I’m thankful for my non-judgmental mommy friends.
The sun is finally shining… goodbye frostbite, and hello itchy, puffy eyes! Spring is here! Pack the diapers, fill the sippy cups, and everyone, grab a toy… we’re venturing outside of this prison we call home. We’re going on a playdate!
We’ve colored on all of the walls, torn apart every book, and used every possible inch of this house as a new time-out spot. Winter is hard for mommas. I’m just praying that my toddlers know how to act in civilization. I think I’ve managed to teach them proper manners, despite the chaos of our hibernation period, but can one ever be confident with a toddler?
We arrived at the park and, so far, things were going pretty well. My son was playing sweetly with his friend, my daughter was tolerating life, no one was crying. Okay, this is going well. I have the good kids today. Phew! I could have sworn that once my child started saying, “You stop it, mommy. Obey me,” that embarrassing public temper tantrums would be in my future. After all, we’ve already had a few.
One time — yes, only one time — I decided to venture out of my household with two under two to the grocery store. I had a little chat with my children in the car (who were both too young to really understand or care about my bribes and begging to behave and not embarrass mommy) and firmly instilled in them who was in charge. ‘I am mommy. You are a little person. You obey me. I am their leader and they are my followers. Now let’s go to the store.’
I walk in with my head held high. This momming thing wasn’t so bad. I got this. Maybe it’s even time to add another addition to this tribe.
That all ended the minute we started loading into the shopping cart. You know, barely a minute into our adventure. I idiotically chose the wrong color shopping cart car and my son was LOSING. HIS. MIND. He wanted the red one and not the black one. Tears were flowing and arms were flailing. I should have just switched to the red shopping cart but I didn’t. I was mommy. They obey me. I’m the leader after all. I stood my ground. We were riding in the black shopping cart.
I walked shamelessly through the store with my screaming children. The network of mom-shamers seemed to know I was coming and they were lined up with their judgmental eyes darting my way. Within five minutes I raised my white flag and ran out of the store with my screaming babies. Moms, choose your battles. Take the red shopping cart.
The husband got a text message with the grocery list later that day.
But I digress. So here we are, again. I am out in public with my two children without backup. They start to get cranky so I call for lunch. I’m sure that will distract my son from losing his cool for at least another 45 minutes. My friend neatly takes out her picnic lunch and had a beautiful little spread for her daughter. Her meal is nutritious and she even remembered to bring a little placemat so her daughter’s food doesn’t get covered in dirt. I didn’t even know that was a thing.
I pull out our peanut butter sandwiches and goldfish and shamelessly(ish) set them on the dirty picnic table. My son starts throwing his sandwich on the ground in protest and my daughter begins to chew on the plastic wrapper. My son decides he wants his friend’s lunch so he puts his in the dirt, and now I’m having flashbacks from the last time we ventured out without daddy.
In a desperate attempt to regain control I whisper in my son’s ear to behave. Listen and obey mommy. He loudly tried to take his place as leader and yelled, “No, mommy. You obey me!”
And ran off. Well… crap. My friend and her sweet, well-behaved daughter begin quietly cleaning up their lunch while my children are finishing off their last few bites. You know, the ones my son threw in the dirt? Yea… those.
Later on at the swings, I admitted to my friend that I was still learning how to parent my strong-willed child and sometimes I just felt like I was failing. She quickly encouraged and reminded me that we are all figuring out this life as a parent. She never made me feel embarrassed or looked at my son like he was the devil even though he was acting like one at the time.
I was finally able to relax and enjoy our time together. My son started feeding off my less-stressful demeanor and started playing sweetly with his oldest friend. They began swinging and sliding together and I was able to have a good conversation with a human my own age. This scary task of adventuring out alone with two in tow became a little less scary.
Thank you to my mom friend who didn’t judge me or my toddler when we had a moment… or four. Thank you for offering sweet encouragement instead of the infamous ‘If you would do it this way they wouldn’t be acting like that,’ followed by the mom glare that we have all seen in a weak moment standing in the never-ending grocery line.
These are the friends that I keep close in my circle. They make me a better mom and a better person. They give me the strength to continue venturing out and trying new things. They give me the confidence I need to raise my children the best way I know how.
I hope we can all become more like that mommy friend.
This story originally appeared on TODAY