I think it was the moment that I was standing in JCPenneys with my child flung over my shoulder while he screamed bloody murder, kicked and flailed and turned purple with rage that I determined I really can’t care what other people think anymore.
You’d think that the injustices of pregnancy, the loss of all modesty of delivery, the over-exposure of nursing, or the time I showed up to work with oatmeal in my hair and spitup on the crotch of my work pants would have been enough to make me stop caring what other people thought, but I think it’s really been the toddler tantrums that have made me say, with 100% conviction:
“I just don’t care.”
That’s not to say that I don’t care about my child, obviously, or that I don’t care that we’re raising him right, or that I don’t care about being “that parent.” But in the middle of a toddler meltdown (and hoo-boy, are we getting our fair share of toddler meltdowns lately), I can’t care. I can’t care about the eyeballs on me, or the exasperated sighs from other store patrons, or the looks of chagrin from store employees.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing that’s not embarrassing about your child being totally out of his gourd with frustration. It’s hard, in those moments, to not feel like you’re failing. The defiance and willfulness and stubbornness of my toddler make me wonder often if we’re messing up. Trust me, those looks from outsiders is nothing compared to what I put myself through. But in eye of the storm, it’s my job to block out those other people and focus on my child. The only way he’s going to learn, the only way WE can teach him, is if we focus on him and not other people.
I don’t like being the mom of the kid having the nuclear meltdown in the middle of shoe shopping. I don’t like having to physically remove him from the store before he spontaneously combusts from the outburst. But my not liking it has almost nothing to do with what other people think of me or my kid, and everything to do with me wanting to be the parent who can help her kid learn to manage those outbursts for HIS sake.
In the end, I care more about what he becomes, and how we get him there, than I do what other people think.