The Un-shaming of the Public Meltdown
Keesha Beckford

In the big book of Motherhood Hazing Rituals, one of the most horrific is your kid’s public meltdown.  There you are, running the errands that will keep your family alive, or maybe even taking your children on an outing that most youngsters in the world could experience only in their wildest dreams, and then BOOM!  Your kid is wailing as though someone had crushed her very soul. As though she had been maimed and tortured.Now of course — the dropped ice-cream cone, your refusal to buy her that coveted thing, the skinned knee, the hunger, the exhaustion — whatever injustice or injury your child is suffering, it is genuinely TOO MUCH in his or her little world.

Now of course — the dropped ice-cream cone, your refusal to buy her that coveted thing, the skinned knee, the hunger, the exhaustion — whatever injustice or injury your child is suffering, it is genuinely TOO MUCH in his or her little world.

But let’s not talk about them.Let’s talk about parent pain, because even though this wounded, deafening, perhaps flailing creature is your legal responsibility and the greatest love you have ever known, right now you’d sell her to an insulting opening bid on Ebay. You’re pissed at yourself for not somehow preventing this explosion, and it is taking all your self-control to avoid having your own meltdown.

Let’s talk about parent pain, because even though this wounded, deafening, perhaps flailing creature is your legal responsibility and the greatest love you have ever known, right now you’d sell her to an insulting opening bid on Ebay. You’re pissed at yourself for not somehow preventing this explosion, and it is taking all your self-control to avoid having your own meltdown.

What makes matters worse is everyone is staring at you. Everyone. You’re the target of eye rolling and sneers and frowns of pious judgment. As if you planned this. As if you woke up and said, “I WILL ruin everyone’s life by walking around with a toddler who looks like she’s possessed by Satan!” As much as you want to be that adult who doesn’t give a crap what people think, you wish the earth would swallow you whole.

Recently, actually recently times three, I walked the equivalent of several city blocks with my screaming five-year-old.  The first time she’d lost her sunglasses, the second she’d mislaid a pretty rock at the beach, and the third time she’d fallen off a low ledge and scraped up her knees. Different situations, same ghastly shrieking.  I hunkered down and marched like I was walking with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. past a gauntlet of bigots.  The disapproval in people’s stares was practically audible.  I wanted to yell, “Shut it, @#$%&!” even though no one had said a thing.

Some of these people weren’t parents, so to them, you only saw howling kids if a mom was incompetent or downright criminal.  I’ll forgive them because if they ever have children, oh boy, will they learn!  But as for the people who were parents, what was their excuse? Did they really have to gawk? I mean, they’d been there! Was a small gesture of sympathy, of parental solidarity, really so much to ask?

And it didn’t take a professional shrink to see that some folks were thinking, “Maybe this seemingly calm lady did something HORRIBLE to the poor child!”  That really stung. Couldn’t they tell I was clearly the victim here? I gave this kid pure magic and this is how I was repaid?

I don’t need to be scolded for my parenting.

Like any mom worth her lunch of the leftovers on her kid’s plate, I do enough self-hazing. I’m constantly busting my ass so that my kids are physically, intellectually, culturally, emotionally and socially engaged at the perfect calibration. I lose sleep over how I’m going to get it all done with the time, money and personalities I’ve been dealt.  And then in a country that seems to be getting more absurdly dangerous by the second, I wonder how on earth to keep my kids safe.

So when I calmly fix my focus straight ahead, hold my head high, and stride past holding the hand of my hysterical child, no one’s got any business tut-tutting me. No way. I don’t deserve to feel an ounce of shame – not from myself, not from anyone.

As raw and loud and disturbing as that long walk may be, it’s not public humiliation. It’s not a hazing ritual. It’s masterful, clear-headed, rolling-with-the-punches parenting.

It’s a victory lap.


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Everyone's kid has had a public meltdown, so why the shaming? Let us break it down for you.

This post was written by Keesha Beckford exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.

Before her two children re-choreographed her life, Keesha was a professional dancer who performed in the U.S. and in Europe. Today she teaches modern and jazz dance in the Chicago area. She is also the human cyclone behind the blog Mom’s New Stage. Keesha is one of the select contributing authors of In The Powder Room’s first anthology, You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth. Her writing has been featured on Mamapedia, The Huffington Post, in the New York Times bestselling anthology I Just Want to Pee Alone, and I STILL Just Want to Pee Alone. She was recently awarded a Voice of the Year Award for her Bonbon Break original piece, Dear White Mom.
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