OK, so I admit it. I used the whole Santa ploy the other day to try to stop my four-year-old from having a full-blown tantrum in the grocery store. You may be familiar with the kind where the child starts screaming about how mean you are and how she hates you as she lies in the middle of the aisle and won’t move. When you try to get her to stand up, she goes limp. The half-blown tantrums are bad enough…
It’s just me and her at our local grocery store. The kind of grocery store where you always run into two or three people you know. Lucky for me, I saw no familiar faces that night. I needed to pick up a few things after work so I could make supper. I’m feeling pretty confident as I’ve already successfully steered her away from the huge, unmaneuverable car carts (who ever invented those things never had to push a cart full of groceries and a whining kid around in it.) We have the regular cart and life is good. She is very helpful and not too greedy. She decides to get the “Cookie Crisp” cereal instead of the “Brownie Bites” and doesn’t throw a fit about not getting both. I even throw in the Cheezit’s she wants as she is being so good. We head to the check-out. Hurray, I think to myself. We made it! A pleasant uneventful trip to the store without too many extra’s thrown into the cart. I don’t even have a headache (yet). Those shopping tips don’t happen too often in my life.
Unfortunately, I silently “hurrayed” prematurely. We get to the check out line, the one with candy lining both sides. Her eyes get big. “Mommy,” she asks ever so sweetly, “Since I was so good, can I have a candy?” Now, here’s where I should have just said “yes,” but I decided to try to be a good mother and not spoil her dinner for once.
“No, sweetie,” I replied, “I won’t by you candy…we’ll be having supper soon. But, you can pick out a pack of gum.” Now isn’t that a great compromise, I thought.
The boy at the check out starts scanning my groceries as she looks me straight in the eye and says rather loudly, “I don’t want gum! I want candy!”
I try to remain calm. Deep breaths. “I’m sorry. I said no candy, but you can have some gum.”
“What about this?” she asks picking up one of those baby-bottle shaped suckers.
“No, I said gum.”
“What about this she asks picking up another candy bar?”
“Gum,” I say pointing to the rack of gum.
I start to write the check as all the other groceries have been scanned. Now she’s lying on the ground mumbling about how mean I am. Suddenly she stands up. She has one of those plastic packs of pink bubble gum tape in her hands and whips it toward the conveyor belt. It bounces once just missing the checkout boy and lands on the floor as she yells “I don’t want gum.”
I could have crawled under the counter at that moment. I am proud of myself though and stayed composed and calmly told the boy that if the gum was not broken that we would not be purchasing it. He found it by his feet – it was still intact – and set it aside. Thinking back I am sure I apologized to him for her behavior – but I can’t remember if I did or not. I need to remember that the next time I’m in there (if I don’t chicken out and head for a different line.) I do know I didn’t think to make her apologize to him. That would have been really good. Maybe I’ll make her apologize next time we see him. Anyway, I was focused on getting out of there without causing a bigger scene.
We head out the door and now she is even angrier and I am the worst mother ever because I didn’t buy her the candy or the gum. And that’s when it happened. I caved. “Hmmm. I say to her looking around. I hope Santa isn’t watching you now.”
She gets uncharacteristically quiet. “Do you think he would think little girls that throw gum at the check out are good and deserve presents?”
Her little voice quietly, says “no.”
On the drive home she apparently forgot about Santa again and begins to whine about the candy/gum again. So I lay a bigger whammy on her, “If you don’t stop by the time the light turns green, we won’t put up the Christmas Tree tonight.”
That stopped her in her tantrum tracks. I finally figured out that time-outs don’t work with her, but taking away the things she likes or wants certainly does.
Later that night after the tree is up and decorated. She looks up at me and tells me she loves me and that she’s sorry for being so bad at the store. She didn’t mean for the gum to fly off the conveyor belt and hit the checkout man.
I take her in my arms and kiss her head and tell her I forgive her and that I love her too.