Only a Stranger but Once

This post is dedicated to every single one of you Theta Moms reading this right now because I get it. I get you. And YOU are NEVER alone.

My son joined a soccer league that’s run by the town and it’s his very first experience playing the sport so you can imagine my excitement as we were gearing up to see my first born actually play for the first time. I had the camera ready to go with extra batteries and the camcorder all charged up. We had the uniform perfectly set along with some brand new cleats and a full water bottle in place for the big day. We all hopped in the car and drove to the field excited.

We got there and immediately began to get settled. Before I knew it my son was out on the field smiling, kicking, laughing and having an awesome time. It was such a joy to see him having fun with the other kids, playing a sport he so clearly seems to enjoy. But, I never realized how hard it would be to actually attempt to sit down with my 19 month-old AND watch my son in his glory. Upon arrival, what began as a calm situation (which lasted a total of ten minutes) took a turn for the worst when Miss Fuss Pants decided that she no longer wanted to be there.

She was done.

She’s at that difficult age where she doesn’t want to sit in the stroller for more than five minutes but the moment I let her out she runs away from me. Since she was screaming bloody murder to get out of that stroller I had no choice but to take her out. However, as soon as those little feet touched the ground she was gone. She ran straight onto the field and almost got demolished by a bunch of four year-olds and a flying soccer ball.

This was going to be a problem.

I couldn’t put her back in the stroller yet I couldn’t let her roam free either since she would simply run away – right back into harms way. She would not walk hand-in-hand with me and so she continued to scream like someone was killing her and this was around the same time the tantrums started. She was utterly relentless.

Yes, I was THAT mom on the soccer field.  The mom that EVERYONE was staring at.

I got those looks from others with puzzled faces like, “What’s wrong with your daughter – can’t you keep your kid quiet?” I was frazzled, worn out and frustrated. Every ounce of patience in my body was gone and I was about to give up and just wait in the car with her until the game was over but then, it happened…

A few feet away I began to hear the sharp cries of another toddler. I turned my head and I saw another mother in my exact situation. There she was, holding her son in her arms and rocking him side to side. She was moving up and down the field in a desperate attempt to keep him calm and quiet. She looked tired, restless and out of patience herself.

And then our eyes met. We glanced at each other, quickly processed what was happening and gave each other a smile across the field.

I understood her. I knew EXACTLY what she was going through. I got it.

I wanted to run over to her with my screaming child and say, “It’s ok. I get it. I get you. YOU are NOT alone.”

But I didn’t have to. No words needed to be exchanged because with a smile and a nod I knew that this woman understood me, too. So with this new found energy I gathered the strength to pick up my daughter from the ground and confidently placed her back in the stroller. After realizing that as long as the stroller was in constant motion, she was surprisingly quiet. I continued to wheel my daughter up and down the field for the rest of the game to keep her pleasantly content. I was relieved.

And who can I thank for that?

A fellow Theta Mom on the soccer field who I haven’t had the pleasure of formally meeting yet, but someone I already know is no longer a stranger.


  1. says

    It is so good to have someone else in the same situation (or who has been there) that can relate — even if it’s just through a shared smile. Tantrums, night terrors, leaky boobs — they are all bonding issues!

    • says

      That’s all I needed was a smile and a nod that she “understood” me. No words needed to be exchanged and I knew I was supported from a ‘stranger’ across the field. A pretty amazing experience – you’re right, motherhood certainly bonds us together.

  2. says

    Its so true! What I don’t get is those parents that have slightly older kids that give you the nasty looks. How easily they forget what it is like in your shoes!! I had the same situation the other night at my son’s t-ball practice. My 18 month old wanted the bat but my 4 yr old needed it to play. Well he had a break-down and let me just say he has a NASTY scream!!! I was so embarrassed but all I could do was laugh and say to the other parents around me “Yeah he has a little temper and is EXTREMELY bossy!”

    • says

      Tina – This is why when I blog, it’s like a release and a way to connect to say, I’m with YOU and I get YOU…I’ve so been there and it’s nice to know I’m not alone!!!

