The Look in the Grocery Store

Posted 16 October, 2012 by Trish in Life, Mommyhood / 50 Comments


You’re walking down the grocery aisle and you see a mom wrestling with her screaming child. In a former life I may have given this mom the look. You know the look—the look that you’ve either given, the look you’ve received, or the look you’ve seen other people give and receive. The look is the worst.  Especially when you’re already flustered, embarrassed, frustrated, and defeated.
People. I think we’ve reached the terrible twos. In a word…awesome.
I think the best was when we were in our two story Barnes and Noble and Elle started screaming (I mean screaming bloody murder) because she wasn’t allowed to play on the escalator. Luckily Scott was with me so he could carry her out into the mall while I smile and nodded at all the folks giving me that look. 
On the other, less sarcastic side of awesome: the “hooray” I get during the third verse of “If you’re Happy and You Know It”  makes up for all the screaming and crying in the grocery store. And yes, if you hear a mom singing in the next aisle over to her babe, run around the corner to see because chances are it’s me.
I take those good moments and store them up for the ones where I need to take an extra deep breath. 
Any temper tantrum stories you’d like to share? Make me feel a little better??

50 Responses to “The Look in the Grocery Store”

  1. Ali

    I don’t have a temper tantrum story but I have a dirty-looks-in-the-bookstore story from when Evan was a baby and Ben was probably 4…

    I was trying to find a particular book, and Evan was getting fussy. So, Ben decided to be a helpful big brother and give the baby a fun ride through the store in his stroller. He started to push the stroller as fast as his little legs would take them–and before I could say, “Oh, honey, don’t–” he had dumped the whole stroller on its side, baby and all. Waaaaaaah!!!

    Oh, the looks I got from every customer and employee within 100 yards! I thought I would sink into the floor with embarrassment. Now they are 12 and 15, and I get to be the one to embarrass them! :)

  2. Oh good luck with this, hopefully it won’t last long. I think my daughter only had two really bad die of shame in the supermarket type tantrums overall I have to admit she was pretty easy on us with the terrible twos. Everytime I see this happen I just want to give the mum a hug.
    I saw the most amazing really really young mum dealing with the tantrum from hell, I don’t think I would have been so calm and collected but the funny thing was rather than people giving her the look I think for most people our hearts jsut went out to her. I was behind her in the checkout cue and after she left with toddler still screaming blue murder, the checkout girl and I just looked at each other and said something to the effect of poor thing but wasn’t she amazing in how well she handled that. Anyone who has kids or has close contact with toddlers knows what it can be like. I have to admit I think I was just really lucky with tantrums at least.

  3. Vance really didn’t have that many tantrums, but he had a doozy at a toy store in the mall. I scooped him up and told him we were going home if he was going to act like that. He screamed so loud and made such a racket, a security guard from the mall followed me to my car – I guess he figured I was going to or had done something to hurt him. Since I’ve had a kid, I generally try to ignore screaming children in public.

  4. I agree with Diane…wait till she’s 18 or 19…Oy. The tantrums are a little different…usually no screaming in public (if you’re lucky) but just as blood curdling. My oldest had a tantrum in Kroger once when she was 2…I had to leave a buggy full of groceries to get her out of there. Good times, good times ;)

  5. When The Girl was 2, she wanted to ride the carousel in the mall, and when we said no, she plopped on the floor, kicking and flailing and screaming. My husband just scooped her up, and we were on our way. I tried to ignore all the rude stares, but it was hard. Now that The Girl is 12…I’m thinking I’d rather go back to those 2-year-old tantrums. LOL

  6. How old is she exactly now? My boys all hit the terrible twos sometime between 15 and 18 months. I remember the exact day with Ambrose (or maybe it was Laurence? I can’t remember). He was in the kitchen and wanted something from Jason, but Jason told him no. He ran across the kitchen and flung himself on the wall, beating his fists and moaning like he was the most miserable kid on earth. It was pathetically melodramatic, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

    Honestly, the terrible twos didn’t bother me all that much, because both of my first two kids were incredibly loud and screamy from birth. Ambrose was ridiculously so. You know how you’re supposed to be able to let a kid cry himself to sleep as an infant? Not Ambrose. He would scream for eight hours straight if you let him. We once did let him scream for six hours straight, going in every 15 minutes ot pat his back like you’re supposed to. He had a lot of asperger-like symptoms as a kid, and we later found out he had sensory integration disorder, which probably caused a lot of the issues. But all my kids, for instance, screamed every time we put them in a car seat and drove, that time when most kids are relaxed and sleepy. They were all high strung – Laurence less than the others, probably because he was speaking in sentences by 13 months – and I really don’t miss that age at all. Morrigan is turning 12, and he’s finally turning into someone I enjoy being around. I so prefer the teenage years!!!!! I’ll let Jason have them as babies.

