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Tantrums in the Golden Arches

Thursday, 12 April 2018  | 

 

Oh god, everyone is staring…’

 

A couple of weeks ago, I had one of my most sweat-inducing parenting moments so far. Hubby and I had taken lzzy to the golden arches for a treat (sorry, Jamie Oliver, but let’s get real here – sometimes they want a lunch that is junk food and comes with a plastic toy that will get discarded within 24 hours…) and it was busy. And I mean really busy.

 

The queues were long, and the seemingly fourteen thousand people were getting confused by those new-fangled ordering screens which seem to take twice as long as actually speaking to a human. We’d had a wander round the local air museum in the morning, so Izzy had worked up an appetite for her lunch, which meant she wanted her lunch and she wanted it now.

 

However, the wait was long (see reasons above) and it took at least ten minutes for our food to arrive. These felt like the longest ten minutes of my life. Anticipating a meltdown I tried to ply her with an organic biscuit (does the organic-ness counteract the fact it’s a biscuit???) but she was having none of it. Cue mega-strop, the type only toddlers can have.  There was thrashing, screaming, several times I got a petulant ‘no’, and she even refused daddy cuddles (usually the cure of all ills).

 

Now, we were doing our best. We even resorted to putting everyone’s favourite little pink pig on our phones for her to watch. When that didn’t work, I knew we were in trouble. I started to feel myself getting hot and sweaty as I knew people were starting to look and I imagined them wondering why we couldn’t control our child. I wonder if they have every tried to calm a tantruming toddler?

 

To help you imagine this scene of chaos, we were the middle table of a row of three: on one side, a couple in maybe their mid-forties were having their lunch, and on the other side, a family slightly older than us with three children aged between around 7 and 11. To the lady of the couple eating lunch, thank you: she offered us a couple of her chips to placate the child-beast whilst we were waiting (much to her husband’s embarrassment, but she clearly knew how I was feeling at that moment).

 

The children on the other table, however, must have been little angels their entire lives and never cried once, because that is the only justification I can have for what their mother did: she looked at me, rolled her eyes, and actually tutted. Loudly. Not in a ‘I know how you feel’ show of mummy-solidarity, but in a judgemental ‘control your child, you incompetent mother’ kind of way.  I wanted the ground to swallow me up there and then.

 

Luckily our food arrived and child-beast returned to happy ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’-singing cherub, all smiles, cute giggles and humorous attempts at words. However, I was left feeling decidedly rubbish, because I felt ashamed.

 

I have struggled with my mental health for quite some time now, and was diagnosed with post-natal depression and anxiety a couple of months after Isobel was born. What happened that lunchtime had a profound effect on me and made me feel like a bad mum. Could I have done something differently? Was I a bad mum for not catering to my child’s needs? Should I have left the restaurant? All these questions made me feel really insecure for the rest of the day, and for a few days afterwards. I was hyper-sensitive when we took Izzy out for food the next time, in case something similar happened.

 

So please, I urge you, think before you tut – we’re all mums, and no child (apart from the three in McDonalds that day, obviously) is an angel. This will happen at some point to all of us, and instead of leaving someone feeling pretty rubbish, just offer a chip, or some wipes, or a spare bib – it might make all the difference.

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