My three-year-old was having an epic tantrum – and then this happened

Photo: Heidi and her son. Supplied
Photo: Heidi and her son. Supplied 

"Nooooooo...."

The bloodcurdling scream echoed out across the shopping centre.

My defiant three-year-old ran desperately around the busy aisles, clutching his object of desire. 

"Come on," I said in my most assertive, trying-to-stay-calm voice. "You know we aren't here to buy you a toy today. Let's put it back on the shelf." 

He stared me square in the eyes, tears streaming down his blotchy face, before hurling himself across the ground.

"But I want it," he shrieked, increasing the decibels to an alarming level, all while pounding the shop floor with his tiny wrists. "I WANT IT MUMMY!"

By this time, the initially furtive glances from fellow shoppers had turned into lingering looks. 

Several people were openly staring. 

I had two hands full of groceries, a headache and no idea how the hell I was going to make it to the car with my wailing banshee. 

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I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear.

Let me be clear. 

My youngest son is, usually, a very sweet and affectionate child. 

He frequently bursts into chants of 'Mummy, I love you' in public, and demands a stream of 'cuddles and kisses' throughout the day and evening. 

I'm also acutely aware I was not in a unique position at this terrifying moment. Even the most angelic of children are capable of Grade A tantrums.

Let me also be clear that I am no stranger to meltdowns. My eldest son is autistic and I have tried (not very successfully) to arm myself with strategies to manage these kind of situations - and ideally prevent them from happening in the first place.

So that's probably why I was a little blindsided to find myself in this particular scenario last week, alone with my second kid, on what was a fairly routine shopping trip. 

On a day when we'd just been given notice to move out of our house (god help us), I was worried about my eldest son and was really struggling with the mental load of life in general. 

As I stood there, pondering all this and trying to stop myself from crying... I heard a gentle voice next to my shoulder. 

"Are you okay?", the stranger asked, with a reassuring smile. "Need a hand?"

I was shocked. 

I had to stop myself from falling down to my knees and embracing this lovely woman.

"Oh thanks so much," I replied, feeling embarrassed, but grateful. "I'm sure I'll manage."

By this stage, whatever peak zone of tantrum my son had been in... had been momentarily short-circuted by the woman's appearance. 

He was still raging, but I had a brief window to snatch the toy from his fingers and execute our getaway.

As I left the shop, dragging my child with me, another lady reached out. 

"I've been there," she said. "Hang in there. You are doing a great job."

They talk about the kindness of strangers.

And believe me, I've also felt the judgmental stares of strangers, too. 

But on this day, on a day I really needed it, I felt the the support and love of parents who had been there before me.

Who had walked those same exhausted, deflated steps. 

And I want to thank them for stopping and making sure I was okay. 

Parenting is a tough gig.

And a little kindness and understanding can go a very long way.