Monday Minute: The Assault
Let me lead up a bit to this most epic Monday Minute. James was off school for Election Day, so I decided we would all go vote together. A long line and 45 minutes later, we escaped, but not until after a minor scuffle with an old man who decided for some unknown reason to pick Adam up and carry him closer to his mother (Adam was being totally fine, counting pumpkins on the wall as I had instructed him to while we waited for our big voting moment). Adam did NOT want to be picked up, and even after him screaming wildly and me shouting across the room to “please put the boy down,” the man brought him over and deposited him, writhing and shrieking on the floor, smiling as if waiting to be thanked. Thanks, buddy.
Fifteen minutes later Adam was recovered enough (or so I thought) – we all walked/scootered a few blocks down to the grocery store, first stopping for hot apple cider and cupcakes. I chatted with another mother as the kids all played nicely together, then headed across the street to the grocery store.
I usually do most of my shopping online but I needed 3-4 special allergen-free items that I can’t get for Ian. The kids all continued to be pleasant and helpful, and as a reward got to pick out character soups, Mario and Disney princess. As we headed toward the checkout I passed a great sale on Eggo waffles – 3 for $5 – and told the kids that they could each pick a flavor before we left. James and Margaret added their choices to the cart while Adam selected a family size box. “Buddy, you have to pick a small box. Those aren’t on sale.”
And that’s where it all went downhill fast.
For those of you who have experienced an Adam tantrum you know it’s nothing short of professional. Of my 4 children he is the expert of all things meltdown. The stomping feet (more like running in place), the arched body and thrown-back head, the instantaneous tears. All of it classic – and then there’s the SCREAM. The sheer volume of this SCREAM is enough to stop traffic, literally, and over the course of his terrible twos I have done the walk of shame home from the subway more than a few times, clinging to his arm (and my sanity) while Adam flips out about some crisis like “he didn’t hold the door,” “his sandwich is crooked” or “he didn’t unscrew the top of the water bottle by himself.” Doors open, and more cautious neighbors peer out of their windows to witness the spectacle as we march by, for surely Adam is being eaten by wild dogs to be causing such a ruckus.
So back to the store. Adam finished SCREAMing long enough to ask to go back and pick out new waffles, but by then I was almost at the checkout line and in no mood to bargain. “You lost the chance to pick out waffles when you decided to scream,” I replied calmly. Which of course set Adam off again. I clomped up to cashier #4, two scooters, 3 kids, a cart of groceries and 1 Adam, and smiled apologetically. I actually wasn’t stressed out – we were almost out of the store and Adam would take a nap – but I still felt sympathy for anyone within earshot for the next 5 minutes.
Cashier #4 offered to help me unload my cart but I assured her that I had it all under control and to their delight, had Margaret and James put the items up onto the conveyor belt. While I was checking out I noticed a woman two lanes over pointing in my direction and speaking angrily to the cashier. She was obviously distressed by the noise, and really, who could blame her? But did she have to point? My blood pressure rose a little as I rushed to get this train wreck out of the store.
Adam was now onto the part of his tantrum where he is SCREAMing for lots of things because his whole world has been destroyed by not choosing waffles, but he can’t exactly remember the not choosing waffle part because the SCREAMing has drowned out all rational thought. “I-WANT-TO-PICK-A-SHOW-WHEN-WE-GET-HOOOMMMMMEEE!” he was onto now. “You will march straight to time out and take a rest when we get home,” I replied. The wailing continued.
“A time out? Are you kidding me? You need to beat the sh*t out of that child!”
My head jerked up. The woman from two cashiers over had finished checking out and was standing at the end of her lane, glaring at me.
“You need to take him home and beat the sh*t out of him! He’s spoiled or he would never be screaming like that!”
I flushed defensively but turned to the cashier, who said quietly, “Don’t listen to her, she’s crazy.” I smiled, but was reeling. And Adam was still SCREAMing.
