Stop Assuming And Judging: How My Son’s Fear Became My Own

My son is 18 months old and tantrum age has arrived. Even though my son is still very young, we always have open communication and practice gentle parenting. As a mom, my heart breaks every time my boy cries, (even though sometimes I know he’s crying and screaming because he’s not getting his way). I have learned to stay strong through those tantrums; stick to my guns and be calm. I’ve found that when I have to take something away from him, he can’t have or do something, or what he is doing is dangerous, I remove him from the situation, (or take away the object), let him know it’s dangerous or we can’t do that right now, I love him and understand that he is upset and that he can come join me when he is ready, (even though it’s easier said than done). I’ve learned that attention, whether negative or positive, is what he wants, (including me picking him up). As a parent, I’m not perfect and many parents have different techniques when dealing with tantrums, but I’ve found that this gentle method works best for us.

What happens when it’s in public?

Obviously, I would never walk away from my child. That’s not only unsafe, but will leave the child scared, hence making him even more upset. In public, I just speak to him calmly and say that I understand he’s (insert proper emotion), and it’s OK to be (insert proper emotion). Then, I explain why we can’t take whatever it is with us, (i.e. take a candy bar that isn’t ours because we didn’t purchase it and I had to put it back), or we can’t do an activity right at the moment, (i.e. play hide and seek, run, and hide behind other people in the thrift store). He might continue to throw his tantrum in public or he might choose to slowly calm himself down. Either way, I still continue to do what we came to do. It becomes extremely hard sometimes, especially when there are stares, (and we all know judgements), being thrown our way. I just continue to talk with my child to calm him down. What I never try to do is give in, (OK, no parent is perfect and rarely it happens). It’s hard not to get embarrassed and anxious at least a little bit and care what others are thinking. All that I try to remember is that the only one that matters is my son and that he is alright, (even though that moment of screaming and crying breaks my heart as a mother despite what it’s about). There is one thing that I do want people to know when they come in contact with a parent and their child that is crying and screaming in public…

Don’t judge the situation! Fear from a child is different than a normal tantrum and doesn’t mean the child is being abused, yelled at, etc.!

About a week ago, my son, husband and I were taking our normal grocery shopping trip to Kroger to get groceries. I had just gotten him out of his car seat and I quickly noticed, (despite me changing his diaper at home less than 20 minutes ago), we had a blow-out diaper situation. We went straight into the store and visited the closest restroom with a changing table, (which happened to be in the handicap stall). I shut the door to the stall and the battle began. For whatever reason, my son has an insane fear of falling off of the changing table when I lay him down and actually tries to cling to me for safety. He is an insanely tall kid for his age. At 18 months old, he is wearing size 3 T because he is so tall and 2 T is too short and tight on him. He can still fit on the changing table, but to him, it’s a little too close for comfort. He’s never fallen off of a changing table or any high platform for that matter. A parent knows the difference between when his or her child is throwing a tantrum and when he or she is crying because he or she is scared. In this instance, he was screaming and crying because he was scared. I would normally attempt to change him standing up, but he wasn’t even willing to let me. If I could have waited to change him until we got home, I would have, but he was wet all the way through his pants. There wasn’t a choice, but to speak to him calmly, let him know that I was there and wasn’t going to let him fall, and change him as quickly as humanly possible, (even with him trying to forcefully push me away). I heard someone else come into the restroom during the “Battle of the Changing Table” and I said that I was sorry for his loud screams because they were ear piercing, (in reality, I think I’m a little deaf due to his screams). I figured the person rushed in and out of the bathroom because they wanted to get out as fast as possible. Well, I was wrong…

After the battle was over and I picked him up off of the changing table, he stopped crying. He was back to his normal self: a happy little boy. I opened the stall to wash our hands and there was a middle-aged woman standing by the door with her arms crossed. I looked at her with a friendly face and stated something along the lines of, “I’m sorry if my son’s screams hurt your ears. He’s afraid of changing tables because he thinks that he’s going to fall off.” What came next, I was not mentally prepared for…

The woman threw so much hate my way; stating that she noticed a tiny bruise on my son’s knee, (he was wearing shorts at the time), and that I would have to beat my child for him to scream like that and associate the changing table with bad things, (the tiny bruise, literately the size of a dime, was from him tripping over a stick at the park a day earlier and he didn’t even cry he just got up and kept on running), and threatening to call Child Protective Services on me. She stated that I was not a fit parent to let my son cry like that; whether it was out of fear or that he was having a tantrum and I needed to learn how to proper handle my child.

I was so stunned and broken-hearted over her words that I had no idea what to say to her back. When I was finally able to form words, she was still blocking the door, and I opened my mouth and said,

“I’m sorry if my son hurt your ears by screaming out of fear of falling off of the changing table. My son is just fine and a happy little boy.”

I walked past her, holding tight to my little boy, who even smiled and waved at the woman on our way out of the bathroom. Even though he was scared and crying in the restroom, he came out with a smile on his face. I came out of the restroom in tears. I would never hurt my baby and hearing a woman accuse me of doing so hurt every fiber of my being.

I think I might have a fear of changing tables now, but for a different reason.


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