Last summer, in the midst of the sweltering San Antonio heat, my family and I made the move down to Texas from Chicago. The stress of moving into a new home, registering at new schools, worrying about an approaching hurricane, and then dealing with a gas shortage, was enough to make me hide in my wine cellar while pondering Betty Ford and binge-eating malt balls.
Anyone who has done a cross-country move knows the first few weeks are filled with frustrating calls to utility companies and countless trips to big box stores to load up on household essentials. I was on one of many Target visits when, unfortunately, a bright-eyed, 22-year-old, who is studying childhood education, tried to offer me parenting advice at the worst possible moment.
As I stood at the register with a cart overflowing with paper towels, Lysol wipes, and laundry detergent, my boys were scampering about, poking everything on the shelves, and tackling each other.
Yes, I said tackling each other. Because what else do four boys do while waiting for their mom to pay?
Brittany, we’ll call her, was in line right behind me with her face wash, tank top, and protein bars. As she watched my typical chaos ensue, she couldn’t help but insert her thoughts on discipline as she heard me yell at my oldest to stop pantsing his brother for the fourth time.
“So I find that if you go down to their level, speak in a really calm, quiet voice, and ask them what feelings are making them act this way, you’ll be amazed at the difference in behavior,” she said with a big smile, as if she had just bestowed upon me this huge parenting hack. “They’re really just acting out because they want their emotions heard.”
Her face in that moment was beaming. She had probably learned this amazing discipline technique from an early childhood education class lecture or textbook and felt so excited to share with this poor mother attempting to wrangle her unruly children. Thus she was qualified to give parenting advice.
The cashier and I locked eyes, sharing a “you’ve got to be kidding” expression. In that moment, all I could do was look at her and respond, “Well, aren’t you cute.”
Oh, Brittany, sweet, sweet, innocent Brittany, I am so happy that you have embarked on this life goal of working with children. But holy cow, girlfriend, I nearly lost my ever-lovin’ mind on you at Register Six that day.