“This morning at Target I witnessed a meltdown of epic proportions. Behind me at the checkout, this 3-year-old was kicking and screaming and flopping around on the floor like a fish out of water. I tried to catch the mom’s eye and give her an empathetic look, but she was too busy wrestling with her daughter to notice me.
The mom was doing everything ‘right.’ She remained calm. She spoke to her child in a gentle, reassuring tone. She was as attentive as she could be while also attempting to pay for her assortment of $10 tees and seasonal decor. But despite her best efforts, the meltdown only got bigger and bigger. The mom still stayed calm, but I noticed her cheeks were very flushed as she apologized profusely to the cashier.
Say something kind to her, I thought. She’s embarrassed and alone and feels like a terrible mother. Remind her that none of those things are true.
But then I thought, No, it’s none of your business. LEAVE THE POOR STRANGER ALONE.
I took my time on the way out. The girl continued screaming at the top of her lungs all the way to the parking lot. She fought fiercely as her mom strapped her into her car seat.
I felt exasperated just observing, so I knew the mom’s blood pressure must be sky high.
Go to her, Katie, I thought again. This time I did.
‘Sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to say you’re doing a great job.’
She looked up at me, blinked twice, and then visibly melted. Tears started streaming. ‘I think I feel as bad as she does.’
I nodded. ‘I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but you are rocking this.’
More tears. ‘You have no idea how much I needed to hear that.’
I did though. Every parent does. So, let’s start saying it. Let’s take the risk. That mom could have looked at me funny. She could have told me to mind my own business. But I took the chance and we are both better for it.
Empathy instead of judgment. Support instead of silence. Community instead of isolation. This is the parenting revolution.”
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