    • “Morrigan is turning 12, and he’s finally turning into someone I enjoy being around.”

      You don’t even know how much that sentence has made me feel better. My 10 year old has been so unpleasant to be around since a young age. Just this year we’re starting to enjoy being around each other. We’ve just always butt heads. He’s an angel to everyone else–at school, in public, at friend’s houses–and no one believes that he’s not that way at home. I’m glad I’m not the only one that has struggled with this. Maybe I’m not a horrible mother.

    • I can’t tell you how happy this comment makes me!! Morrigan and I have always butt heads too! We’ve basically rubbed each other raw since he was born, maybe because we’re too much alike, I don’t know. But something just clicked over this summer, he got older and started to become someone I enjoy being around, and he’s suddenly realized I’m someone he enjoys being around too. It’s not perfect all the time, but the relationship between us has just finally gotten to where it’s clearing, and I’m really happy about it! I don’t feel quite so much like the terrible mom anymore.

  7. Amy

    After going through this with both my kids when they were little, I now try to offer a friendly smile or an encouraging word to those moms. God knows I owe them, having been that person giving them a cold look pre-kids.

  8. My oldest never went through “terrible twos” — she’s a teen now, and I’ve been paying for it ever since! :-P She did go through a tantrum stage when she was 3 (not sure she ever quite outgrew it :-D). When she was 3, she threw a fit because I wouldn’t let her ride the carousel in front of the grocery store. (What kind of miserable bastards put a kiddie ride in front of a grocery store? Karma will punish them.)

    When we got into the store, she was still wailing and screaming. I decided to ignore it and act as if everything was kosher. Y’know, so I could get the shopping done without losing my shit. Sarah was screaming bloody murder, and I was loudly and cheerfully saying stuff like “Do you think 99 cents is a good deal on those apples? I think so. Let’s get some.” People would stop and stare at me. They seemed to be studying my forehead to see if the doctors had left a scar when they performed the lobotomy.

  9. Ok, thank you guys for helping me feel better BUT ENOUGH WITH THE TEENAGER HORROR STORIES!! I’M NOT READY YET. ;) Seriously, though, I know that every mom has gone through an experience with a crying baby in public (thankfully we’ve only had the one screaming experience in Barnes and Noble…the picture above was just a temporary moment of crying), but I’m sure there will be more tears and more deep breaths ahead.

    And yes, Amanda…sometimes you just have to laugh!

    Keep those stories coming…

  10. Yeah, PJ is there too. He totally freaks out if he can’t walk up and down stairs in a store or play the guitar and drums on display at a Toys R Us.

    He’s definitely testing all the boundaries there are. And some that I think don’t even exist. Hello terrible twos.


  11. Luckily, Emily hasn’t had many temper tantrums, but there have been a couple of embarrassing ones! One evening we were at Chick-fil-a, and though it was already her bedtime, we let her play in the little play place for a few mintues. Yep-definitely had to drag her out of there kicking and screaming because she didn’t want to leave. I have learned that if she is hungry or tired, there is a higher chance of tantrums, but I think we are pretty lucky in this area. I also have found that I can usually prevent them from happening by telling her ahead of time how that particular trip is going to go. So if we’re going to the park, I’ll tell her before we get out of the car that we are going to play for a little while, and when I say it’s time to go home, we’re just going to get back in the car and go home, and there’s no need to throw a fit. Now she says, “I didn’t throw a fit! Mama is SO proud of me!” Haha! Hopefully this is a short-lived stage for you guys. It really didn’t last long with Emily.

  12. Rae

    I really don’t understand why people give the look. I don’t have kids but I understand sometimes they just scream, and I realized this before I had 7 nieces and nephews. Anyone who’s spent any time with a kid understands that. Yes, it really sucks to be on a plane with a screaming baby but obviously if there was anything the parents could do about it they would! I always feel so badly for the baby and parents. :(
    Hang in there!

  13. Yup my four year old had a hissy fit once Christmas morning when we were heading out to church, he insisted on wearing his Ghostbusters costume, (which he wore all the time) it was very soiled and in the wash amongst other items of smelly nature) I could have I don’t know what … to him but he would not give in. Finally I said fine and made a label stuck it to him and wrote, ” I dressed myself”. After all he explained the ghost of Christmas past might stop by… no idea where he heard this, I really didn’t read him stuff like that yet, and he was home no day care or anything. When church members saw him they all commented favourably, making me feel very small. He always introduced his father as Egon, and I was Genie the secretary.

