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“A Very Public Tantrum”

Recently, we stumbled upon a little girl screaming, pounding, and flailing herself into the most epic meltdown we’ve seen since, well, our kids were that age. Our attempt to help reminded us that empathy is the only appropriate response.

The other day, Laurie, Jayden, and I are walking in a parking lot when we notice a minivan stopped half-way out of a parking spot — and in front of it a young girl having an epic tantrum. They were maybe 50 feet away, but even from a distance her body language makes it obvious a standoff is underway: dancing from one foot to the other like she needs the potty, wringing her hands, screaming, and sobbing. We move to get a better look at the driver, and figure it must be the mother.

“I’m gonna go see if I can help,” Laurie says.

As Jayden and I get in our car, I can’t help but remember the times our kids acted out in public. Perhaps they were hyper and felt the urge to touch every shoe on the shoe rack until they accidentally touched the wrong one and the entire display came tumbling down on top of them. Or they might have suffered a meltdown at the smallest thing.

In fact, two days ago, Laurie and I took the kids out for milkshakes. Isaac and Jasmine got theirs mixed up, but we didn’t realize it until Jasmine started sobbing. “Why, Jasmine?” I said. “How about saying in a nice voice, ‘I think I got the wrong one.’?”

“I [sniff] don’t [sniff] know.”

[Self Test: The ADHD Test for Girls]

I mean, she’s seven now. It was one thing back when she was three. We didn’t let it go then either, but we could excuse some of her meltdowns due to her age.

So I look across the parking lot and see Laurie have a brief conversation with the mom and then walk to the little girl. Then, she gets down on her knees and talks to the young girl for a maybe a minute. Finally, she gets up and takes the girl’s hand, but the girl isn’t having it. She yanks her hand away, throws herself on the ground, and starts kicking and screaming. At this point, Laurie returns to the mom, says a few words, and then walks to us.

“Yikes!” she says as she gets in the car. “That mom has her hands full.”

“I can tell,” I say. “What happened?”

“The mom said her daughter lost an earring in the sand at the playground and wanted to go back and look for it. The mom explained they’d never find it, but she clearly wasn’t having it.”

[Quiz: ADHD Myth or ADHD Reality? Check the Facts about ADD/ADHD]

“Well, that was nice you went over and tried to help.”

“Yeah, I mean I used to judge moms whose kids acted like that. But now that I’ve been that Mom, I thought she could use a hand. Remember that fit Jasmine threw the other day over the milkshake?”

I tell her I was just thinking the same thing.

“I never acted like that, did I?” Jayden asks.

“Maybe not like that,” I say. “But do you remember the incident at the shoe store a while back?”

He flashes me his dimply grin. “Well, I haven’t acted like that lately,” he says. “Right?”

“Sure, Buddy,” I say, rolling my eyes. “You haven’t destroyed any public property lately. Good job.”

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