  3. says

    Yep. Have totally bonded like that. Next time something like that happens to me, I’m going to work up the guts to go meet that mommy for real and maybe the two toddlers will keep each other from crying!

    • Krista says

      That is exactly what I did with my 5th. I had enough! I walked over, made friends and sure enough, with enough snacks and toys we made it through 4 baseball and soccer seasons. We always requested our kids to be put on the same team. And ya know what, this summer those screaming babies hit the field themselves!!!

  4. says

    I bet you’ll meet her soon! We soccer moms have to stick together. And even though you may have felt like every other parent without a screaming toddler was staring at you, the only thing they were probably thinking was, “Oh yeah, I remember those days!” ;o)
    .-= Holly Bowne´s last blog ..Quote of the Week =-.

  5. says

    Only those who are unfortunate enough to have never loved a toddler through all of her moods will look at you and judge. When my daughter was small I was exasperated many times by her behavior. Now when I see other children behaving that way I smile at mom and say “As hard as it is right now, having their own opinions is a good thing, and this will pass so very quickly.”
    .-= Carol´s last blog ..A weekend in paradise =-.

    • says

      Carol – I think it’s amazing how some of those moms have forgotten what it’s like, though. I have vowed to never be like that and instead, provide some encouragement to moms that are in the trenches right now. Thanks so much for your comment. :)

  6. says

    this validation is so important in moments like this. I get the “Looks” quite a bit as my son has Autism and well, has moments in public that a lot of people don’t get. I have had that eye contact and reasurance from other moms before. And boy, does it help. Just think, next season or even by the end of this season, your daughter will “get it” and it won’t be this hard. :)
    .-= Kerry´s last blog ..Our One Month Tummy Challenge and a New Blog to Check Out =-.

  7. says

    My husband just thinks it’s “misery loves company.” But I don’t. I think that when you see another parent struggling, a smile, or even a mental note that you completely understand (which corelates with patience towards the other parent instead of the snappy old lady at the check out line who wonders why we can’t control our kids). I think it’s a sign of comroderie, support, and understanding. Great post.
    .-= Katherine´s last blog ..Walk in the Woods =-.

  8. says

    We have all been there and I’m there right now with you. I tried to take my son to storytime at the library the other week (after a long break) and all he wanted to do was run through the library. I gave him two chances and finally decided we were leaving. I cried on the way home because it makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong. One day we’ll go back and try again but I’m just not very hopeful. I need a constant leash for him.

    • says

      Oh Tara – I have library stories, too! I’ll save it for a different post…but it’s knowing that other moms “get” me that helps me through these challenging times.

  9. says

    There truly is nothing like a mom who understands. Especially at that age. My son is only two and half now, but I still think that time (around 19 and 20 months) was the most difficult. I remember because my second was born when he was 21 months and I thought I wouldn’t survive, but he soon after learned the art of listening (kind of) and we discovered the beauty of the portable DVD player (thank you Elmo!).

    I love this post! What an amazing picture of the relationship between moms being honest about motherhood (whether with or without words).
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..Don’t make me come out of this computer! =-.

    • says

      Kim – “I love this post! What an amazing picture of the relationship between moms being honest about motherhood (whether with or without words).” <——-The heart and soul of this blog…thanks so much for that AWESOME comment!

    • says

      Melinda – As I’ve said to another reader, I have vowed never to act like that. When my kids are grown and in college, I will remember this challening time and give a smile and a nod to the young woman who I will see and give her the reassurement that she is doing the BEST she can and she’s doing it WELL.

  10. says

    OMG! You have NO idea how much I can relate to this! My oldest is currently playing soccer, and my youngest is 21 months! It is sheer torture bringing her to games! She won’t sit, she won’t stay near. She runs onto the field. I try walking with her, but she won’t hold my hand, and just wants to walk in the parking lot! I know everyone has to dread when they see us coming. Who really wants to hear a screaming toddler??
    .-= A Belle, A Bean & A Chicago Dog´s last blog ..You Know You’re A Mom Whens-Daze =-.

