Closer columnist Rebecca Finlay - aka the Maverick Mum - has revealed the four types of people you’ll meet during your toddler’s public tantrum
The Maverick Mum is one of our absolute favourite mummy bloggers ever - not least of all because she keeps things fresh, honest, and hilarious.
The teenage mum has rebuilt her life after unexpectedly finding out that she was pregnant, starting up her successful blog and heading back to uni with her “terrifying toddler” in tow.
Now she’s joined the team here at Closer HQ to share her insights, advice, and anecdotes with you all via a brand-new weekly column.
Here’s Rebecca’s fourth instalment…
I remember having a baby (vaguely). And I remember the strenuous task of taking that small but excruciatingly high maintenance little person out in public. In fact, it was so strenuous that I cried the first time I had to leave the house.
I threw myself down on the mat beside Reuben and wailed, “my life will never be the same”, all because I couldn’t figure out how to put the darn pram up. Remember that I was a teenage mum; before this I used to leave the house with only my phone in hand, and my mum’s debit card number memorised. So the transition of responsibility was very overwhelming, okay?
It’s no easy feat when you have to pack the pram, car seat, formula powder, bottles, hot water, bibs, nappies, wipes, clothes, changing mat, dummy, toys, and an emergency smoke signal just in case. Then when you got to the first shop, they had a very convenient diarrhoea-nappy explosion, and you had to go back home to douse them in Johnston’s until they had that ‘I want to have all the babies in the world’ smell again.
I remember thinking how much easier it would be when I had a toddler who could walk and talk and we’d go on outings together. All I’d have to bring is an extra nappy, a couple of wipes, and a handful of crackers for when we both got peckish from shopping too hard.
Well – Now I have a toddler. And I haven’t left my house in a year.
Kidding. But really, every time we go out in public I find myself swearing never to take him out again. Unless it’s to his grandparents’ house… to leave him there until further notice. I usually try to defend Reuben’s monstrous behaviour and tell onlookers that he’s just having an ‘off’ day.
But the cold hard truth is sometimes my toddler doesn’t have ‘off’ days. He just has ‘brat’ days. Defiant little brat days. Days where he screams. Days where he scrabs. Days where I plead with him not to run out of the shop onto the road, and he looks me in the eye and runs anyway. Days where I have to abandon all of my bags of groceries (even though my fridge consists of one onion and a bottle of Fanta), and sprint for the road to stop my Olympic runner of a child from getting run over. Days where all of South Belfast can hear me pleading with my manic 2 year old to stop throwing a tantrum and get in the car. Days where I realise my 2 year old is in fact too strong for me to even scoop up and carry to the car, so I consider joining the gym only to realise I don’t have time because of said 2 year old.
So after noticing the gathering audience around me, my embarrassment wins. I accept defeat, tell myself I’ll try again another day, and remind Reuben that I love him nonetheless… to which he shrugs and throws a toy car at me. And all of a sudden the infant-diarrhoea-explosion days don’t seem so bad anymore.
If I was the ‘baby fairy’ and had the privilege of visiting couples when they were considering getting themselves a child, I would only have one token of wisdom to offer – Don’t get too attached to your dignity. And practice not getting embarrassed easily. And be prepared to have run-ins with the general public… on a daily basis. And be prepared to respond to them with elegance and grace.
Okay, you get the picture – toddlers attract a lot of attention.
When I was first asked to write this column for Closer, after I danced about the library and cried down the phone to a few friends, I then decided I was going to say no. There was no way I’m qualified to offer parenting advice. I am positively winging this motherhood thing and I make mistakes 7892358 times a day. However, I have realised that there is one thing I can do, and that is tell you what to expect.
So here’s the 4 types of people you will meet when you brave the outside world with your lovely toddler…
1) The Empathetic Mother
I usually come across this fellow mama when we’re both buying groceries with screaming kids, both sporting the “petit-filous matted in hair” look, and both wondering if we can make a dinner out of the haribo, cucumber, and sudocream that we have somehow managed to put in the trolley.
Reuben is always making his great escape with one leg in the trolley and the rest of his body hanging over the side, one eye on the exit door and one eye on the chocolate buttons at the end of the aisle. When I lift him back in, he screams until I give up and decide to try again tomorrow.
I breathe a sigh of relief when the empathetic mother gives me a sympathetic smile that says, “Honey, I understand what you’re going through and it sucks even more than your son sucks his dummy (and that is a lot), but hang in there. We’re all in this together”.
I leave Tesco’s grocery-less, unaccomplished, but assured that I’m not the only one going home to order a Chinese takeaway.
2) The Childless & Blissfully-Oblivious Stranger
When Reuben and I go for walks after uni, we’ve noticed that the childless public come in all shapes and sizes.
