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Posts Tagged ‘tantrum’

L comes up with new, crazy-ass ways to be bad on a daily basis. It’s 9:45 PM and we hear him walking around after he had been sleeping. I go upstairs to check on him. He’s happy, gives me a big hug. His hair is wet. Really wet.

“Why is your hair wet?”

“Because I’m so cold.”

Hmmm. Not a good answer. I go into his room to tuck him back into his bed. His bed is soaked. The whole bed. From pillow right on down.

“Why is your bed wet?” No answer. “Did you pee?” (All over it?) No answer. I need to investigate further. I go into the bathroom where I find a soaking wet towel in the sink. Shit. What did he do??

Back in his room I begin to strip the bed. As I do I feel my blood pressure increase. My temper rises. Suddenly I’m seeing red. Here I go. I’m about to lose it…

“WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU? YOU CAN’T BE TRUSTED TO LIVE IN A HOUSE WHERE YOU HAVE ACCESS TO A BATHROOM??? ARE WE GOING TO HAVE TO START LOCKING THE BATHROOM DOORS? WE’VE ALREADY LOCKED AWAY YOUR SOAP AND YOUR TOOTHPASTE BECAUSE YOU CAN’T BE TRUSTED WITH THOSE, BUT NOW YOU CAN’T EVEN BE TRUSTED WITH PLUMBING??!!”

I can tell I’ve lost it completely. I am now officially crazed. I can’t stop. My anger is overwhelming. I keep screaming. It’s like a freight train. Unstoppable. L is crying. As I move around his bed, remaking it, I step on something wet. Underpants, lying next to a wet pair of shorts.

“What’s this?” No answer. “WHAT IS THIS?”

“I peed.”

“How did you manage to pee in underpants and shorts when you’re wearing a pull-up?” No answer. Uh-oh. Here comes the red again. I can feel the surge, my heart pounding. Suddenly I’m screaming again…

“WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?? WHY DO YOU DO THE THINGS YOU DO?? WHY DON’T YOU THINK? DO YOU THINK I WANT TO BE HERE SCREAMING AT YOU IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT? DO YOU THINK THIS IS WHAT I WANT? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BEHAVE?”

I went on and on with no sign that this tirade was ever going to end. T finally came in and ushered me out of L’s room. And now I’m here writing this while T finishes with L upstairs and puts him back to bed. Adrenaline flows through me. My hands shake as I type. I still don’t know the full story of what happened: what was water, what was pee or why. All I know is that I seem to be hanging on to the very last shred of the last tiny millimeter of the end of my rope.  I no longer have a cushion of patience, understanding or perspective.

I am well aware that I overreacted tonight in a big way. I screamed like a crazy person. Like a very bad mother. My throat hurts. I’m sure my neighbors heard through the open windows, even though their houses are far from mine. L is now back in bed sleeping, not 15 minutes after this whole episode. Clearly he was not terribly distressed by my tantrum, which only means that he’s seen it before. That he’s not shocked like he really ought to be.

This is The Ugly. This is what happens here that I’m sure doesn’t happen in your houses.

I’m so sick and tired of fighting all the time, of the constant vigilance I have to keep with L, the nonstop battles over every little thing all day long every single day. It’s just too hard. It feels so unfair sometimes. Like I was given the wrong child. This kid needs a better mother – someone with more patience and kindness. I give up.

Hello, Universe? You made a mistake. You didn’t give me a challenge I could rise to, but one that has totally destroyed me. Please check your records and make the appropriate adjustments. 

OK, the adrenaline has subsided. My tantrum is over. Now I’m just stuck with the shitty emotional cocktail of failure, weakness, guilt and sadness. Really, what was the big deal all about? He played with water? What the fuck is the matter with me anyway?

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“L, today you lose!”

This is what I found myself saying to L as I angrily and not-too-gently buckled S into the car. The truth is, today we all lose. I tried for a win, but it was just not in the cards.

Let’s back up to breakfast where L threw a fit because T made the wrong kind of oatmeal. Not between two kinds we have in the house, but between the one kind we have in the house, and a kind we once had, but have run out of. Offers of other breakfast items received a tongue out or some other rude response. L cried for about 35 minutes. Then he asked for raisins. I got some out, put them in a dish and gave them to him. He promptly threw the dish across the room and screamed that he wanted the whole container. (Something he’s never had, never been allowed to have, and he has no reason to think he would ever receive.) Here begins a second 30 minute round of sobs.

I’m still calm.

Instead of my usual engaging in the battle, sending him to his room where I have to stand at the door holding it closed while he destroys everything inside, I say things like, “That’s not an OK thing to do, even when you’re mad. It seems like you’re having a hard time controlling your emotions this morning. Can I give you a hug? Would that help?” (This offer was met with a defiant push.)

