’t feel like she was trying to tell me how to parent. I felt like she knew what was actually going on in my head. (I don’t think my “professional parent” face was fooling her.) She just quietly offered the distraction to buy me a few more minutes so we could get through the line and escape to the car.

To her, I say, “Thank you.”

I’m clearly a glutton for punishment.

If that episode of PDA  – Public Display of Attitude – wasn’t enough for me, I decided to play with fire and swing into the small local grocery store on our way home to pick up sandwiches from the deli to bring over to my mom’s house for lunch.

This particular store has a tiny toddler-sized cart that Reagan loves to push around the store. When we are only grabbing a couple things, I am happy to let her use it because it keeps her entertained, and it’s completely adorable to watch her strut down the aisles like a little mama doing her shopping.

We grabbed what we needed without incident (unless you count the couple of times her reckless driving almost took out some ankles) and headed up to the registers. I could feel in my bones what was about to happen because each time I tried to choose a line, she politely said, “No thank you, Mama,” and steered her cart in the opposite direction.

I picked her up and nudged the pint-sized cart into a line with my knee while she began to writhe and throw her head back and scream. I tried to put on my calm face again and speak to her gently, but she was winding up for what predicted to be a doozy. The high school-aged cashier looked at me with what I could only imagine was fear (while maybe making a mental note to pick up her birth control ASAP).

Again, a polite stranger stepped in. She pulled her grocery list from her pocket and said to Reagan, “I have this list here and I could really use your help. Do you think you could you hold it for me?” The screaming and flailing stopped as suddenly as it had started. Reagan frowned, looked down and muttered a quiet, “No”.

 grocery list

The woman wasn’t phased in the slightest. “That’s ok, you don’t have to.”

Reagan shyly laid her chin on my shoulder and kept her eyes on the woman, and I could feel myself relaxing.

“Sometimes it just takes one little thing from an outsider to distract them,” she said kindly with a smile and set down the grocery list.

“This is two, huh?” I asked her with a weak chuckle. “They seem to save this all for their mamas, don’t they?”

“But look,” she pointed out. “It didn’t escalate, we diffused the situation before she got going.”

I finished paying for our small bag of items, and as I started to leave, I turned around and offered another grateful, “Thank you, again.”

“Of course,” she smiled. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”

As with the woman in Walmart, I never felt like she was just trying to shut Reagan up. I never felt like she was thinking “Can’t this girl get it together and control her child?” I didn’t feel like she was hoping I would hurry up and finish so she wouldn’t have to hear us. She had just probably been there a hundred times when her own kids were small and saw the opportunity to help out a rookie.

To all of the veteran moms out there – Thank you.

Stepping in with a kind word, zero judgment, and a simple helpful gesture is enough to remind me that I don’t need to have all the answers myself. I can’t say that there won’t be the occasional rookie mom who doesn’t welcome the mom help, but I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say that on occasion, it is very appreciated. I hope one day when my kids are older, I will have the opportunity to help out a rookie mom in distress.

Have you ever been the recipient of veteran mom help in a sticky situation with your own kiddos? Did you appreciate it or did it feel uncomfortable?


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