Firstly, there’s the middle-aged strangers who are usually walking with a coffee in hand (not spilled over their dress), whilst they run their errands. Of course they will have completed their to-do list within an hour max. Whilst I’m still completing my to-do list from December 2013 (I’m not bitter at all).
Then there’s my fellow twenty-something year olds who are stressing over their latest assignment because they don’t have enough time… Yep, they think they don’t have time. It’s real cute (still not bitter at all). These blissfully-oblivious strangers usually take Reuben’s tantrums with a pinch of salt. They often stop to try to distract him or laugh with me as I roll my eyes and pretend I’ve got everything under control.
Before they walk on and return to their child-free business, it is almost guaranteed that they will ask, “Terrible twos?” And if I had a pound for every time someone asked me about the ‘Terrible Twos’, they wouldn’t be half as terrible because we’d be lying on a beach somewhere sipping Capri-Suns in between tantrums.
On one of our trips to the park Reuben repeatedly ignored me, and laughed in my face before jumping into puddles of mud. I told him to sit on the step and not get up until I said so. To which he replied, ‘No cares’. He’s just lucky this is an unconditional love.
On our way out, a dog-owner who had been watching the whole escapade kindly allowed Reuben to pet his dog who had been roaming freely. Reubs followed him for 15 minutes, much to my embarrassment, before the man turned around and said “I see you have the same problem as me, you should try getting one of these…” and he held up a lead.
I informed him I actually do have a lead for Reuben, or the politically correct term - ‘training reigns’… but he snapped them in half. The dog-owner wished me luck and continued to go about his child-free business.
These childless strangers are generally very kind and friendly, even if it’s just because they’re going away very thankful that they aren’t me. But hey, we’re all blessed in different ways and I’m extremely thankful I don’t have a dog.
3) The Woman You Wish You Could Take Home
No title is worthy of this type of woman. She is usually older, has already reared all of her kids and has a wealth of experience. As well as a wealth of love.
She’s the lady who swoops in when Reuben is face down on the floor and refusing to move. She scoops him up and bounces him on her knee until I question whether the cooing, laughing little boy on her knee is actually mine. She’s the type who goes out of her way to help and encourage any mama who is struggling. She mothers the mothers.
I have found myself running to a public bathroom in a shopping centre just so Reuben can run round for 10 minutes to burn off his energy/run the water out of the taps whilst I pretend I don’t see him. I sit down for a rest and find myself questioning all of my life choices.
This is when one of these lovely ladies comes bouncing in, always at the right moment, and has a chat with us. She tells me stories about her kids growing up, and she sings ‘Old McDonald’ with Reuben. She puts him peacefully back in his pram and then swans off into the afternoon, never to be seen again.
4) The Intolerant Type
Toddlers are loud, messy, unpredictable, and prone to flying into a rage because you won’t let them eat a grape that they found on the floor. However, in the eyes of some of the general public, toddlers are supposed to act civilised, silent/wear a gag, pay a mortgage, and speak 3 languages.
In restaurants they will ask to be moved to a different table because clearly toddlers ruin the ambience (although I should admit in one situation they asked to be moved because my laugh was too loud. Poor Reuben). They tut loudly on public transport if a toddler cries for longer than they care for. I mean, I guess they paid good money to sit and stare at their smartphone in silence. And in the grocery shops, you will receive glares if your toddler’s impatient screaming interrupts their endeavours to choose their favourite cheese. Although, that one I can understand… I’m quite passionate about cheese myself.
These days I’m quite tolerant of the intolerant type. But I will never forget the first time I realised that not everyone is going to like my child. It was Reuben’s first ever really bad public tantrum. He cried. I cried. I’m pretty sure the lady beside us on the bus cried too. I thought it would be really cute if we could eat some ice cream together while we waited for the bus…
I thought wrong.
The ice cream went on the floor (I later picked it up and ate it, don’t judge me, it cost £3), the spoon hit a man opposite us, his juice went across the table, and Reuben screamed blue murder in my face. Everyone was staring. One man set down his cutlery to glare at us. It continued at the bus depot where he threw himself on the ground and thrashed about like a fish out of water.
I have to give it to him, he’s strong willed – I mean, the boy tried to crawl up a moving bus.
One lady complained, “have you ever heard anything like it? You’d think people could control their own children”.
My only encouragement is that it does get easier. And your skin gets thicker. I’ve realised that Reuben can’t control his emotions, but I can control mine. And no matter how many eyes are on me, I am determined to be consistent and treat Reuben’s public tantrums the same way I would treat his private tantrums.
I am determined to react with grace, and pray for patience and wisdom. LOTS of patience and wisdom. Those glares and those tantrums don’t mean I’m a bad parent, they just mean I’m the parent of a toddler.
And it’s hard. It’s really hard. But it passes. And I think to myself “I can’t believe I was about to leave my son on the bus”.
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