Readers, I need your advice.
My little boy celebrated his 3rd birthday recently. He asked for a Monsters Inc. party, which, as it turns out, was pretty perfect for him.
I was trying to figure out a great gift for my little sunbeam of love and joy, and called a good friend of mine for some ideas. Because my husband is busy with school and a very time-consuming church calling (and work, and family and …) I had to shop for my birthday boy’s birthday present … with the birthday boy.
It’s OK. It’s great. It’s totally fine, I thought, because we can make it a really fun trip and he can pick out his own gift! Great bonding time! Good memories!
As soon as we entered Toys R Us, my little one ran straight to the old, dirty train table set up between the game and electronic aisle. And would not move.
“Beckham, come here!” I said in my best, most excited voice. “Look! Some blocks! Do you want to go check them out?”
“No, I want to play with trains,” he said.
“Come on, Beckham! Hey! How about a tool set? I think I see some tool sets!” Now I’m starting to sound like Bob Barker from “The Price is Right” (“Come on doooowwnnn, Beckham!”). But he would not step away from the set. Finally I gave up and thought, well, maybe it was better I shop without him anyway, so his gift can be somewhat of a surprise … until he sees it in the cart.
Finally we are ready to go. (By the way, just in case you were wondering, when I say “shopping without him” I really mean, “shopping-two-feet-away-and-picking-out-a-toy-on-the-same-aisle.” Lest you think I abandoned my child in Kid Paradise.)
“Ok, Beckham. We will be ready to go in TWO MINUTES,” I said, remembering my mom training from some book by some author. “After TWO MINUTES, we are leaving. And it will be time to stop playing and come with Mommy, OK? Promise you’ll stop after TWO MINUTES?”
“Yes, I promise!” my teeny little 2-year-old said.
So, after exactly two minutes, I cheerfully announced we were leaving.
Cue the biggest tantrum I have ever seen on any kid at any time, anywhere.
I tried to put him in the cart. He arched his back and went completely stiff, making him impossible to bend. I tried to hold his hand. He threw them behind his back so I couldn’t grab them. I tried whispering in his ear, “Beckham! Do you remember what tomorrow is? It’s your birthday! Do you know why we’re here? We’re buying you birthday presents!” So … stop acting like a terror and be grateful, dadgum it!
But nothing worked, and he was growing more hysterical by the minute. We get to the checkout line and suddenly, he flings himself on the floor, facedown, and begins banging his fists and feet. Then he lets out the most bloodcurdling scream I’ve ever heard, and I didn’t know whether to cry or take him to a haunted house audition.
Then I remembered another piece of advice I just read from Merrilee Boyack’s “The Parenting Breakthrough”:
“You are shopping with your [2-year-old]. The child begins to have a major temper tantrum — falls to the ground shrieking, kicking, and pounding. What do you do?
a. Walk away calmly and pretend like you don’t know the chid and mutter under your breath, “I would never have a child who did that …”
b. Offer the child candy, pop, toys-anything! — if he’ll just calm down.
c. Begin to cry uncontrollably.”
This is me! This is exactly — WORD FOR WORD — what was happening!
“Correct answer: ‘a.’ Of course! All of this parenting must be taken with a sense of humor or you’ll never survive. And parenting provides plenty of great chances for some really off-the-wall humor.”
So I did it. I followed the advice. I looked at the cashier who was staring wide-eyed at my son and said, “Who’s child is that? I would NEVER let my child throw such a fit! That is soooo embarrassing.” The cashier laughed, and I picked up my bag and what was left of my dignity and left the store with my 2-almost-3-year-old running after me screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! I want to” — hiccup — “play with TRAINS!”
As I was buckling my baby into his carseat (oh yeah, I had my other two boys with me as well) I tried to reason with Beckham.
“We do not act like that,” I was saying, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman approaching me.
“Hey,” she said smiling. “I just wanted to say that I was really impressed with how you handled that in there.”
“Really,” she went on, still smiling. “That is a hard thing. You are doing a good job.”
I wanted to ball. That was the nicest thing I had ever heard and as I walked around the other side to buckle the banshee in his carseat (which was sort of difficult because he kept kicking my hands away) I thought about how keeping my calm made a really bad situation more manageable. And how grateful I was for the advice and encouragement, from both those women.
The next night I attended a parenting conference with my husband (perfect timing!) and received more great advice from parents who have been there, done that.
So my question to you is, what would YOU have done, or what HAVE you done in similar situations? Any advice that you’ve heard or tried that’s worked for you?