  14. Oh dear, I really try to never give anyone “the look” . . . when it’s obvious they’re doing the best they can to soothe an unhappy kiddo, far be it from me to pile on their frustration! I know that I’ll someday be getting “the look” from other parents, too — and that keeps me in check.

    I famously had a meltdown with my mom and grandpa when I was 3. Enraged that I couldn’t sit on the edge of the booth, I fought my mom tooth and nail until I finally fell off the seat and cracked my head on the floor. Mom said the sound was absolutely sickening — she hates telling this story! But they rushed me to the hospital to be checked out. Turns out, despite the terrible noise, I was actually fine.

    So yes: I really do have a hard head. :)

  15. I’m not a mom, so I am a bit guilty of getting super irritated by screaming children, but I do try to be understanding. BUT a couple weeks ago in Target, I went to kind of get away and cheer myself up. I was in the store for about an hour and twenty minutes, and there was a four or five year old screaming the ENTIRE time. I was so so mad. It didn’t help that my head was killing me. But I kept telling myself that there might have been mental or emotional problems, so I still didn’t give A LOOK.

    That said, more often than not, tantrums crack me up, and I try to give an encouraging smile to a parent dealing with one. I’ve had two funerals in the last couple of weeks, and my cousin (5) has gotten super antsy in each. I’m her “Gigi” so she sat next to me, and I thought: Whoa. I’d be so exhausted if I had to do this all the time. But man, can they be fun. :)

  16. No tantrum stories from me yet, but I have come really close to breaking into song in a store.

    We spontaneously went out to eat this past weekend (we were out shopping, got hungry, had a gift card, you know), and since it was spontaneous we didn’t have anything with us for the little guy. He did pretty well for awhile, but then he needed to be held, and he was fine, but then it was too long. He was tired, hungry (and we didn’t have anything with us, remember, and he’s not eating restaurant food yet) and melting down. But by this point, we’d been waiting for the check for at least 10 minutes. She finally came, and took the money, but we needed change. Things were getting progressively worse — he threw the “toys” he had been happily playing with on the floor — and it was either stand up and bounce and sing to him in the middle of a very busy, very full Olive Garden or take him outside. Which I did, leaving Paul to wait for the server to return. Which took at least another 10 minutes.

    But who does that? First of all, there were people waiting for tables. It was packed. So, turning tables is good, right? Equals more money for servers, the store. But especially tables with potentially screaming babies? Don’t you want to get them out of there as fast as you can? Sorry, I guess I’m still a little peeved and/or dumbfounded.

    • I’ve frequently gotten up and stood by the table to calm the baby. Since becoming a mother I’m much more tolerant of other families when out at a restaurant, especially if they are there during the “witching hour” (which is usually when we are there). It’s tough trying to do things with small children, you would think that other parents would “get” it.

  17. I live with the Bug. He has no shame and no guilt and no self control. You haven’t seen tantrum until you have more children than you can remove on your own. If TWO of them are screaming, who do you carry? I’ve carried screaming kids out of the store more times than I can count. The Princess has just reached tantrums and it’s crazy how easy it is to ignore on kid #3.

  18. I get “the look” all the time. While my son has always been a well-mannered, quiet child, my daughter is a three year old hurricane of energy and that’s just how it is. Sometimes the energy is a happy sort of loudness, but other times it’s a windstorm of rage. That’s just her personality, and it’s not going to change. I drink alot of coffee to keep up with her and focus on creating as many positive interactions as possible. If that means not taking her certain places until she’s older, well, so be it. And it does mean that I get “the look” constantly from grumpy middle-aged and older women, but whatever. I’ve also had many words of praise and kindness from people from all walks of life who have had busy children of their own, and I keep those words in mind when someone less compassionate wants to judge me.

  19. *hugs* The only thing I hate more than the terrible twos is when kids become tweens and teens. Ack! It’s the same phase but the kids have more vocabulary.

  20. Well I give a look but it’s more of a “Oh God bless ya girl! Glad I don’t have one of those.” It’s more of a supportive look to the mom.
    Your kids throws a fit, what are you going to do? Gotta let them work it out. Can’t give in because then they think they run you.
    I remember my little brother doing that, and my mom just going with the flow. Maybe that’s where I get that from.

    Either way Elle has a cute cry face :)

  21. A lady had to deal with the mother of all tantrums the other day in the supermarket, I mean honestly this kid you should have heard him!