    • says

      Nobody wants to hear that (I’m her mother and I can’t stand her screaming) but to think that other mothers “forget” what it’s like is kind of annoying. So bonding with that other Theta Mom across the field was just what I needed and I can’t wait to “officially” introduce myself. :)

  11. says

    OH yeah. i have one of those toddlers too. last year when my son played soccer, i was the mom walking her baby up and down the side of the field and hauling a diaper bag full of mostly toys dedicated to keeping my girl quiet. this year when i realized we couldn’t afford to sign my son up for sports, i was a little relieved… at nearly 2 years old, my daughter would most definitely be much worse than she was last year. last year was awful, and she couldn’t even walk yet…
    .-= Nobody´s last blog ..What The Hell Is This??? =-.

  12. says

    We went to a toy store yesterday and I handed my daughter a penguin (her favorite animal). She let out a blood curdling squeel of excitement and I got MANY evil stares. GOD! She was just excited people.

    How I needed that mom who understands at that very moment…
    .-= Bryna´s last blog ..Week 25 aka Happy Mother’s Day =-.

  13. says

    Priceless moments, just when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope and you realize that there’s 20 more feet…the kindness of strangers goes a long way, doesn’t it? And fellow mom strangers are the best. :) At the grocery store, at the airport, the post office, or the park, you are so right – it only takes a glance to know that someone else has been where you are. Or, hey, might be IN the trenches with you at that very moment.

    Great post!
    .-= Heidi´s last blog ..Make Your Mama Proud =-.

  14. says

    Ah yes, soccer games. However, I had the 3 1/2 year old on the field crying uncontrollably and a baby that wanted to get on the field. We stopped going pretty soon after my meltdown. Yes, I cried right there in front of everyone. Now I’ve got cry babies at swimming lessons. Hopefully all the tears we won’t remember in a few years.
    .-= NotJustAnotherJen´s last blog ..water babies =-.

  15. says

    I always walk over and introduce myself and hope that all the little ones can play together while moms take turns actually watching the soccer. Then we trade email addresses to exchange pics or any videos and viola – new mommy friends, happy toddlers and pictures of the soccer moves that are not destroyed by the antics of 19 month olds worldwide!

    Oh, I also got Miles a little soccer ball and let him kick it around with a little pop up goal. He LOVES it!
    .-= Brittany at Mommy Words´s last blog ..One Mother’s Courageous Choice =-.

  16. Angie says

    Oh Gosh! I remember those days. My kids are 7 years apart and my son played year round baseball. I started dragging my dd to games when she was 6 weeks old. Thankfully, by the time she was 3 or 4, she would play with the younger siblings of the other boys, but the first few years were rough! So if you can just hang in there for a couple of more years…hahahaha…

    • says

      Angie – I keep trying to remind myself of that – well, this may be easier next year and even easier the following year…but no matter how you slice it, it’s so hard to go through now!

  17. says

    i don’t there’s another person in the world who could have understood you at that moment than another mother with a toddler. even moms with children who aren’t toddlers might think to themselves, “well, that’s not how she should be handling THAT.” there’s something very special (sometimes in a bad way) about toddlers, and only their parents can understand. way to be patient and persistent with your daughter, though–gotta show those ankle biters who’s boss! :)
    .-= alexis´s last blog ..deep thoughts courtesy of b-movie. =-.

  18. says

    my older daughter is in a gymnastics class and the few times I had to bring my younger daughter along I experienced exactly what you did. Luckily it wasn’t as big a deal for her to be running about the gym.

    My husband always makes a point of making a friendly, “oh, I hate it when my girls act up like that” with a smile whenever he comes across a parent dealing with a difficult child. We’ve all been there, we need to support each other :)
    .-= Carrie´s last blog ..(sort of) Wordless Wednesday: Brides-to-Be, eat your hearts out! =-.

  19. says

    Such a great post and message! All it took is just one smile, one nod and you’ll know you’re not alone witha screaming baby (or in my case toddler). Although I only have one boy I can totally relate to this as my son and I fly a lot together and I’ve been in a situation where I got those ‘stares’ from others when my son had a tantrum or cried in a plane. I will forever be thankful to those who smile and nod some even try to help me. At times like that, a smile and a ‘hang-in-there-‘ or ‘i-know-how-you-feel’ nod means so much more than a hug!
    .-= Maureen´s last blog ..Dual Citizenship Dreams =-.

