Kid + Meldown + In Public = Humiliation
Boarding the subway one afternoon, with my three small children in tow, my four year old son hoped we would get the ‘new’ subway. But the ‘old’ subway pulled up and he suddenly let loose, “You f’ing Mom!” and then, for punctuation, he kicked the door!
I had never wanted the ground to swallow me up whole as I did in that moment. I’m sure the crowded subway car could hear my heart beating and the gush of blood rushing to my beetroot face! I was stunned into silence…as was everyone else.
This, is why parenting is hard. When you’re caught off-guard and overwhelmed by strong emotions; shame, embarrassment, humiliation and anger. It’s hard to remain calm and know how to be there for your child. And let’s not forget, under the glare of a collective public stare. Hard.
At the next stop we got off the subway and returned to a world where my family drama was less public. I thought about my goal, to get home and how was I going to get there. Yes, cab I thought! But why did it seem so wrong when my son bounced into the taxi with a triumphant face? Not an ounce of evidence of the chaos that had ensued moments earlier, (other than my increased heart rate). We all sat in silence.
A week later we were back on the subway. By now I had talked to my son about expected language and behaviour, as well as the schedule of the new subway, in hopes of avoiding the anger bomb. But the writing was on the wall when he yelled at me to take a cab! Like I said, it’s a journey.
Tips for surviving public humiliation:
1. Try to keep calm, we know, you are not the Dali Lama, but just try. Breathe.
2. It helps to remember this is a tiny moment in time, in a few days it will be eclipsed by a hundred other happier moments.
3. You don’t know what other people are thinking, don’t always assume it’s negative, or judgemental. They might just be wondering how to help, or wondering how they would handle it.
4. Remember, your child needs you the most when they are at their own wits end. This may be the toughest part for most of us, as we weren’t typically raised to know how to manage our own emotions. But, staying calm is a choice and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Promise. And the days you just can’t, well, that’s an opportunity to practise self-forgiveness. Which is also a choice and also takes some practice.
What to do for your child:
1. Unless they are flailing like a whirling dirvish, hug them. We know, it’s hard. Really hard. But trust me, you’ll both feel better. Hugging calms your little caveman and helps you avoid mummy-guilt. Win-win.
2. If a hug will net you a black eye, try a calming hand on their back, then ease into that bear hug.
3. Keep your voice low and calm, get down on their level and reach for that loving, soothing tone (we did say this was hard right?).
4. Most important of all is to acknowledge how they feel. Use language like “I see how upset you are” “You’re feeling really mad about ____”. Validation is important for everyone and has a calming effect on our little cave-people.
Share your parenting misadventures with us, we’re here for you!
Written by: Niamh Connolly, Mum Of Three, Social Worker