    I gave her a sympathetic smile and told her that ‘we’ve all been there’ which I think made her feel a little better (I hope so anyway)

  22. Madison had her first temper tantrum just last week; I honestly didn’t think they started at 8 months. She wanted to play with these clown figurines which were my great-grandmas, I wouldn’t let her, and she bawled and screamed for the next ten minutes. It was kind of funny, but it definitely has me anxious about the coming two years.

  23. My daughter was actually closer to 6 or 7 when we had the bookstore temper tantrum. I forget what she wanted, probably a stuffed animal since I’m sure I would have bought it if it had been a book, but she threw a fit when she couldn’t have it. I let her. Stood there until she was done and then gave her a hug. I’m sure i got a million looks and my mom who was with us disappeared, but it was the one and only time it happened, at least to that extent.

  24. Once when I was picking Shane up from school he refused to come with me. Refused to put on his coat or shoes, just screamed and rolled around on the ground etc etc. I had to pretend to leave him there like five times but nothing worked. Eventually I managed to force him into his coat – yes still screaming, he screamed for about 35 minutes at this point. I had to leave his shoes there and carry him because I just didn’t manage. Which made him scream and writhe even more, which I didn’t think was possible. The dad of one of the other kids offered to help me put S in his car seat, but warned that he’ll have to use force. S screamed the whole way home and then at home for a while too. In total about 2 hours. Fun times.

  25. Oh, it can be difficult. Being consistent might help. Either never give in (so the child knows that keeping going with the tantrum is no use) or always give in. :-)

    I once left me 1.5 yo in one isle of the store while I moved on. I got “the looks” but after a few moments, my son’s audience (me) was out of sight, so he stopped. It works when it’s not too busy!

  26. I was really lucky I suppose. I had 3 babies really close in age and don’t remember any of them ever having a tantrum in a store, or anywhere in public. Maybe it was because of the fact that they were so close in age, they kept each other entertained.

  27. Amy

    Without fail, my kids seem to start screaming when we’re in a quiet place…the library, church, etc. One day, I took the three boys with me to get something at Michael’s. The sales clerk cheerfully said, “Welcome to Michaels!” Max (the two-year-old) glared at her and shouted back, “I don’t like Michaels!!!!” Luckily, she thought it was funny.

    I just try to avoid people’s eyes when my kids are throwing tantrums, but sometimes you can “feel” the look just as well as you can see it, you know?

  28. Oh, THE LOOK. Obviously, somebody who has either never had children or blocked out the tantrum years. We’ve had MANY, but I think my best was about two weeks before my son was born, and I realized our monitor had died. I took my then 2.5 yo with me to get a new one, and all was well until it was time to leave and she didn’t want to leave the store’s play area, despite the fact that she had been warned she would only be able to play there for a few minutes. She went limp on the floor, and wouldn’t even get up when I walked away, so in order to keep from leaving her in the store (which I considered for a moment), I picked her up, held her kicking, red-faced, thrashing self under one arm and managed to get her, myself, and my ridiculously huge 39-week belly out the door.

    Parenting can be so much fun ;)

  29. Ah, yes, we had some embarrassing times with our little ones. Worst of all was our high-energy youngest running in the library. He was *happy* and not all that noisy, but we still got some looks. Fortunately, the head children’s librarian thought he was funny.

    Temper-tantrum wise, ours were both at their worst when they were 3. It varies, though. I won’t tell you any teenage horror stories but I can tell you that when they exit the teenage years you will sigh with relief, although even grown-up children can make you pull your hair out. Parenting is never easy but there are moments (like when a child graduates from college with a job, apologizes for being rotten during the teen years or when s/he marries) that you will feel like you succeeded and the pain was all worth the end result.

  30. No tantrums here yet – we are still in the baby stage. But I have a good story that I apparently did to my grandmother when I was, I don’t know, 4 or 5.

    We were in the grocery store and I was determined that I was going to have something. She told me no (which was very rare for my grandmother to tell me no, haha). At that point I guess I decided to have an all out screaming bloody murder while throwing myself all over the floor type of tantrum. Thoroughly embarrassed, she picked me up and decided it was best to leave. As she was carrying me out the door, I began screaming “Help! help! I don’t know this woman!!”. Still to this day she tells me that it was nothing short of a miracle that no one stopped her and questioned whether or not I really did know who she was. Priceless :)

  31. Oh we’ve had some epic meltdowns in public. Always fun! My favorite was when our 2 year old had a crazy tantrum as we were taking him to see Santa. All he wanted to do was ride the elevator next to where Santa was and we wouldn’t let him. We listened to insane screaming for what seemed like FOREVER. Finally I told him, “The elevator is broken,if you go see Santa, he will fix it for you.” So he stopped crying, waited in line, marched right up to Santa and said “For Christmas I want you to turn the elevator on”. I just nodded at Santa and Santa said ok. Then we rode the elevator for about 30 minutes.