Before I knew it, the woman suddenly headed for Adam and shouted into his face, “Shut up! Shut the f— up you little brat or I’m going to kill you!”
“You need to back up – now.” My shame quickly turned into fear and anger as this woman confronted my SCREAMing 3 year old.
The woman was indignant. “You need to beat these kids! You’re a disgrace of a mother letting them act like this!” She gestured to Margaret, who at this point was inching down the exit aisle quietly. “Look at her, obviously spoiled. And this one,” she continued to rant, looking at James, who was making his fake-yawn-so-he-doesn’t-cry-in-public face. “is stupid. You are a terrible mother!” She looked back at Adam, who hadn’t been fazed by any of this and was still SCREAMing. “Shut! Up!”
At this point an employee walked up. “You need to leave, now.”
“You mean her, right?” The woman gestured to me.
“No, you. You need to leave now or I’m going to call the police.”
The woman started to head for the exit. “Go ahead! Call the police! I have the right to free speech – I didn’t do anything to her! She’s the one causing problems!” She was just about to the door when a woman behind me shouted, “You should be ashamed of yourself!” I was grateful for the support, except that it brought this lunatic back inside in a hurry. “What did you say? I should be ashamed?! You should be ashamed, you lousy excuse -” The woman obviously thought it was me who had shouted after her and was jabbing a finger at me as she stormed over.
“She didn’t say it – I did!” A mother stepped out of line. “You are a disgusting excuse for a human being! Do you see what’s going on here? Have some compassion!”
The two women started shouting at each other as several employees stepped forward and escorted the crazy one out. Shaken to the core, but relieved that she was gone, I finished checking out as several more people came up to see if I was okay. Trying to keep my composure for the kids’ sake (my pride was certainly not the issue anymore), I smiled, loaded my shaking arms with grocery bags and made a beeline for the door. Adam was still SCREAMing (though, to his credit, it had only been about 5 minutes since this whole thing transpired). James, surprisingly still keeping it together, helpfully grabbed Adam’s scooter and followed me out.
The woman was waiting for us outside the front door.
Real fear set in at that moment, and in hindsight I should’ve turned around and walked right back into the store, but I only had time to react. I walked toward her and said quietly, “I’ve called the police. You need to go, now.”
“Call the police, I haven’t touched you. I can say what I want,” the woman insisted angrily. “Maybe they’ll arrest you for being such a crappy mother. People like you should be arrested for spoiling their kids and ruining society.”
I scoffed. “Right, I’m the one ruining society.”
“Well you had more kids after you obviously ruined the first one!” she shouted, staring in disgust at James, who was anxiously (and weirdly) making open mouthed not-going-to-cry faces a couple of feet behind me.
So furious I was shaking, I stepped closer in order to pass.
“You’re a crazy b—-!” the woman screamed. I moved in very closer and spoke quietly. “You’re right. If you think my 3 year old is scary right now, you have yet to see me when I lose my temper.” The woman blinked and stepped back, surprised by my own brand of crazy. But just for a second. I could tell that I had probably said too much – my hand was on my cell phone to call for help. Luckily, at that very moment several employees and the mother from the checkout line all came outside. The battle continued loudly as I crossed the street with the children and hurried home.
Adam stopped screaming about halfway there and fell into a coma within 5 minutes of entering the house. As I unpacked the groceries Margaret and James came into the kitchen.
Margaret: Mom, thanks for not letting that lady kill Adam.
Me: You’re welcome, Margaret.
Margaret: What does kill mean?
James: It means she was going to lock Adam in a little cage.
Margaret: Ohhhh… (skips out of room)
James: …I’m sorry mom.
Me: For what?
James: For letting you yell at that lady.
Me: For what?
James: I don’t…. never mind.
Me: It’s okay, James – do you need a hug?
Me: Thanks for carrying Adam’s scooter today.
James: Thanks for not letting that lady lock Adam in a cage.