As a young, naive, and childless, 20 something I remember being in the checkout line at Target and seeing a mom with a young child who was throwing the world’s loudest temper tantrum. She kept going along with her business, ignoring his screams and everyone’s annoyance, and I remember thinking I will NEVER be that mom. I will never be the mom to have a crying child in the Target checkout line. I will never be the mom to not be not be apologetic while my son screams. I will never be the mom who lets their child act out in public. I will never be the mom who can’t control their child.
Then, years later, I became a mother and the reality smacked me clear in the face. I can’t control my son’s behavior. I can love him. I can teach him. I can give him expectations. I can give him choices. I can give him consequences. I can explain to him that his choices have consequences. And I do all those things. I do them well. Still, doing those things does not give me control over him or his behavior. I can’t control whether or not he will have a meltdown in the Target checkout line. I can’t control if he will sit through an entire meal at a sit down restaurant. I couldn’t control him when he cried through his entire 2nd birthday party. There are so many things about him which I can’t control but I was serious when I told myself that I would never be that mom. So, I decided to control what I could. I started controlling his environment. I controlled what type of situations I put us in. I stopped taking him to Target. I stopped taking him to sit down restaurants. I stopped taking him to places that were unfamiliar. I stopped going to events unless he had gotten a good nap or unless we were with trusted friends. When we did go places and he had a meltdown, I started leaving. I started apologizing to everyone around us. I started saying no and choosing to stay home. Home is safe. Home can be controlled. As, I think back on the past year, we have had some great times. I am happy and thankful for each and everyone of those. But I am also sad. I am sad because we left your daughter’s birthday party early because he cried when he couldn’t help her open her presents. I am sad we dropped out of soccer because he had a meltdown the first three practices. I am sad we left an empty movie theater because he wouldn’t sit still. I’m sad we haven’t gone to Chili’s together as a family. I’m sad that I thought our only choices were to leave places early or stay home. I am sad that we have missed out on so experiences and so many teachable moments because I never wanted to be mom who couldn’t control her son.
Today is my son’s 3rd birthday. We threw him a huge birthday party. We bought him a cake. He got presents. In fact, he got so many new toys we could stay home and play with them the entire year. But, we won’t. This year, my real present to my son is to accept that I can’t control him but I can be that mom. I can say yes to your child’s birthday party which is scheduled during his nap time. I can decide not to drop out of T-ball. I can take him to the movies. We can do unfamiliar things with unfamiliar people. If we are feeling really crazy, we can even go to Chili’s on a Friday night. Not only can we do those things but I can choose to stay. Even if he has a meltdown. I can be the mom to wait out the tantrum in order to discuss the lesson. Because if we don’t, how will he know if he is good at t-ball? How will he learn how to act at a restaurant? How will he learn to persevere when he is tired? how will he learn that he can work through hard things? How will I learn how to overcome my need to control everything. So, if you see us in the Target checkout line and I am unapologetic while my son is mid meltdown, shoot me a smile and give me some grace, because I am trying to be THAT mom who walks by Faith.