7 Things to Remember When Your Kid Loses His S*%T at Drop-Off
When I was a young mom, one of the best things I did was join a moms group. Every Tuesday morning in a musty meeting room at the back of a church I sat with other moms and enjoyed fellowship, tips for parenting and wife’ing, a free breakfast and the blissful freedom that comes from knowing someone else is watching your two year old for a while.
We shared stories of tantruming toddlers and picky eaters while we snacked on Monkey Bread and hard boiled eggs. Even more nourishing than the food, however, was the wisdom shared by the Seasoned Moms. This special breed of wise, older moms had lived to tell the tale of motherhood. Looking back of course, I realize these ladies were probably in their 40’s. Not at all what you’d consider “old.” I’m just shy of 40 and I’m certainly not old! These women were survivors who made it to the other side of parenting. Their kids could make their own meals, dress themselves and even left the house for hours upon hours as they ventured to the magical far-off place toddler moms could only dream of… school. Their kids had whole conversations without one mention of traveling little girls with backpacks and maps or purple dinosaurs. They didn’t repeat the same questions over and over even though they heard the answer 5.8 seconds earlier. And most importantly, these kids wore underwear- real underwear that was free of sticky tabs and wrestling matches to put them on.
The Seasoned Moms circulated throughout the room looking for a Young Mom in distress. We were easy to find as we sported the signature dark circles and repeatedly searched the doorway for nursery workers coming to get us because our child was falling apart. Many of us could be found huddling around the coffee while shoving food in our faces. We’d become accustomed to eating like this at home as our toddlers attempted to climb the cabinets or sneak out the back door, so we often forgot how to behave in public.
Seasoned Moms spotted us Newbies right away and like fairy godmothers, they fluttered around us, wrapped a comforting arm around our shoulders and asked the question every new mom feared… “How are you doing?” Such a simple question with a complex maze of answers. “I’m tired, frustrated and lonely. I’m never going to lose this baby weight. I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m pretty sure I’m ruining my kid.” And as I wept into my Betty Crocker Farmers Breakfast Casserole, these women offered me comfort and encouragement and, most importantly, peace. They shared stories of tantrums thrown both at home and *gasp* in public, failed meals, bad decisions and constant doubt and second-guessing. They made me feel normal.
As I left each week and I retrieved my 2 year old who inevitably pushed some other kid because he was in “that phase,” I was a little less mortified by his behavior because the Seasoned Moms promised me someone else’s kid would be doing the pushing next week.
It’s easy to forget those early years as they are replaced by thousands of days filled with new experiences. Then suddenly you see one of those Young Moms and you’re reminded of what it was like to be in her shoes. Suddenly you are the Seasoned Mom.
Two days ago, as I dropped my guys off at camp, I witnessed every mother’s worst nightmare: a kid completely losing his shnizzle at drop-off. I’m talking about the full-on crying, screeching, hanging on to mom’s leg meltdown. We’ve all been there. I don’t care how well adjusted your kid is, every kid goes through this at some point. And as many of the other moms gave her a wide berth to work it out, all I wanted to do was run up to her and tell her 6 simple things:
1. You’re not a bad mom.
2. You’re kid isn’t freaking out because you don’t spend enough time with her.
3. You’re kid isn’t freaking out because you spend too much time with him.
4. The kid next to you, who is happily waving to mommy as she skips away, is not a better kid and does not have a better mom. We’ve all got issues.
5. You may never know why your kid is crying because just like the rest of us humans, he sometimes has feelings that are completely irrational and illogical. So stand strong Tell him that you love him. Remind him that you’ll be here as soon as camp is done. Give him a really big squeeze and send him on his way.
6. It’s pretty much a guarantee she will not be the only one freaking out today- Take solace in that.
7. It’s OK to climb into your car and cry because nothing hurts more than seeing your kid in distress. And when the tears slow and the snot stops dripping, go back to #1: You’re not a bad mom.
I’d like to say I ran up to her and say those things. But I was too afraid I’d freak her out or overstep my boundaries (and I didn’t have any Monkey Bread to share.) So as I passed her as she stealthily hid behind the steering wheel of car, I made eye contact, paused for a moment and gave her a subtle nod and the Mom Smile. The one that says, “I know what you’re going through. We’ve all been there. It’s going to be OK. You’re normal- and so’s your kid.”
I guess I’m the Seasoned Mom now.
That’s just my normal.