Meanwhile, S is having the kind of day where she falls completely apart at any perceived injustice. Including the fact that L is crying. She looks up to him and if he’s upset, then upset she must be as well. When he throws his milk cup, she throws hers. Then she cries for her milk.

I’m still calm. Against all odds. The cacophony in my house is something terrible. I turn on the TV and step away before I kill somebody stop being calm.

I decide that this day needs Something Big to turn it around. I know! It’s the last nice day before apocalyptic rains, let’s go to the super awesome park 30 minutes from here which has an amazing splash park where fountains shoot up from the ground, a train you can ride on through a mini zoo, a mini zoo, and so much playground equipment that a child could never run out of things to act crazy on.

I pack a bag full of towels, bathing suits, snacks, drinks, bubbles, and throw the bikes in the car for good measure. On the way L complains that it’s too long a drive.

Are you fucking kidding me? I think. But, “Hmm, OK, maybe we can do something else,” I say.

So I stop at a family mini-golf spot about 15 minutes away instead. This will be fun!

This was not fun. We got to the third hole, with difficulty, and that’s when L stuffed the tubes that the balls should go into and shoot out of full of rocks and woodchips, totally ruining the fun for everyone else ever.

That’s what did it. I did not stay calm. I dragged both kids back to return the putters, which had only been used as projectiles, and to the car. This is where I told L that he loses. I know he can’t possibly understand what I mean, that I tried hard, and now I will not try anymore.

Instead of fun, we’ll run errands. We go to Whole Foods. I sternly warn them that they do not want to cross me any more today.

Some fun with numbers:

4: the number of separate strangers in the market who looked at me, not unkindly, and said, “Wow, you’ve really got your hands full.”

2: the number of people who thought the kids were cute walking around with baskets on their heads who I offered my children to.

11:31AM: current time, the time when I effectively quit my job for today.

7 hrs 29 minutes: time until bedtime, I will be counting.

5 hrs 29 minutes: time until I pour a glass of wine.

14 years: time until L goes off to college.

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This is not working. My home life feels like a war zone. Everything is a battle. I have tried so many ways to get through to L, and he just seems hell-bent on choosing the fight every time.

Lately I’ve tried explaining that he has a choice. When he raises his hand to hit me I calmly say, “Think about what you’re about to do. Think about what you want. Think about how you can get what you want. Think about what will happen if you hit me.” This sometimes does the trick. On a dime he will switch from a hateful, spitting-mad psychopath to a sweet, affectionate boy. (Does this mean he’s a crazy person? Who can turn such big emotions on and off like that?)

Sometimes reminding him to think about it doesn’t work. When he’s just geared up for a fight, there is nothing anyone can do but live through what comes next.

I’m sick of it.

My two children are not getting the same kind of attention, love, and affection from me. I try. I really, really, really try to give L all the positive reinforcement, all the encouragement, all the praise, love, affection that I can. But it’s impossible to do sometimes.

At least 2/3 of my interactions with him are battles.

And those that aren’t battles are just battles that haven’t started yet. I can’t play with him because when the play time ends it’s a melt down. I can’t tickle, wrestle with, act silly with, chase…. I don’t get to enjoy him the way I want. The way he would love. With him I have to restrain myself. The more playful I am, the more crazy he gets, the bigger the fallout in the end.

It seems so unfair. All day long I could play with S. I get to chase her to put on her PJs. I’ve never been able to do this with L. Even when he was her age, he took the games too far. He’d run away, but not in a playful way. In a serious, I’m-running-away-from-you-and-when-you-catch-me-I-will-hit-and-kick-and-forever-try-to-escape-and-if-I-can’t-I-will-completely-fall-apart kind of way. It sucks.

And every time I play with S I think of all the good times L and I have missed out on. All the good times we’ll forever miss out on because he makes everything so hard.

I have tried lavishing him with attention and play, but he’s insatiable. It doesn’t matter if it’s one minute, thirty minutes, or three days. When it ends he goes nuts. Often he goes nuts in the middle just by taking things too far. Tickling turns into aggression. Chase turns into wrecking the house.

This isn’t fair and I find myself constantly thinking the terrible thought “Why can’t I just have two like S?” I think L has so much awesomeness going for him, but for some reason it’s like he’s choosing to just act terribly. I’m tired of it. I feel like it’s not fair to the rest of us.

Clearly I’m not handling him right. But every different thing I’ve tried has failed in a different way.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

I started writing this while T wrangled with L in his worst form. I felt beat up, defeated. I felt sorry for myself. Then I had to step away from the computer because after T came downstairs L begged, through hysterical tears from the top of the stairs, “Mommy, please come help me calm down. Please come up and calm me down.” He needed to sit on my lap and rock like a baby. He needed me to help him take some deep breaths, whisper nice things, sing him a song. And then that’s that. He’s calm, he’s happy. Obviously his emotions are just too big for him to deal with. He’s feeling out of control.