    • says

      Maureen – You took the words right out of my mouth! Yes, I have a few plane stories, too and that’s even worse because you can’t get far with them on a plane!! And the looks from those without kids – they could kill!

      So glad we are not alone in this – because we have each other!!! :)

  20. says

    Oh yeah, I’ve been there too…sooooo many times. I’ve discovered that a lot of snacks (including ice cream!) works wonders to keep a toddler in one place.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..the drool factor =-.

    • says

      Emily – The snacks usually work wonders, too but she was tired of the Goldfish and Ritz wasn’t happening. Miss Fuss Pants was just DONE and so was I! lol

  21. says

    IT is nice when we know that we are not the only ones. Some of my kids I could keep quiet but I had a few that use their free will to this day at 17. No he doesn’t scream but causes embarrassment just the same. I am happy you did not leave the game. Maybe if your little one is old enough you can bring her a toy or snack that she only gets at the games.
    Best wishes for your summer.

  22. says

    So true!! This has happened to me while at my sons football game. It always happens right at my breaking point, just when I have had enough,I see another mom who is in my same shoes, and the “look” that does not need to have any words behind,is all I need to get me through it…better than a Starbucks!

    By the way…how did your son do w/ his first game?

    • says

      Exactly!!! This is one of the reasons I LOVE to blog because it’s making these connections when readers resonate with something and we begin the honest dialogue –

      Thanks SO much for that awesome comment!

  23. says

    My boys are 18 and 11 now, but I always go out of my way to offer a smile and a few words of encouragement to moms I see going through one of the many stages I remember ALL TOO WELL! Those few and far between connections meant the world to me back then and one sincere smile would give me the strength to get through a dozen glares and whispered comments!
    .-= AngieB´s last blog ..Welcome Home, iPhone (and an important shopping tip) =-.

  24. says

    You know, whenever we’re in public and a kid goes completely nuts and has a meltdown, I remind my husband that he has no IDEA what it’s like to be “that parent” (or, as was in my case back in the day, garegiver/big sister/whatever). No matter how well-behaved your child is at home or even in most social situations, you never ever know how they’re going to react at any given time because there are so many variables. And it’s no reflection on the parent. I wish more people knew that.

    But I am so glad you found a method that worked for you that day, and that you found a kindred soul, as it were. :-)
    .-= Mrs. Jen B´s last blog ..My Favorite Restaurant EVER! =-.

    • says

      It never ends right, Marilyn? I have found that this blogging gig has put some things into perspective for me, though. And making connections through these comments and knowing I am not alone has been amazing.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and have a great weekend!

  25. says

    Gosh–haven’t we all been there? It seems awkward to try and help sometimes, but I try so hard when I see someone going through that to at least give them an encouraging smile. An empathetic smile. Oh boy, do we ever KNOW what they’re going through! You won’t find any judgmental looks from this side of the fence!

    And I guess I’ve started to grow a thicker skin and learn to ignore or brush off other people’s “looks” about it. I mean, if they haven’t gone through this then either they aren’t parents (so what would they know about it anyway?!) or their kids are zombies. At least that’s what I tell myself. :)

    • says

      Jamie – I couldn’t agree more! I have also grown a thicker skin to those “looks” especially since I’ve had my daughter. When I was a new parent with my son, I was very intimidated by what other moms thought. Very different now!

  26. says

    Oh, you are so not alone. I’ve been there. Trust me. We all have. That’s why I smile at the mother whose toddler is melting down in the cereal aisle. It’s almost like a sisterhood. And the melting down toddler is the initiation rite of passage.

    By the way, you will really enjoy sports when the baby is old enough not to run after. My youngest is playing now and my older ones go and watch with me. It’s a MUCH different experience.

  27. says

    Always nicer to meet a look of, “I get it, sister. I’ve been (or am) in your shoes.” Way better than the, “What’s wrong with those kids?” look!! As moms, we owe it to each other to be supportive of the highs and the lows. Some days, that LOOK from another mom is all that gets me through the day!

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