  32. I can’t understand why people would give anyone with a 2 year old The Look, as c’mon, the kid is two! I will admit to giving The Look to children who should know better though. Once saw a little nine year old throwing a tantrum in the middle of a bookstore until her mother agreed to buy her whatever it was she wanted. Amazing how quickly the tears stopped.

  33. Now that Z is eight, I can only remember one major tantrum so that’s probably good, right? I doubt there was only one but they aren’t things that stuck with me. The one that did though was when the husband and Z and I came out of a movie and hubs was going to the bathroom and I asked Z if he had to go (he must have been 3 or 4?) and instead of just saying no, he thought we were going to force him into the bathroom and completely lost his shizz. (He had a phobia of automatic flushers that caused a lot of issues when we were out!) He was screaming and going limp and he WOULD NOT listen to me at all. Everyone who walked by gave us the look. I was so embarrassed because nothing had even happened.

    On the cute end of tantrums, when my two year old nephew doesn’t get what he wants, he throws himself down on the floor, face first, and bangs his fists and feet on the ground and makes crying noises. And yes, they’re only noises because when you ignore him, two minutes later he will pop up, dry-eyed, glare at you and run away to play. What a faker! :)

  34. Most of the tantrums I remember involve having to leave the park. I know there were many, many more, but I think I tried to block out those unpleasant memories.

    By the time the third child came, I just learned to ignore “the look.” I knew that I was doing the right thing for my child by ignoring the behavior and trying to get out of the store as quickly as possible, but sometimes you have to finish your shopping. Sometimes when my husband was out of town and I had no family near by, I just have to suck it up and shop even if it was unpleasant for everyone else.

    And I’m not sure why they’re called the terrible twos because like Amanda said, it usually starts at 18 months or earlier and doesn’t end until they’re almost four. You’ll be alright. There will be many tears, but most likely, you and the babe won’t remember much of it. Not all kids are crazy tantrum throwers. You might get lucky.

  35. Well, Gage has started head banging. Yes, today I told him no and he started banding his head on the floor (tile with a rug on it) very hard. Eight times. Left a big bruise. Had to call the nurde just to make sure he couldn’t do much damage, only to find out that he can and I need to watch for a concussion. He did a little head banding at 18 months but it didn’t last more an a week or two. Now it seems to be back :( It’s normal and happens more with boys so homefully you won’t have to deal with this. Good times.

  36. Miss H was a terrible shopper. I took her as rarely as possible and when I did, I was in the store only as long as I absolutely had to be. I did have the (sometimes) advantage of big brothers who would sometimes distract her. We always had to have toys and snacks with us. And sometimes I even had to sing – her favorite was the bubble song. Do you know that one about the tiny turtle?

  37. Don’t worry about people giving you looks during these tough moments. I know that’s easier said than done, but really… if they looked carefully enough, they’d see that you were frazzled and trying your best to tend to Elle and get your errands done and should be giving you looks of compassion, understanding and encouragement. As if sending you more negativity with a “look” is going to help you? Like I said, don’t worry about those people. Focus on Elle and yourself in moments like these. xo

  38. I’m suddenly realizing that I’ve occasionally given some poor mother that look :(( Without ever considering how she was feeling at that moment and that she probably could not do anything about it.

    Please do enjoy the wonderful moments and try to ignore those ignorant people (which could’ve included me!) giving you a look.

    You’re a great mom and these people don’t matter.

  39. I love you Trish for posts like these! (And pictures like that. LOL!) Many, many times have I walked out of a public place with one of my kids screaming and crying. It is even worse when you have two of them acting up at once (which hasn’t happened too often for me thankfully). Ugh! It is frustrating but the “I love you’s” and cuddles make it all worth it!!!

  40. Les

    I remember lots of tantrums, but nothing specific. The good news it she will outgrow them. The bad news is that’s when the whining begins. ;)

  41. Les

    And I will admit that there have been days at work (and yes, I work at B&N) when I haven’t actually given a mother “the look,” but I’ve grown frustrated with her need to turn the tantrum into a teaching moment. It’s one thing to stand your ground and not give into the tantrum, but it’s not fair to make the other customers or staff suffer through 30-60 minutes of screaming. Honestly, I’m not exaggerating. We’ve had parents let their kids kick and scream and throw things all over the store while they (mom and/or dad) continue to browse the shelves, ignoring the child. I understand their desire to have some time to shop, but maybe that’s the time to wait until the other parent or a sitter can watch the child. Just sayin’. :)

    I loved this piece by Conor Grennan (Little Princes author) about flying with children.