What I really think when I see a mum about to lose it in public

“Get in the car RIGHT NOW! I said NOW. That’s it. I am counting to three. One. Two. Two and half. Two and three quarters …. argh!!!”  

This is my soundtrack right now as I type from my home office. And for once, it’s not my own ‘got my cranky mum pants on’ voice that I’m hearing. It’s my lovely neighbour’s. And she’s losing her sh!t over her kids not getting in their car seats. She’s running late. I can hear it in her frantic tone. 

I’ve been there, too. 

It made me think of all the other times I’ve passed a mum stuck in the same frustrating parenting moments I’ve found myself in time and time again. 

The mum with the tot throwing a tanty in Coles

The wailing can be heard from aisle six where I am, but it sounds like it’s coming from the fruit and veg section at the other end of the store. Poor mama, I think. 

Then I see her. She’s frazzled and her cute little girl has tears streaming down her face. She’s perched in the trolley seat, her pudgy toddler legs kicking like crazy. Her arms are outstretched for her mum. I smile at the stressed-out mum and give her a nod of support.

In a last attempt at soothing her little girl she picks her up, gives her a bounce and when the crying doesn’t cease, she walks swiftly carrying her in the other direction. She’s done a runner. Trolley abandoned, shopping mission aborted. 

I’ve been there, too.

Shopping trolley

The mum with the difficult preschooler in the women’s loo

“I don’t need to do a wee. NO. I won’t. Go away.” Then … psssssss, followed by “I don’t want to wash my hands. Noooooo.”

As I reach for the paper instead of using the noisy hand dryer to dry my hands, just in case her little boy is also scared of it like my two are, I flick her a smile. I can see the ‘why the battle?’ and ‘I told you so’ look on her face. Now she’s going to have to force her kid to wash his hands. 

I’ve been there, too.

“Why do they battle us on every little thing?” I say to her. “Surely going to the toilet is a relief when they clearly need to wee!”   

The mum with the kids at the park who don’t want to leave

As I push my little guy on the swing for what feels like the 100th time, and glance over at my preschooler climbing the big rocket frame with three different slippery sides off it, I see her. She’s got one kid in a football hold with his legs kicking and another being dragged by the hand screaming because he doesn’t want to leave the playground

I want to help her but I can’t leave my own two children. 

I’ve been there, too.

The mum at the cafe who just wants to drink a hot cup of coffee

She’s bought her kids babycinos but one of them has just spilled it all over the floor. I’m waiting in the queue to order and only have one kid today because the other is at preschool. He’s being such a good boy. He’s enjoying having mum to himself, I think. But that’s not my norm. My norm is exactly what this mum is dealing with, and I feel her frustration.

As she wipes up the mess using napkins, the other kid starts wailing because his marshmallow is white and not pink. Then the youngest starts pulling out the sugar sachets. When her coffee finally comes out, I see her strapping her tot into the stroller and telling the other boy that if he can’t behave they will have to go.

She leaves. Her steaming un-drunk coffee still on the table.

I’ve been there, too.

The mum with the multiple runaways 

I’m at the beach playing diggers and dump trucks with my two boys in the sand when I spot her. She’s racing after her toddler who is making a bee-line for the shore and her other one, who looks not much older, is racing in the other direction away from her!

“Stop!” I call out but that doesn’t do anything. I don’t know his name.

I’m not the only one with kids who don’t listen, I think as I tell my boys to stay put. For once they do as I ask and I’m able to run after him.

I clasp his little hand and he looks up at me confused, then when I turn around, I see her sweaty strained face.

“Oh, thank you!” she gasps.

“No worries. I have two as well and they’ve just grown out of the runaway stage, but man it’s hard when they’re in it. Do you guys want to come and play trucks with us? You look like you need to sit down.”

Like all parenting battles, this too shall pass. Little kids don’t stay little forever, and while there is plenty to enjoy about our stubborn loves, some days — when they’re really pushing all your buttons — it’s nice to look up and see another mum who knows exactly how you feel.

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