Confessions: My Daughter Head-Butted Me in Public

By Polly Conner
January 5, 2015

This post offers no great parenting advice. It offers no book recommendations. It offers no gospel-centered lesson on parenting. No, this post is simply going out to those who have a youngster who is pushing all the right buttons and whose mama just needs to know they aren’t alone.

Yesterday I planned a special outing with my three year old girl to Joanne’s Fabrics. The plan was for her to pick out the fleece fabric for a blanket that I was going to make her. I thought she would thoroughly enjoy the one-on-one time with mama as well as browsing all the fun prints that she could choose from.

Pulling up to the store I had high hopes of a sweet time with my gal as I took her in to pick out something for HER. I did give her a pep-talk about staying close to mom in the store. She can be prone to drift a bit in stores so I tried to be proactive and remind her of what it appropriate behavior. She enthusiastically agreed.

The errand started off well. As expected she loved all the different colors, patterns and prints. She was so excited to not only pick one out for her brother but to carry her own specially selected My Little Pony fabric to the fabric counter to get cut.My Little Pony Fabric

This is where we ran into our first problem: a long line.

She insisted on carrying the huge bundle of fabric by herself and was intentionally dropping it causing it to unravel all of the floor. The line of ladies watching this out of the corner of their eye didn’t seem to find this as funny as she did. After a few warnings I snatched up the bundle and told her it had to stay with me.

Now, growing bored, she begins to move closer to the aisles, further from me. I had to stay in line in order or get the fabric cut. It was easy to see her and she was entertained by whatever she was looking at in the aisle so I wasn’t too concerned.

AdelynWhen my request for her to come back closer to mom fell on deaf ears I knew things were going downhill. Since she wasn’t causing any problems I (regrettably) chose to keep my place in line rather than dealing with the misbehavior.

Finally, it was my turn to get the fabric cut. Thank God! I explain to the worker the measurements that I needed and when I turn back around, Adelyn was gone.


Now I am stuck with the dilemma of do I remain at the counter while my fabric is getting cut, which is the unspoken rule of a fabric store or do I go to look for my wondering child? Will she come back when she realizes she is all alone? After a short time, I told the lady that I needed to go make sure my child was close, thinking she was probably just an aisle or two over. I could sense the judgmental stare over the counter as I left to go look.

Aisle after aisle, no Adelyn to be found.

I grew more annoyed than panicky. I knew she hadn’t left the store and I doubted there was anyone in Joanne’s looking to snatch a kid. Maybe I’m naive but my search for my child was more out of anger than desperation.

After walking up and down the main aisle, I returned to the fabric counter empty handed. I figured she would surely come back to me once she realized she was lost. My plan was to stay in one place so she could find me rather than start to wander all over the store. The lady looked at me with raised eyebrows, grabbed her little microphone attached to her vest and reported a lost child in the store.


I set off to do a second search and happened to see a flash of my three year old running from one aisle to another. She was not in the distraught state that I had hoped to find her in. When I yelled her name and told her to come to me, what did she do? Run.

I’m fuming at this point.

I catch up with her, give her a strict talking to and return to the fabric counter with a three year old who has had all freedom privileges revoked. As you can image, she was not thrilled about this. The stern worker grabbed her little mic, and reported to whomever she was talking to that the child has been found.

The line of ladies watching the situation unfold remained silent, yet watchful of my every move. I’m pretty sure they thought I was the worst mother they had every seen at this point.

Anyway, to be able to carry all the fabric to the front I had to put my child down and let go of her hand. Before I did this I got down, face to face with her to firmly explain that she was in trouble and not allowed to leave my side as we walked to the front of the store. What does she do as a response?

She head-butted me.

I’m not joking.

In front of all the ladies who were waiting in line and right in front of my not-so-friendly fabric cutter.

I was more shocked at the ridiculousness of the situation to even think clearly about how to respond to this. I mean, what do you do!? No parenting book that I have read had prepared me for this ninja move from my three year old.

I won’t go into detail about what happened after that but I know it involved a very frazzled mother, another long line to wait to check out up front, a three year old who was acting as if nothing happened, a very firm conversation as soon as we left the store, and a text to my husband about the events that unfolded and instructions to have a glass of wine waiting for me when I get home.