And now I feel like a shitty mom for wishing he wasn’t him but some S-like child instead. He’s just a little person trying to deal, and not figuring out how everyone else is doing it. And I’m right there beside him on his roller coaster. Going from hopeful to angry to defeated to self-pitying to sad to guilty and back to hopeful again. It’s an exhausting cycle.

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Let’s see, what have I been up to today? Well, trying to beat the heat, S and I have spent many happy hours in the bathroom drinking apple juice.

I have sung many verses of:

(To the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”)

Tinkle, tinkle on the potty,

how I wonder when you’ll pee?

You sit on the pot and you sit and you sit,

but nothing ever goes into it.

Tinkle, tinkle on the potty,

how I wonder when you’ll pee…

 

I’ve also sung many rockin’ refrains to the tune of “Let the Sun Shine in”

Let the pee come out,

Let the pee come out.

The pee-ee

come out!

 

All to no avail. The child is happy to sit on the potty, but as soon as she get the urge to go she either stands up and goes into the other room to pee on the hardwood floor, or she cries for her diaper. This sucks.

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The time: yesterday at 4PM.

The place: our swimming pool/back yard.

The offense: epic tantrum while friends were here.

The players: L vs the rest of the world.

The truth is that he was set up. Well, only in retrospect and with the help of my maternal neuroses. The real truth is that he acted like a huge jerk. (Yes, it’s totally OK to refer to your 4-year-old as a jerk.) But he was tired for legitimate reasons which were all really my fault. He was hungry, again my fault. He had been overstimulated, me again. And no one else wanted to pretend the kick boards were really secret treasure maps; I don’t take blame for that one.

“I HATE YOU! YOU BIG-BUTT! NEVER COME PLAY IN MY POOL AGAIN! GET AWAY FROM ME! STOP LOOKING AT ME!”

This went on for some time. My friend L took it as a cue to leave (who wouldn’t?) and in record time she managed to get her two kids out of the pool, into the van and speeding from the scene. But our entertaining agenda wasn’t over yet. I expected our neighbors with their 3 kids any minute for more pool time and dinner. Normally the thought of people around while L acted like a world-class brat would stress me out. But I’ve come to a realization: parents everywhere are suffering the hours of 4PM until bedtime. We might as well suffer them together! I was stuck with miserable L either way, why not have some other people around who might at least distract me for a while?

For various reasons including, but not limited to, overnight guests the previous night, several cocktails and a surprising number of empty wine bottles, and a big elaborate grown-up brunch, I sort of forgot all about feeding my kids lunch. (What, did you say Mom of the Year?) This was simply a case of a food emergency.

I cooked dinner. Fast.

“I WON’T EAT! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME! STOP TALKING TO ME! YOU ARE NOT MY FRIEND ANYMORE!”

This is where dealing with this child day in and day out finally gave me an advantage. “L, I bet you that if you eat you will feel better.”

“I WON’T FEEL BETTER! I WILL NEVER FEEL BETTER! I DON’T LIKE YOU! STOP TALKING TO ME!”

“If you feel better, I win. If you don’t, you win. It’s a contest.”

A competition of any sort? He was in. After two bites he is a changed person. After much more happy pool play, seconds of dinner and ice-cream, he said to me, “Mommy, I guess you won that one.”

If winning is defined as surviving my 4-year-old’s screaming fit in front of two separate sets of friends, I certainly don’t want to find out what losing looks like.

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You know what is absolutely not necessary in the world? Moms who tell you that their children never have had a tantrum. Especially when this comment comes as part of a conversation with another mom about how our almost 2-year-olds are suddenly willful, crying lunatics. Kids who have never thrown a fit? Puh-leeze! What utter bullshit!

This scenario happened to me at a party recently. The other mom has one child, almost 2 years old. She just experienced a mortifying public tantrum and we were discussing disciplining and consequences in public. A tricky topic for any mom, right? Something we can all empathize with and understand, right? Who hasn’t been totally mortified in the supermarket? I’ll tell you who. The little-miss-perfect mom standing to my left. Allegedly.

This mom, and other sancti-mommies like her, claims that none of her three children, ranging in age from 8-14, has ever had a tantrum or embarrassing public episode. Trying hard not to kick her in the knees or say something really, really snarky, I told her that she has some “special kids.”

Special, as in we should all be concerned for these poor catatonic children. Are they malnourished or in need of medical intervention? Is that the explanation for their apparent lack of a will? Or should I be concerned because they are being raised by a mother who is so desperate to appear “perfect” that she needs to tell strangers (who are openly admitting to their own kids’ horribleness) that her kids are beyond reproach to the point of being scarcely human?

