Analysis of a Public Tantrum: How We (Both) Survived

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Picture it: I'm at my sons' school this morning selling raffle tickets and wrist bands for the upcoming school carnival. My 4-year-old daughter is with me. It's her first time tagging along with me on a volunteering day. Why? Because I assume she can handle it, and might even enjoy being at school with her big brothers. The buses are arriving, kids are flocking to my table -- THOUSANDS of them,* crowding around, impatiently holding out dollar bills, demanding service.

My darling daughter decides right now is the perfect time to have a tantrum. A screaming, crying, snot dripping, feet stomping, collapse in your chair tantrum. She wants three wristbands, she wants eight wristbands, she wants a Kleenex, she wants a snack, she wants her grandma, she wants to play on her tablet but it's only half charged.

Public Tantrum
Credit: david23.

I'm helpless. I have to attend to the thousands* of kids swarming around the table. I'm forced to ignore the tantruming child who's crumpled up in her chair with her bare butt crack hanging out of her jeans. If I ignore her for a few minutes she'll stop... right? Wrong. My whispered threats of "They're going to ask you to leave," and "You're going to have to go to the principal's office," are doing nothing to curb the tension.

Now we're 15 minutes into sales and she's STILL going. Teachers are walking by giving me that "Hang In There Mama" look. My son's teacher from last year walks by and hears the "I want a Kleenex!" shriek, only to return a minute later with a handful of Kleenex. (Bless her heart!) STILL the tantrum continues.

All of a sudden the National Anthem begins playing over the loudspeaker. Every person in sight stops what they're doing immediately and puts their hand on their heart. It's absolutely quiet... except for my adorable daughter, who's muttering things like "I HATE this song." "This is a stupid song." "I want three wristbands!" I can feel the heat of tens of thousands* of eyes glaring at us. Will this song EVER end? After what seems like an hour, it does. Back to business.

Finally the crowd of kids is dying down. But the tantrum continues. The wonderfully patient mom working next to me has been reassuring me for 25 minutes that it's okay and she totally understands. (Bless her heart too!) We clean up and make our way into the front office to count money. My daughter is finally done crying and carrying on. But she's still not happy. And she's still asking for 5,392* random things. At this point she's emptying out my purse announcing every item she finds as she does it, including hand sanitizer, a notebook with a pen that won't work, and a crushed up candy cane. I stop her before she gets to my little pouch of tampons... now THAT would just be& embarrassing.

The three other moms I'm working with are so sweet and understanding. They are consoling me with stories of their own kids' public tantrums. Normally I hate hearing other moms trying to one-up each other. But this is one very positive exception to that rule. (Bless their hearts!) We'll be back at it tomorrow IF they even allow us back in the building. Wish me luck... I'm going to need it.

*some numbers in this blog post have been exaggerated for dramatic effect

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