We Don’t Need a F*&^%@# Balloon

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If you’ve ever had to take a toddler out in public, then you’ve experienced something similar to this.

Your two year old is in the middle of a full-scale meltdown while you push an overfilled cart of groceries down the paper products aisle. Your refrigerator is empty, so completion of this trip is essential. Your kid, however, doesn’t understand. All she knows is that she wants to open a bag of frozen peas, and you’ve taken them away.

Just as you’re about to shush your child for what seems like the millionth time, a well-meaning stranger with a bright smile and a phony falsetto comes your way.

“Sweetie, what’s wrong?”

You child mumbles something unintelligible, and the stranger nods with understanding.

“It’s ok, cutie! You don’t have to cry.”

By the end of the exchange, your toddler is smiling, and you’re scowling as you stuff a jumbo pack of toilet paper underneath your cart.

This person didn’t do you or your kid any favors. If anything, this person showed your kid that she gets attention when she acts out.

My kid figured this out a while ago. With a cherub face, big brown eyes, and the ability to break glass with her screams, Lil’ Ma is an expert at getting attention. There are very few locations in the city that we’ve attended without incident. Restaurants and grocery stores are the worst.

I know she’s loud. I know it’s embarrassing. I know for the five seconds you are passing us in the cereal aisle that we are bothering you.  I’ll admit that when Lil’ Ma throws a public tantrum, my first instinct is to give in. But I have to teach her how to act when things aren’t going her way, and that means we’re taking the hard road. Your assistance, while it may seem necessary, is not required. I got this.

“This” may mean I have to leave the dining area, abandon my cart of groceries, or let her scream for a whole five minutes. I’m ok with that. You should be too. Her throwing a tantrum is not an indication of my ability to handle said tantrum.

Last week, Lil’ Ma decided at a restaurant that my plate of food looked better than hers. After three failed attempts to take it, she started screaming and tried to stand up in her booster seat. I held her in place to keep her from toppling over. My dad asked if he should take her outside. Even though the restaurant was very noisy and I doubted that she was disturbing anyone, I agreed.

Our waitress appeared before he could get out of his seat.

“Oh, somebody’s upset!” she said. “Can she have a balloon?”

My father nodded his head yes. The waitress smiled.

“Absolutely not.” I said.  The waitress took a step back. Her smile faded.

“I thought it would…”  I narrowed my eyes and shook my head as I mouthed the word “no.” She turned on her heels and walked away.

“Ok lady,” I said to Lil’ Ma as I continued to hold her in the seat. “You can eat or not, but you will sit.”

She cried for a moment more, and then she sat down. A few minutes later, the once offensive plate of food was deemed acceptable, and she began to eat.

The waitress came back to our table just as Lil’ Ma finished her meal.

“Now,” I said, “she can have a balloon.”

The woman’s face registered understanding. She gave Lil’ Ma a red balloon.

Dealing with a toddler is no easy feat, and there are some situations in which a parent could use an extra hand. Just try to make sure the one you offer is more help than harm.

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