Needless to say, our fun outing turned out to be not so fun. For me anyway.

What was so interesting to me about this whole ordeal is that my three year old was over it within minutes. She hasn’t brought it up one time since we left yet I have told the story at least 5 times now.

It has been a good reminder that while I take this type of behavior quite personally, in reality, it has nothing to do with me.Adelyn2

Like I said, I don’t have a nice neat bow to wrap this story up with. Just thought it was funny enough to share and hopefully some struggling moms out there can identify and not feel so alone when they are getting beat up by their preschooler.

Happy to make you feel better about yourself and your kids. You’re welcome.

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11 replies
  1. Jana says:

    Oh my goodness, thank you so much for sharing this! I was similarly assaulted by my two-year-old at Mommy and Me Spanish class while, of course, every other child in the room sat sweetly on their mommy’s lap chirping, “hola, hola”. The other mothers seemed so dismayed by my son’s behavior, it was all I could do to keep from yelling, “I’m a really good mother–I don’t know what this kid’s problem is!” as I hurried him out of the room. One of us cried all the way home.

  2. Dawn Jones says:

    Maybe it’s JoAnns. My little darling caused quite the ruckus when we were there to pick out tulle for her birthday party. It ended with me pulling her to the floor in a time out while we waited for the registers to reboot and the cashier sarcastically thanking her for “being such a good girl.” I was furious. At both of them 😉

  3. katie says:

    My son took off on me in a book store when he was that age, laughing his head off and sprinting around. I was scared he would take some poor old lady down! But, shouting at him across a book store seemed out of place, and chasing him just makes him run faster. Ugh. I always hate when the picture perfect moments I imagine go down in an flaming heap.

  4. Tara says:

    I have a rather defiant 2 year old boy who is strong as an ox. My older daughter has always been a very compliant child. This little guy? Rarely ever compliant. He’s strong and his defiance usually injures someone. Usually me. In public. And I’ll be honest it hurts so bad sometimes (both emotionally and physically) that I have a guttural reaction to come up swinging at him out of sheer survival instinct. I’ve learned to guard myself for the constant threat of a body check. Causes plenty of muscle tension that’s for sure.

    It’s so stinking hard. And humbling. And terrifying. But mostly painfully exhausting. Thank you for sharing your story and the fact that some things just can’t be wrapped up with bows. Just riding this out and loving my boy the best I can. Praying to God it gets easier as the years go by.

  5. Rebekah says:

    LOL! I laughed out loud as I read this. You did an awesome job describing every detail!! And, oh, I can just feel the tension of the joanne fabric ladies. Thanks for sharing your transparency. And just being real. My daughter is almost 2, but I can only imagine the moments to come in another year or so! Great writing.:)
    Much love,

  6. Dawn says:

    Polly, I too have had the “head butt” done to me as well. I won’t give up the name of which child it was because it would cause said person so much embarrassment now. I remember us sitting together before bedtime reading stories when said child faced me to ask a question, (or so I thought), and just banged into my head without any warning! I was stunned and in pain asking naughty child “What was that for…Why???” Sweet, naughty child wasn’t phased (like Mom), and didn’t really have an answer for my questions. To this day, I still remember that painful moment and also wondering how did that whole episode even come about. Sorry, I have no answer. Just a flukey thing. This child is not mean and had always been quite loving and respectful. Who knows, maybe it was something that had been viewed on television or maybe it was a billy goat imitation. I guess I will never know.

    • Polly says:

      Haha- thanks for the consolation. I have no idea where she learned that move and thank goodness he hasn’t used it since!

  7. Susan says:

    We’ve all been there and I expect will be there again. It’s always tough to handle discipline when there are other watching. I can’t say that I’d have done anything differently in the moment than you did.

    6 months ago I took my 2.5 year old to Walmart one afternoon and swore I’d never return. If it helps, you can read my story and know you are not alone.

    As you said, there is absolutely nothing in the parenting handbook about what to do when we encounter these types of terrible scenarios. I don’t think it has changed in the last 30 years. I remember my sister “disappearing” in a department store once. She was found hiding inside one of those circular racks of clothes. She thought it was a great game… I thought my mom’s head was going to explode before we made it to the car. I think it’s a rule that children have to do crazy stupid things in public so that parents have good stories to tell when the kids finally grow up.