I Am a Terrible Mother and I Scream At Old Ladies

Cassidy freaked out at a restaurant last night. It was a full-on, high-decibel shitstorm of a freakout, accompanied by a scream of glass-breaking proportions. It escalated into what was perhaps the most humiliating moment of my motherhood, thus far. And then the most enlightened.

I hadn’t seen it coming. We were on our way back from a weekend out of town, and the girls had slept almost the entirety of the 3½-hour drive home. It was about 6:30 when we got into the city, we were almost home, and after figuring that there was little to eat in the house, we decided to stop at a nearby noodle shack for dinner. The girls were cheering our decision in the backseat, happy after their cross-province naps. So we stopped.

Things started cheerfully enough. But then I decided to pour some of the mango shake we had ordered into a small glass for Cassidy, which I knew was a bad move even as I did it. Then I took the chopsticks away from her because she was using them as drumsticks on the plate. She thanked me for my actions, uh, loudly. Then the kind and patient waitress tried to distract her with a green crayon. Wrong move, lady! Then – and I don’t even really know what this was about at all – Cass decided that she wanted the bamboo skewers pictured on the menu, RIGHT NOW. There was no distracting her from the fact that she wanted, and could not have, a set of bamboo skewers artfully composed in a picture in a menu.

The decibel level rose quickly, but so did I, and I fumbled to get her out of the highchair, unable to get to the buckle as my daughter’s body bucked and contacted against me.

Meanwhile, three seniors next to us got up and left, telling the waitress that this was not the dinner experience they were hoping for. Me either Golden Girls, me either, I thought, but my anger was rising.

I got Cassidy out of her seat (which fell over with a crash as I lifted her out, in case my screaming banshee had not attracted the attention of every single person in the restaurant), and I made my way out, right behind the seniors.

Oh my, one of them clucked at me, shaking her head, what behaviour.

I’m taking her out, I snarled at her, adding, she’s TWO.

Well, we’re leaving, she stated.

I snapped.

Well, where are we going? I shouted, Because I’m tempted to follow you!

They walked into the noodle joint a few stores down, and I swear to god, I almost walked in after them, to ask for a table for two.

Instead, I sat on a nearby bench with my two year old, who was by now screaming, I WANT MY DADDY, even as she crumpled against me. My face reddened. I felt like a terrible, ineffective mother.

Everybody that walked by gave me a look. Some were sympathetic; most were just annoyed. I surveyed our situation quickly. Couldn’t go back in the restaurant – I knew that even when Cass calmed down, she would be teetering, with any little upset ready to set her off again – and honestly, I didn’t want to face the other diners.

I didn’t feel like I could sit on the bench for much longer either, as Cass would soon want to get down or go back or demand something that I would not be willing to acquiesce to. Plus she had lost her shoe in the fray, and was now wearing only one sandal, and no jacket, and it was getting cold.

I motioned to Chris through the window, and he came out. I asked for his keys, told him to enjoy dinner with Mischa, and get mine to go. We’d be in the car. Of course, as soon as Chris came out, Cassidy freaked again, more of the I WANT MY DADDY variety, so I tightened my football hold on her and hightailed it to the car.

Halfway there, she seemed to snap out of her rage blackout and clue in to what was happening. Calm as anything, she sniffed and looked at me. I feel better, she chirped. This, I know, is her way of saying sorry, I’m ready to be a human again.

Too late! I answered, quickening my stride.

The screaming started again.

We sat in the front seat of the car together for the next 40 minutes, and once she was calm, I told her why we were there, why we couldn’t go back to the restaurant, and why that behaviour was unacceptable.

But even as I was doing it, I just wanted to cuddle her. I wasn’t angry with her, had never been angry with her, and wasn’t particularly bothered by the fact that I was missing dinner. What really bothered me was that I had been judged, openly, by the old ladies. That their impression of me, and my child, was a terrible one. I shouldn’t have cared, but I did.

Cassidy cried, a very vulnerable, soft cry, and told me again that she feels better. All of a sudden, I had a bolt of insight. This wasn’t about a two year old, having a two-year-old tantrum because she was overtired/overstimulated/overtaxed. Ok, it was, but it was something else as well.

This was Cassidy. This is Cassidy. She gets overwhelmed, loses her impulse control, the situation escalates, and then she regrets it, wondering how she got to that escalated place, and wishing the situation would just go away. But it doesn’t, because there are consequences, so she has to deal with that uncomfortable, regretful place until things cool off, and it sucks.

She’s always going to be like this, I realized.

She’s me, I realized.

I gave her that cuddle, and we sat like that for a while, until I saw Mischa come skipping happily into my rearview mirror. Chris was behind her, holding the dinner I hadn’t eaten.

the apple



  1. Oh man, this happened to me a year and a half agoat a sushi place.... I feel your pain.

  2. OMG
    mine too .


  3. Well at least you got a post out of it and two old ladies have at least a meal, or maybe more, of things to talk about. Good Work! IT's funny how we ramp up our parenting when we think we are being judged, even if it's by two old biddies who have nothing else to do with their time...
    Hope you enjoyed your dinner...

  4. Fuck the old ladies.

    I've lived this with Jane too. What kills me is when I get the judgey vibe from family.

    I too have come to realize Jane is just like me. I've learned that if I give her a solid reason why I'm telling her to do something it really helps.

