The Tantrum

Martini in hand, I’m sitting on the kitchen floor, as far away from the sounds of my tantruming child as possible without leaving the house. It’s my wife’s turn to do bedtime. Our 2 year old has been showing us the meaning of “terrible two’s” over the last two nights (not to brag, but tantrums aren’t exactly an every day occurrence over here). She’s in a phase of screaming “NO” in our faces just to see what will happen – just to see how much power she has in this family, and to see what it takes to make us cave. We’re blundering through this phase, as I’m sure most parents do, just trying not to fuck up our child – in my mind, it’s all about striking the balance between disciplining the bad behaviour while making sure she feels loved unconditionally.

These evenings of bad behaviour bring out the parenting tensions between us. Usually we’re on the same page, but certain things seem to highlight our parenting differences (mostly just sleep issues and disciplining tantrums). We’ve learned to save our heated discussions for after our daughter has gone to bed, and that has two benefits: 1) our daughter won’t hear us disagreeing about how to discipline her, which would weaken our stance, and 2) our strong opinions and emotional reactions have had time to settle and we’re better able to discuss logically, without getting upset. So currently, I’m letting my emotional reaction settle and my wife is carrying on doing bedtime routine with a wildly disobedient child.

Is it weird that one of my favourite times to be with my child is immediately following a tantrum? It’s like the biggest payoff of parenting. You put up with the absolute worst that your child can give: the hitting, the scratching, the demon-voiced scream, the dead eyes that make her look like a zombie, the sweating and the snot and the absolute inability to reason – or even to hear another human voice. And then it breaks – like a demon was exorcised from her body and my real daughter was released from its clutches. Her gaze changes, and she looks around as if she didn’t know where she had landed, and she reaches out to me for comfort. I imagine that a tantrum is a scary experience. It seems that she loses control over herself, and that the emotional reaction is bigger than she is. Lately, when the tantrum ends, she has started to say with a mix of pride and disbelief, “I calmed down!” She holds me tight, she chokes out the last of her sobs, and sometimes she even says “sorry” for the outburst. It’s the closest bonding we have now that she no longer breastfeeds.

So maybe I’m a little possessive over how I deal with tantrums. I want to be close to her for comfort. I want to model how calm I can be while she’s flying off her handle. I want to See the clarity in her eyes return. I want to be there for all of it.

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11 thoughts on “The Tantrum

  1. OMG…for the past few weeks, C has been like a different child. She tests her limits every minute of every day. She’s been mean. Everything is “NO!” and “MINE!” She does things to try to make me sad. (She told me she wouldn’t give me a hug/kiss good night, then asked “Are you gonna cry!?” like she would be excited if I did) She’s been a toddler that I just don’t want to be around, as hard as that is to say. Thankfully, it’s a “to be expected” milestone of growth…but I hate it. It’s also being spurred by the fact that her sister is now mobile, and she doesn’t like it. Toddler tantrums are the worst. I just hope this whole phase passes quickly…and I hope you guys can talk through how to deal with these tantrums and get past all of it, too!

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    • Hugs, mama! I definitely know how hard it can be, and can only imagine how hard it is with a baby to care for during the tantrums! I know that if/when we have a second, Avery will be really bad with screaming “MINE!” Since she already does it all day with the cats!!

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      • Oh what’s even more fun is if she’s being super loud, it scares D and she starts crying, too! 🙄 I hear that once they hit 4 they get much easier to deal with. We’re more than halfway there!!

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  2. Tantrums are the worst. Charlotte went through few weeks recently where she was just completely out of control with tantrums, and it makes everything so dang hard. Val and I don’t always agree with how to handle them, either. You’d think we’d have a tantrum system in place by now, but nope! Hang in there. I’ve noticed for C that these tend to come in spurts. A week or two of hell, but then she regulates. Totally developmental!

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  3. I’m right there with you but with my 3.5 year old. Bedtime seems to correlate to tantrums. I used to love bedtime with our son because it was our time to quietly bond over books, songs and cuddles. I now loathe bedtime with a passion right now. It isn’t enjoyable for anyone, including the little demon monster screaming at me with his fists clenched by his sides. Last night I tried my usual calm, reasoning with him and he continued to freak out. So I did my last resort, I walked out of the room, shut the door and left him to scream and cry while I stood outside the door and cried too. He eventually opened the door and said he was done and was ready to read the book he had chosen. We both wiped our tears and he cuddled up and ended up falling asleep on my lap while we sang our songs because he was so exhausted from the meltdown. Toddlers are incredible little things who throw something at the parents to deal with, you get through it, you get a break for a short little bit and then they throw something at you again to have to work through. I won’t lie…I thought 2 was a tough year, but 3 is testing me like mad.

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  4. Bed time tantrums CAN be release of day’s tensions. SOME times instituting back rubs just prior to bedtime can help some children avoid the break down. SOME times it really is testing limits and power. SOME children really do not know how to unwind without a tantrum, SOME children like the ‘after tantrum’ calm and hugs and do not know how to get to those without the screaming and SOME times they can learn to ask for the hugs without the fit first.
    AND, it is OK for each parent to have their own method of dealing with tantrums as long as the base line of calm and not giving the child more power than they can handle is held. I know one family where one parent will leave the room and not return until peace happens and the second parent stays and has a different gentle method. Child responds to both because they know their parents are not together but different.
    Deep calm repeated breathing exercises is good for parents at such times. There are no perfect answers, the world is imperfect.
    AND YOU 3 ARE WONDERFUL MIRACLES… you bring joy to the world.

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  5. Checked with a peer who reminded me bedtime tantrums at 2-4 yrs are sometimes overly tired issues and moving bedtime forward 20-30 mins or even 1 hour, can sometimes end them. We often think children are able to stay up later but actually they are needing more sleep. 4:30-5p.m. protein based snack can help. Moving dinner AND bedtime earlier can help. Some children find bath at night too stimulating so bath time needs to move to different time too. Get them snuggles up and perhaps/maybe extend story time by 5 mins. I fully believe in pjs and tooth brushing directly post dinner then quiet play and no screens between dinner and bedtime helps. All of this can be tough on working parents! Much sympathy from my generation to yours!
    PS: Extra Hugs just before transitions always are good. Hugs are particularly good for parents.

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  6. RE IG post about little white dots on sweet potato leaf. Clearly it is killing the leaf therefore the plant. Odds it WILL spread very high. Put one in plastic bag and ask a master gardener at GOOD plant store or your local agriculture department expert. Knowing will help.
    LOVE the raised beds for your mom! SO wonderful so much help was there for her.

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