You know, it never fails. The two minutes my son is having a colossal meltdown in public, an innocent passerby hears me say something negative, or even worse, sees me ignoring the Mariah Carey pitched hysterics. How dare I, right? You probably thought about how I was the meanest parent the rest of your day.

Here’s what you saw, Karen at Publix. You saw me rolling my eyes. You overheard me saying, “I can’t even with you today kid,” or “No, you can’t have that,” and I didn’t give him something he demanded. A no to a toddler usually results in some kicking and verbal pushback.

You saw me in a moment that wasn’t conducive to peaceful parenting. I know.

Or maybe you were the unlucky person who parked next to me and heard me say an expletive. Perhaps you heard me yell. Not perhaps, you probably did actually. I saw the nasty looks shot my way.

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Do you think I yell that word all day? I don’t.

Do you know I’m usually level-headed and very reasonable with my tone?

I apologized to my son for the slip up multiple times afterward.

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I hear people in the checkout lines whispering about me and my child during moments of toddlerhood. That’s what it is. It isn’t anything crazy or abnormal. It’s toddlerhood. My son is still learning and overtired and short-fused occasionally. He’s typically happy and easygoing but you know, it happens. Friendly reminder, you did it 50 years ago, too. Snarky faces need to cease.

I am not making excuses for my irrational behavior when I snap back at my toddler.

I know deep down I shouldn’t do it. And honestly, most of the time I don’t. But you don’t see the 20 zillion times I quietly and calmly assess the meltdowns and provide hugs. You don’t hear me delicately explaining a situation to a 2-year-old, and you don’t see all the food options I offered.

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You see a snapshot of my life. And sometimes you catch me in a bad moment. Sometimes you see me being a bad mom.

My husband has this timing sometimes6 pm isn’t my finest personality after 12 hours with a toddler trying my patience. What he sees is me distancing myself, allowing fits, and firmly saying “NO!” over and over. He didn’t have eyes on us all day to see the laughs, smiles, and moments of pure bliss together.

So please, strangers, friends, family, waitresses, grocery store shoppers, give the frustrated parents some grace.

You are seeing a weak, crummy moment. At these moments, we have just as good of hearing as you and don’t want our children to be as vocal and upset as they are. We already feel inadequate. After we snap, we feel like a second rate parent instantly.

I’m a good mom and you caught me in a bad moment.

Jennifer Bailey

Stay at home mom enjoying one little boy and navigating parenting one trip to Target at a time.