  5. First of all - I am so glad you told the Golden Girls what time it was. It always amazes me that people either forget what it's like to have small kids or expect small kids to act like adults all of the time.

    I've been there, girl, and I've had the same revelation that you did - honestly, realizing that is half the battle, KWIM?

  6. I'm so sorry you got openly judged like that. Ug. But it says more about them than it does about you.

    I know exactly how you feel about her being you. The only thing worse than seeing my husband's issues in my kids is seeing my own!

  7. Was in your shoes last year at a pizza place near home...took me awhile to go back there...but everyone was understanding!

    As for those old bats they definitely needed someone to put them in their place!! I would've been tempted to follow them too.

  8. I agree with Annie! What more did they want from you?

  9. When M was 9mos we took her to the ER for a terrible, terrible cough. While there I sat and listened to two old biddies judge and natter about every person sitting in the waiting room, and how they shouldn't be there.

    When it came to our turn, "It's so late and they have no business bringing a baby here..." I snapped. I shouted at them and told them to mind their own effing business. I was truly surprised at how contrite they were!

  10. Auntie JennoJune 07, 2010

    HAHAHA! Cass is you! God help you! I guess this is the revenge Mom always talked about. But don't worry, because that means the world will have one more independent, strong, smart, funny woman to deal with, and we need as many as we can get. And even though Maya never pissed off nasty old ladies with her screaming and crying, 'cause that wasn't her style, she has insulted her share of , well everyone, with her bossy, self-centered, aloofness. But she gets that from her Dad, of course.

  11. I agree, fuck the old ladies indeed! As if mothering wasn't hard enough without being judged. Terrible mother you are not.

  12. I'm down with the new catchphrase, 'Fuck the old ladies!' You can't say that too many times in one day.

  13. I once had a couple of seniors refuse to be seated next to our family, when my children were behaving themselves. Apparently, they wanted a quiet dinner. The kicker? It was a family restaurant with a 'kids eat free' promotion. I still wonder what they were thinking. But I also struggle with the judgment I faced, that I feel was unfair.

    I freaking hate parenting in public. Hate. It.

  14. I've often wondered what's the right thing to do in that scenario - like offering a breastfeeding woman a quiet corner, it seems rife with possibilities to upset.

    And I don't mean the snide comments. (Which were over the top and CRUEL.)I mean is it always rude to move my family away from a tantruming child? How does one offer help in that situation?

    I struggle the most with my daughter, who I realized a few days ago gets mad just like I do. Yeah. I remember what I was like as a teenager.

    This is gonna be fun.

  15. Snide old ladies are EVERYwhere, and I don't know what their issue is. The Baby likes to flip out on ALL occasions, which gets me lots of Unwanted Advice. Thanks, world!

    It's hard, recognizing yourself in your kid - The aforementioned Baby gets HER short fuse from me, and I find it doubly hard to deal with.

  16. The world of your own parenting looks so perfect from 60 years' distance, doesn't it, old ladies? Of course, then you could threaten your children with a wooden spoon or daddy's belt, which I guess helped. UGH. Ignore those annoying people, or as you did, let them know how very obnoxious THEY are being!

    It's amazing when we see those things in our kids, hey? I have realized how much Pumpkinpie is like me, too - how easily frustrated by failure, wanting to give up, but thrilled to chest-busting proportions when it finally works. I try to play to that in motivating her now.

    It's great to know these things and be able to adjust your playbooks accordingly.

  17. OMG, I'm right there with you with G. He's two, people, two! Deal with it. Unfortunately, I am quite forgiving with him because he is me. I GET him. He still gets the consequences, but I know why he got out of control. I do it too. Although it's less acceptable for me to have a tantrum.

    Do you want to take care of these 'ladies'?? I'd do it. I'm hard core. ;-)

  18. I am always having to remember that yes, it is because she is 3 but also because it is her. With all that it means.

    I would have given you an understanding look as we passed.

  19. I think your answer was perfect and the 'tsk tsk' was unfairly judgemental and out of line.

    My cousin, a great mom of two little boys, was out last winter with her friend, D, and D's 3 year old, and her own then 2 1/2 year old and infant when the toddler who is an emotional little guy had an 'i'm overstimulated and exhausted' breakdown. D looked at her own son and said loudly, 'Oh my, A. You NEVER act like that'.
    My cousin came pretty close to popping D one, 15 year friendship be damned!

  20. One I had to walk several blocks with a tantruming 3-year old barely buckled into an umbrella stroller, for all the world to see. Every single one of us has this moment eventually. It looks like you handled it though, even those old ladies, with grace. And they deserved it, anyway. They come from the era where they'd hit kids with kitchen utensils anyway, so what do they know?

  21. Two words: Grey Pubes. Answers the question of why THIER behaviour sucked.

  22. AnonymousJuly 19, 2010

    The simple fact is that you are as spoilt as your spawn.

    Your rudeness and demanding nature along with the AMERICAN sense of the customer is always right is a blight in the restaurants you frequent in your neighborhood AND BEYOND.

    Feed you toddlers at home and invest a little time in sourcing casual childcare when you feel the need to impose yourself on local eateries and their suffering employees.

    By the way I hate this blog, spend a bit more time properly raising your spawn

  23. Thank you, Anonymous, for your insightful and grammatically-challenged comment(s). I see from my site analytics that, for someone who hates this blog, you sure spent a lot of time poking around on it last night.

    Have a good one.


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