"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
September 24, 2013
Victor or Victim?
by Melissa Howell

I had just returned home from a quick trip to the grocery store recently, when there was a knock on the front door.

It’s the police,” I said to myself, and then opened the front door to find an officer standing there.

He introduced himself — I couldn’t for the life of me tell you his name — and then asked if I had recently been at King Soopers (the grocery store).

I acknowledged that I had. He then confirmed what I already suspected, that someone had called in a complaint that I left my screaming child in the car while I went into the store.

So I told him the truth, the instances that led to that moment.

A couple of weeks prior to the incident that shall go down as one of my lower moments, I had taken my three-year-old, Mason, to the grocery store. And, for no other reason clearly than the fact that three-year-olds are masters in the universe of the power struggle, he decided firmly that he was not going to join me in the store.

He grew increasingly belligerent, screaming and kicking and adamantly proclaiming he was not going into the store with me.

Exasperated, and taking into account the fact that I needed a number of items from the store, and that my husband was working from home just five minutes away, I drove back home, dumped a hysterical child in my husband’s lap, and returned to the store to shop in peace.

On the day that shall go down as one of my lower moments, I was driving to the store, when a happy, calm Mason seemed to suddenly recall our previous shopping outing, and the fact that he “won” the battle and indeed did not join me in the store. He started right up again, getting angry and all worked up about not joining me.

I sat in the van with him, calmly trying to work through our maddening little situation. I looked at the overcast sky, which provided a cool morning. I took into account the fact that Mason was securely fastened into his car seat and was unable to free himself. I took into account that I needed one lousy item from the store, a brick of cream cheese for that night’s dinner.

I laid it all on the line.

“Mason,” I said calmly, “Are you going to be nice and come in the store with me, or stay in the van and scream?”

I asked him this question three times. Each time I got the same response: “Stay in the van and scream!”

Righty-o. Because I firmly believe in sticking to my guns and am trying to raise respectful, kind, responsible kiddos who don’t believe the world owes them everything and that they are entitled to everything, I made the decision to show him that he might choose his action, but he would also receive the consequence.

I left him in the van, raced into the store, bought the cream cheese, and returned to a very angry Mason, furious that I went in without him. I had been gone maybe two minutes.

I won the battle!

And then Mr. Police Officer showed up at my door a few minutes later.

My winning attitude was quickly gone and I felt like a complete loser.

At this point it is very likely many of you are completely enraptured in the irony of someone who writes a parenting column having the police called on her. Um, yeah, me too.

I outlined this exact story to the officer, who gratefully was very kind. He responded with, “I understand as parents sometimes we have to make difficult decisions, and the person who called didn’t understand the background of what was going on. Just next time choose to bring him into the store, even if he is kicking and screaming and causes a scene.”

From this, I have been reminded of a few things:

  1. Yes, as parents we have to make many difficult decisions. Sometimes parenting is the greatest thing in the world, and sometimes it is nothing short of extremely challenging and trying. Sometimes decisions turn out to be good ones, other times, not so much. If we make those decisions out of the deepest love for our children, and a desire to raise them the best we can, we are bound to get it right more often than not.

  2. We often do not know the background when we see a frustrated parent dealing with a frustrating situation. And sometimes we are very quick to judge. Surely, there are parenting situations that are unacceptable every time and involve horrific things like abuse and the like. But sometimes we get caught in a less-than-ideal situation, because we are human and are susceptible to human weaknesses and challenges. We can debate whether this woman was validated in calling the police within a minute of my going into the store. Had it been hot, yes. Had it been for a long period of time, yes. In this situation, I think it was a pretty rash decision. But maybe that’s just because it netted a nice chat between me and Mr. Police Officer.

  3. It is vitally important that as parents we set boundaries for our children, and enforce the consequences is those boundaries are crossed. Children need guidelines and we do them no favors but doling out empty threats.

Whether or not I made the right decision to leave Mason in the van that day can be debated, but let me say this:

The next time Mason and I ventured to King Soopers as a duo, he happily proclaimed, without prompting, “I’ll be good and go in the store with you, Mommy!”

I’m going to once again claim my victory. Until the next battle ensues, hopefully not involving vehicles and the law.

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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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