Following on from my experience last week, where my son losing it in public drew attention from the law enforcement, I decided I better walk my talk about being a support to struggling parents while others look on. The opportunity arose when I saw, late one sunset flooded evening, a mum dragging her screaming kid across the field at Buddhafields in a wheelbarrow. I didn’t see what happened to flip the mama’s lid, but when she threw down the barrow and the (biggish) kid rolled out, I ran over just as she was tossing her daughter back in and scolding her to stay there.
“Hey, tell me how hard it is, I’m with you” I said.
She surveyed me apprehensively, not quite able to make eye contact in her rage. I couldn’t tell if coming over had been helpful or was just making her more furious, but I was happy for her to channel her feelings towards me.
“It’s Ok I got you, tell me, or just take a minute for yourself, I can stay with her”
She turned to her kid “I just can’t take you screaming any more. I am SO beyond my limit and you are too, you are making this so hard and I just need you to get to bed now”
I tried to encourage her to tell me instead of the kid but she said she just had. Her little girl was screaming hysterically
“You’re not being a kind mummy.”
“I just CAN’T anymore… I’m so tired, I don’t want to do this.”
I colluded that parenting was so hard and relentless and that she was doing a beautiful job and with that she was off, tearfully advancing down the field. I have no idea how the mother received my support and in that moment it didn’t seem to have the effect of calming either of them down, but I really hope she felt my loving intention. Any suggestions of what might have been more helpful most welcome in the comments!
I have decided to break the taboo around never mentioning anyone else’s parenting, by commenting on it at every given opportunity! Yesterday at my posh spa (where door bellowing is likely frowned upon) I yelled through the shower door to a mother washing her screaming tot
“You are a wonderful mama!”
It’s easy to tell parents how great they are and usually that is extremely well received. When they are not doing great, I think it’s important to cut in with an air of ‘I’m right here, I know you are a good parent and that it’s hard AND I won’t let you take it out on your kid’. I’d love to hear stories from anyone who has intervened with a parent acting inappropriately or lent support to a fraught situation.