Meanwhile, the other mom’s face held a crestfallen expression of parental failure. Why isn’t her kid behaving as well as this other person’s? Incredibly, she actually asked this crazy bitch for tricks and advice. The only thing more obnoxious than saying that your three kids have never thrown a fit, is taking credit for that nonsense. This mom was only too happy to share her perfect parenting secrets.

I then completely scandalized her by telling a fairly benign story of how I was once so mad at L while we were driving that I not only pulled the car over and stopped, but got out and walked far away. You should have seen the look on perfect-mom’s face at that one. You’d think by her reaction that I told her I had filled a sack with babies and kittens, tied some bricks to it and threw it into the river.

Can’t we all admit to our own struggles already? Why is it a secret that kids (and all people, really) can suck sometimes? And it’s not just parenting. Have you ever told someone something you’re struggling with only to be met with total righteousness?

“I’m really having a hard time watching what I eat and getting to the gym.”

“Oh really? My body is a temple and I couldn’t possibly eat one (organic, vegan, and sprouted) bite more than what I need to keep it working perfectly. And I’m just naturally energetic and disciplined. I’m up at 4AM for my daily 7 mile jog. I also do yoga 5 times per week, spin class twice and swim 8 miles on Sundays. Why don’t you just do that?”

“Fuck you.”

Can we have a national coming out day for average people? We can all proudly announce that we are good at some things sometimes. People could hold up signs that say “My kids watch TV!” and “I ate a pint of ice cream yesterday!” and “My kids are not gifted but I like them most of the time anyway!” I might need to pioneer a movement.
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We did it! I took L to another marionette show and we lived to tell the tale. Did he at one point lay down in the middle of a street, stopping traffic and alarming innocent bystanders? Yes. Yes, he did. But did he behave in the theater? Yup. So, it was more successful than last time.

It all began in the 6:00 hour when L came into my room and woke me by physically lifting the eyelid of my blissfully sleeping right eye. Into my eye, as if it’s a microphone, he not-quietly says, “I’m so becited, Mommy! Today we’re going to the movie theater. I got dressed all by myself!” He was dressed. “OK, Honey. Can you go back to your room for few minutes and let Mommy wake up on her own?” And can you please release my eyelid? “No, I’ll just stay here with you because I’m so becited. Get up now. But don’t take a shower.” Good morning.

I explain that it’s not a movie but a puppet show. He jumps for joy. He whoops it up. Then he stops and asks earnestly, “Am I going to be a puppet?” On the drive to drop S off, and then on the drive to the town with the theater, L explains that he’s going to wish on a star to become a puppet. But not a puppet. A real boy puppet. My end of the conversation consists of unenthusiastic unh-huhs and mmmm-hmmms.

We arrive an hour before showtime. Perfect timing for breakfast at one of my favorite spots. L charms the wait staff, charms a few other diners, and charms me into feeling hopeful for our outing. I also had a few coffee refills, which helped charm me. We hit the bathrooms at the restaurant and walk across the street to the theater. We’re 15 minutes early, perfect time to get a good seat upfront. (The marionettes are small and hard to see from the back of the theater.) The 15 minute wait felt long enough for me to give in and get L popcorn, despite my morbid fear of it. I spent the rest of the show on alert and ready to call 911.

The show, Pinocchio, was weird and a little boring, but L enjoyed it well enough. He especially liked clapping, so he was in an exceptionally good mood at the end of the show after all that clapping. We stepped outside into a beautiful day, so I thought we could stroll through town a bit and window shop. Big Mistake.

Note to self: quit while you’re ahead.

I was ahead. Way ahead. We had a great morning that included breakfast out and a show. I should have put the kid in the car and headed home. Why oh why didn’t I do that?

Instead we ended up in a store where L wanted to buy a button that said “Bullshit” when you pressed it. He also wanted to buy a fart machine. And a set of rubber balls – as in testicle balls, not bouncy balls – although he did not know what they were supposed to be. Clearly, I had wandered into the wrong store. We were nearing a meltdown when I spotted a set of foam Yo Gabba Gabba bath toys on sale. I thought I had the solution. I could buy him something, and have that something not be rubber balls.

He didn’t want it. We left the store, some of us walking some of us being dragged. Once outside, we had a full atomic meltdown on our hands. I pulled, I pleaded, I finally said “OK, bye,” and walked away. This is where he walked 1/2 way across a side street and apparently decided to lay down. I didn’t see that part because I was the awesome mom walking away from my 4-year-old. I turned around at the sound of a gasp, a shriek, and a honking horn. A crowd of concerned citizens began to surround L, who appeared to be injured or having some kind of seizure if one didn’t know better. A car was waiting for the street to clear. I felt like a royal douchebag as I pushed my way through kind strangers to unceremoniously drag a now boneless L to his feet and off to our car.

So, the verdict is that the show was a success. And yet I still managed to achieve a parenting fail by not pulling the plug while things were going well.

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