Years ago when my son, Tyler, was about four years old, and my daughter, Payton, was about two I went to a local Fred Meyer’s store to do some shopping. For those of you not on the west coast, Fred Meyer’s is a store along the lines of a Target or Walmart. It has groceries along with household goods, toys, clothes, gardening supplies, sports equipment, etc. Jim was away on a deployment so I had been on my own with the kids for at least a few weeks when I made the trip to Fred Meyer’s.
I made the mistake that day of taking the kids to the toy section of the store before we did our grocery shopping. Payton was sitting in the front of the shopping cart so she could not really move around or touch any of the toys. Tyler was walking beside the cart so he was able to touch the toys, and even try some out. Of course, as we walked the toy aisles Tyler spotted a car he just had to have. “Please, Mommy can I have the car?” Tyler pleaded as he held the toy in his hands.
“Not today,” was my response as I continued walking. Tyler refused to put the toy back on the shelf and proceeded to start begging for the toy. I took him by the hand and attempted to lead him toward the grocery aisles. Soon I was not really leading him anywhere, I was dragging him by the hand. He refused to give up the idea of getting that car as we walked from aisle to aisle getting the food we needed. Each aisle he got a little louder in his pleas for the car and a little more defiant in walking where I needed him to go.
I passed an older woman in one aisle, who looked at us and said to me, “Keep at it mom, stick to your guns.”
Tears about to well up in my eyes I replied, “Thanks,” trying my best to keep my cool.
Tyler just kept yelling, “I want that car! Why can’t I get that car?” No matter what I said to him he just kept repeating, “I want that car! Why can’t I get that car?” By the time I got to the check stand I was completely exasperated, embarrassed, and feeling defeated.
I started to put my groceries on the conveyer belt to check out while Tyler continued screaming and begging for the car. In an attempt to stop the tantrum I tried to set him at the end of the check stand in a sort of time out. “Sit here until I am done checking out and don’t say another word.” This only made Tyler get worse as refused to sit down grabbed onto my leg, and continued to beg for the car. I felt sweat beading up on my forehead and my heart was pounding as the checker just kept staring at me with this look of, “Why can’t you get that kid under control?”
As my frustration grew I think the checker started to get concerned for what I might do to Tyler. In all my trips to Fred Meyer’s I had never once had anyone come assist with the bagging and walk me out to the car. But on that day the checker called someone over and they walked me all the way out the door and helped me load my groceries into the car as I put a still screaming Tyler into the car. The entire time Payton was just happy as a clam witnessing everything as it unfolded.
“Thank you,” I said to the store worker as they walked away with the cart. Feeling judged, exhausted, and completely embarrassed I plopped down in the driver’s seat of the car. I just wanted to lay my head on the steering wheel and cry. I felt completely alone and like a failure as a mom. On that day I wished there was some sort of flag I could have put up on the cart that said, “Their dad is deployed, please excuse their behavior.”
Tyler’s behavior was not a result of Jim being gone, but my exhaustion, defeat, and feeling of being alone were part of Jim being away. For weeks I had been all by myself with the kids, taking care of all their needs and everything else around the house. It was hard, and it was lonely. No one at that Fred Meyer’s that day saw anything but the tantrum my son was having, but for me it was the culmination of weeks of hard.
All I wanted to do was have a moment to myself and cry it out, but there were groceries in the car that I needed to get home, kids that needed lunch, and a day’s worth of other things that needed to be done. So I wiped my eyes put the car in drive, drove home, and completed all the tasks that needed to be done that day.
I know it has been said many times before on other blogs or other articles, don’t judge a mom or a parent when their child is having a tantrum. You never know what they might be going through. If you are a military wife, seek the support you need to get breaks, and if you know a military wife going through a hard time, be that support that she desperately needs. And someone please invent a flag or sign that can be waved telling others a spouse is deployed so everyone understands and can be supportive of military wives…
I am a stay-at-home mom and aspiring writer. I was a Special Forces wife for twelve years until my husband retired in 2014. I currently live on a very small farm outside of Portland, OR, with my three kids, two goats, ten chickens, a cat, a dog, and a bunny. You can find my blog at theonesleftbehind.net. I can also be found at: Instagram: @jodimauldin, Twitter: @jodimauldin, Facebook: Jodi Niswender Mauldin Email: firstname.lastname@example.org