If you were one of the poor people at ALDI, Mona Vale, who had to suffer through 15+ minutes of solid screaming (the blood curdling, very upsetting kind) from my three year old son on Saturday, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for you. I know how you felt.
Helpless, edgy, angry, frustrated, annoyed, frightened for the child, distressed, teary; or maybe you saw the lighter side, as I know some of you did, and you were amused by the situation; or maybe perhaps you felt compassionate towards the child or even the mother. Hopefully you felt for the poor older sister, who was standing there, wishing the very ground would swallow her up and going through all of the above emotions.
I am sorry. I am sorry you had to go through it, but I am not ashamed. That was me submitting to my husband, and training my child in the way he should go. That was me loving my child, believing in faith for him; that his destiny was greater. That was me believing in faith; that one day you too will give thanks for that amazing young man, rather than identifying him on a police line up.
My fifth child has screaming tantrums. As parents of 5 children close together in age, we are going on 11 years straight of tantrums and training at our place. We’ve experienced all kinds. Screamers are probably the worst kind. The last two were screamers, I’ve got all kinds of theories about why. This time around the screaming is louder and he, being the clever kind of world changer that he is, has worked out, that tantrums in a very public, crowded place have the most effect.
I am sorry. I am sorry I did not remove him from the supermarket, as I would have once, leaving my full trolley behind, in the olden days when I only had one, two or even three children, and time was plentiful.
I am sorry for giving him a short, sharp slap on the behind, in a public place where it may have offended you, or even the government.
I’m sorry for disturbing the peace by publicly declaring to my son that yes, I was annoyed, and yes he had crossed the line of my patience. I’m even sorry I had to raise my voice to tell him clearly and calmly so, because he wasn’t listening to quiet anymore.
I’m sorry I dug my heels in to make a point, and then did absolutely nothing more to stop the screaming in public.
But I am only sorry that I couldn’t do it all in private, as I usually do.
My daughter said later, the most embarrassing part was that, usually we are a respected family. She’s used to compliments on their behaviour. Being associated with a child who screamed like that was mortifying. She had never experienced such an ordeal because she, and her other siblings, it seems, had a more pronounced ‘fear of man’ than my youngest, and would never perform tantrums before strangers, only before my husband and me. A fact that has made it a lonely road, training the other four, behind closed doors while everyone else assumed they must be perfect in all situations, but not a mortifying one.
This was mortifying.
Before we left the house for the shop, my husband stopped me, “Don’t buy him anything ok!” he said, and gave me a knowingly, fortifying hug, a bit like a general rallying the troops on the night before a battle.
That was where it began, with his decision. The screaming is over. Now I had to follow through. We had wanted to make it for a while now. It was not just screaming at the shops. The screaming at home was becoming impossible. If anything, it had escalated in the last week. We were all permanently on edge, our adrenal glands in overdrive.
But the shopping was going to be big and my husband knew, hence the hug. You see, my three-year-old, hated shopping from an early age and would scream. So I, being unable to not shop, or get a babysitter, would pacify him. At first it was something from home to play with or eat. Later, a treat bought at the beginning to head him off at the pass. It worked, but it turned into a shopping addiction. I would say, “Where would you like to go today?” and he would suggest, “The Shopping!”
It was cute for a while. I even decided on a 12 week pre-birthday strategy to suit us both. I would buy him a decent little toy from a series, once a week till his birthday and on his birthday I would wrap them all up as a collection and give them to him, even though he’d already played with them.
He was wonderfully appreciative and he still plays with those toys in a way that lets me know it was a decent strategy, for a time. However, his birthday is over, the present re-wrapping was a great success. However, he has enough toys. I can no longer use the excuse that ‘he had no toys’. He has plenty.
It was time to get through ALDI without external incentives.
Have you ever shopped for seven people’s week?
A friend shopped for me once. Even without the toddler, she had to call a friend for back up.
So, there we were in aisle 2, unusually on a Saturday, and my son saw something he wanted. “No, not today,” I said with my husband’s words still ringing in my ears, “Come on.”
But my son, stuck fast to that toy.
I walked on a little way, but he did not follow. So I said quietly but firmly, “You need to come, I can’t leave you behind, we are not getting the toy.”
But he shook his head and turned his back on me.
Again quietly I persevered, “I will count to three, if you don’t come, I will have to put you into the trolley. 1…. 2…. 3.”
So I went to pick him up. He started screaming, “PUT ME DOWN,” and hitting me soundly about the head. So I put him down, gave him a quick smack on his bottom, picked him up again and strapped him safely, and carefully into the trolley. Much more carefully than I would have liked to be honest, and yes I hear you through the computer, ‘answering violence with violence is not the answer,’ and I’ve probably lost half of you, now by admitting that I smacked my child.
But this is not a perfect mummy post, or even blog, this is a real woman blog. For full disclosure I have on occasion smacked all of my 5 children when I felt it was absolutely necessary, either for their immediate safety or when other methods were impracticable or unavailable to me. If you never smacked your kids, and they are now incredible adults I commend you. If you had five children in nine years, no babysitters and lived on no sleep for most of their childhood, and never smacked any of them, then leave me a comment below about how you did it. I’d love to know. What I do know is that my son was not hurt, although I cannot say the same for my head, he was just a little stunned.
