Beck Vass recalls a particularly tough public meltdown with her little boy. And the surprising kindness of strangers.
My kid just had a meltdown so horrific that three different people stopped to offer their support. We'd had a big day but you know it's really bad when people just want to help you.
Our boy, 4, has started exhibiting rage when he doesn't get his way. He's been waking up in the morning literally doing somersaults on the couch. It's all quite bizarre – really hyper behaviour which seemingly comes out of nowhere.
The only thing I can think of to do is to try to tire him out physically as much as I can.
So, I packed up the baby, 8 months, in the stroller and gave his brother his bike so we could walk to get his older sister, 6, from school.
We collected our girl and diverted to the park on our way home, but as we arrived there our boy started to turn. Knowing he was hungry, I gave him his peanut butter sandwich and said we would wait until it was eaten before we continued.
But he took off and biked across the carpark entrance without waiting for me like he knows he is supposed to at crossings.
When I pulled him up on it, he saw red. Something else happened in there and I can't remember exactly what it was because it must have been so traumatic I have blanked it out ... but it ended in him throwing his bike down before hurling the sandwich in protest.
In slow motion, I watched as a seagull swooped in and stole my only lifeline.
"Turn around. We're going home," I announced, partly punishing him for being a douchebag, partly knowing home was now my only option because that's where food was.
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For 15 horrendous minutes I had to deal with his very public meltdown.
He tried to tip over the stroller with his brother in it so I grabbed his hand. That made him more angry. He tried to bite my leg as I tried to drag him away.
At one point, I thought he was surrendering for a cuddle, as that is usually his circuit-breaker, so I leaned in but he only screamed in my ear at the top of his lungs.
I attempted to walk away hoping he would get his bike and follow but that only enraged him further and he tried to tip over the stroller again.
A mum stopped her car on her way past to see if I needed help.
I explained he was just hungry but he'd thrown his food and a seagull stole it so there was nothing anyone could do, but thanks.
Her reply was pure pity:
"You're doing really well."
Later, another woman came past and asked if there was anything I needed.
An older man walked by with his dog. By this point our boy had ripped off a scab above his eye, and his angry red face was covered with dirt, snot, spit, and fresh blood.
Saliva spattered with each word as he screamed:
"YOU'RE! SO! STUPID!"
The man's lip twitched as he tried to suppress a smile and I couldn't hold it in any longer either. Well, that set him off even more. "WHY ARE YOU SMILING?" he roared.
If I wasn't laughing I'd be crying, Bud. And crying isn't going to help me now.
The third offer of help came just as I was starting to get our boy calmed down.
She was another older woman who, when I thanked her, replied kindly:
"I remember those days, a long time ago now."
Somehow, we made it home where a quick snack fixed everything and our boy said sorry for trying to hurt me and we were able to talk about it calmly.
After having three kids, I have no shame, no concern over other people's judgements, no care of what they might have thought.
But it sure was nice during what, in earlier times were distressing moments, to know I wasn't alone in the dark place that parenting in public can be.