I remember not too long ago reading about train tantrums in a mom’s group on Facebook. Someone posted about a mother allowing her small child to cry on the train. Responses were very passionate. Some moms were adamant that you should NEVER allow your child to cry in public. I’m writing this post to those moms. And to anyone that happened to be on the Bronx Bound D train yesterday afternoon and got to join in on the experience of JustaBXgirl crying and throwing a tantrum from W 4th St until around 96th St. For those of you unfamiliar with the NYC Subways, that would be for around 20 minutes.
Judge me all you want. Yes, I could have stopped the tantrum. I could have given my beautiful, baby girl exactly what she wanted and allowed her to sit on my lap. I’m sure most of the passengers on the train from 34th St and after wondered why this mean momma didn’t do just that.
Let me break it down for you. I don’t give in when JustaBXgirl has a tantrum. I do try to soothe her. I do try to check in with her. I do allow her to be in her emotions and ride them through. I do not give in. I will not give in to avoid embarrassment. I will not give in to make your life easier. I will not give in to make my life easier.
I do not tell JustaBXgirl that she cannot cry. I do not tell her that she cannot be upset. I do tell her that nothing can be resolved while she is crying. I explain that whatever is the cause of the tears, tantrum or meltdown, we can deal with it once she is past the crying stage.
Yesterday, we had a lovely morning out in the City. JustaBXgirl, her cousin and myself attended Theaterworks USA’s Junie B June’s Essential Survival Guide to School. Then we went to hang out in Washington Square Park for a while. When we got on the train to head home, JustaBXgirl was ready for a nap (she just didn’t know it yet).
The place where her cousin chose to sit only had two seats. I sat down next to him since JustaBXgirl was in her stroller. What was I thinking? Cue the waterworks. Had she asked calmly to sit down, we could have moved elsewhere and been a happy trio…but nope! My normally cool, calm and collected child commenced screaming and trying to get out of her stroller before I could even suggest moving elsewhere. I still would have been willing to work with her but now she decided to claw and kick me to make me get out of the seat she wanted. I do not negotiate with terrorists or bullies (in other words children).
I used normal soothing techniques to no avail. When she is tired (much like me) she can’t understand reason. We were even able to move over by 34th St to the seats her and her cousin originally wanted and that didn’t help her calm down. She was now screaming and trying to climb out her stroller because she wanted to sit on my lap. She was beginning to realize she was tired. As much as she wanted to sit on me she still didn’t want me to help soothe her. She slapped my hand away when I tried to wipe the snot and tears off of her face.
I let her cry. Now, I could do a whole other Mommy Wars post on Cry It Out. It’s another concept that makes people feel intensely. I don’t like seeing JustaBXgirl cry. I do know however that as she gets older she will feel emotions more strongly. And as she gets older she needs to learn how to manage these emotions. At three (and a half) she does it by crying, screaming and physically reacting at times. Once she begins school this will not be okay.
So I let her cry and did not give in. Some people moved to the other side of the train car. A few even changed cars. Others stared and then there were the everyday New Yorkers who paid us no mind. My nephew tried to calm JustaBXgirl down and even he couldn’t succeed. She was tired and had to come to that conclusion by herself. She did just that somewhere around the time that we were passing 72nd Street. It was around then that she shared with me that she wanted to sit on my lap so that she could sleep. She was still crying but not screaming as much.
I explained that she had to show me she was able to calm herself down and stop crying since we don’t resolve things through tears. It took her a while. She now let me hug her to help soothe her a bit. I told her if she could keep it together until the next stop (125th St) she could sit on my lap. Around 96th Street she told me she was trying to stop crying. I held her (in her stroller) a little tighter. Her cousin cheered her on.
At 125th, she was able to climb into my lap and was asleep shortly after. I share this because at times it is difficult to stick to our parenting plans. It isn’t impossible though. I don’t like seeing my daughter cry. I don’t like being judged by strangers. At the end of the day, I always have to remember our bigger picture.
I cannot expect my child to rise to the expectations if I am always lowering them based on the circumstance. This goes across the board. Now that’s not to say that expectations and rules won’t change ever. We all grow and our needs change. Fundamentally though I want JustaBXgirl to always know what’s expected. One thing that I don’t see changing is that we use words not tears or force to advance our points.
I’m blessed that her tantrums happen far and few between but I will not apologize for them. And I won’t expect her to either. I will not apologize for taking (and at times disturbing) public transportation just like I won’t apologize if my child cries or gets a little loud on an airplane. She is a child. She will not always have perfect behavior. And guess what? Adults don’t always have perfect behavior either.