Not stunned enough to stop screaming unfortunately. He continued wailing, “GET ME OUT OF HERE” at volumes hitherto unreached at ALDI Mona Vale. Through aisle three, down aisle four, and unceasing all the way down aisle five to the checkout, which just so happened to have queues four or five deep at every point. The guy in front of me thought it was hilarious, he was laughing hysterically by this point, he’d travelled the journey with us. “One day he’ll have kids of his own to pay him back!” he giggled.
Another old lady, put her hand on my arm, “Don’t worry love, it’ll get better,” she encouraged me. One guy wasn’t so impressed, “Does he have to scream, he’s annoying all of us.” He even came closer to ask my son, “Why do you have to scream like that?” and to me, “What’s he upset about?”
When I told him, he let it go.
It continued as the shoppers slowly paid for their goods and moved on, “GET ME OUTTA HERE.” At one point, annoyed that I was calmly ignoring him, my son actually climbed up my chest and out of the trolley with his seat belt still on. So, I removed him, sat him down on the floor in time out, told him, loudly so that he could hear me between screams, that ‘no he could not get out of the trolley, it was time to stop screaming, no he could not have the toy, and by the way mummy was very cross.’
When I asked my daughter afterwards, if she felt that I could have done anything differently. She said, “You, could have said, “if you stop screaming, I’ll let you out of the trolley.”
And yes, she’s right. I could have said that. The lady who cornered me at the trolley return in the carpark, to tell me she would have called the Department of Child Services if I was her neighbour, would have heartily agreed. Both of them were upset by the fact that a child was left to scream for so long in a public place.
But here’s the thing. Neither of them have to shop with him again, ever. I do.
And I don’t want to go to the shops with a child who screams. From the looks on the faces around me that day, other people don’t want me to either. I don’t even want to go shopping with child who stops screaming when I offer him a reward. Stopping screaming is not reward worthy in my opinion. Not screaming in the first place, now that is deserving of praise.
I chose to train my son, in that horribly public moment; that screaming to get what he wanted would never be tolerated again by his mother, and no amount of public humiliation would convince me otherwise.
So, I explained to my daughter, like I wish I could have explained to that lady, that this apparently neglectful scene was the most loving thing I could do for my child in that moment.
What that lady will never see is that, since the ALDI training exercise, my child has responded beautifully to being trained not to scream. We have used quick and simple, quiet time outs, no more smacking you’ll be pleased to know. The same child who before Saturday had reached the point of screaming not just about shopping, but also about eating meals, going to sleep, getting dressed, sharing, getting in the car, playing with his siblings, going to playgroup, leaving playgroup, going to swimming lessons, leaving swimming lessons and even when he was simply enjoying himself, has only screamed once today. It was very brief and he sat quietly in time out for it.
On the other hand he ate all of his lunch box, asked nicely to share toys, played beautifully with his siblings, pleasantly took his nap and travelled beautifully in the car.
Who knows, perhaps even that lady will unknowingly thank me one day in the future, when this gorgeous, clever, intelligent young man helps her elderly self in some beautiful way. Perhaps he may even lead her, instead of looking the other way and indulging himself in selfishness that causes destruction and grief.
Yes, I’m sorry that you had to see what goes on behind closed doors at my place. I’m sorry you had to hear the soundtrack of my life. But I have lost my shame. I have lost my pride. I have lost my fear of man. What I haven’t lost is a fierce love of the children God has given me, and a faith that they will grow into wonderful adults, a faith that their destiny does not include a complete lack of self control or a complete disregard for the ears of others. I train my kids without fear of man, only because I have the assurance of God in Proverbs 22:6 which says,
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Is there something, for which you’ve suffered public humiliation or pain, but known, however messy and riddled with mistakes it appeared, it was overall the right thing to do? Is there something that you are muddling through, and suffering for in faith, right now?
When I am encouraging myself, I think about our Saviour, Lord Jesus and his suffering and public humiliation, I think about the things he did that made him look bad, like the time he tipped over the tables in the temple, and how many people must have cursed him for that. But then I think about his perseverance despite public opinion, and the offence of others. I think about the victory that he won from that same position of humiliation, and I realise that if we are to lead, or be successful we have to give up on looking good. We will make mistakes, we will do things that people don’t like, we will go through things we won’t like going through. We might not get the how right all the time, but as long as we know our direction and why we are doing things, we will not travel aimlessly.
I pray for your purpose today, I pray for your courage, I pray for your decisions to move forward against the tide of public opinion. I pray for the shield of faith to surround you all the way to victory.
Maybe it’s your thoughts that need help today? You might be encouraged by the posts Wear Your Helmet or Accept One Another. Or perhaps you think I’m was just a big, fat bully to my son in ALDI, and you might be smugly pleased to know that yes, I have caught myself bullying, although I don’t believe this was one of those times. Take a look at Trust-Without it We Bully and decide for yourself.
Lots of love,
© Lauren Macdonald. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission, from this blog’s author, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lauren Macdonald @ http://godhelpmei.com