Last week, fellow blogger Discount Diva gave out medals to moms with children who throw tantrums. As a mom of two children with epic tantrums I am not looking for a medal, just simple understanding and space to be a parent. Let me take you through a recent experience and break down for you what I, the parent, was thinking and feeling.
The library is one of our favorite places to go. It is rare my girls have an epic melt down there; maybe a little whining if they are not ready to leave. I usually remind them we can always come back and they’ll move on. So, I was at a complete loss as to why my one daughter went nuclear while we were at the library a few weeks ago. She knew it was time to leave and she was ready to go. We stepped into the bathroom to change her since she had an accident that soaked through her pants. As I tried to take her shoes off so I could change her she started getting whiny. This is where I start taking deep breaths because things could go either way here. She can continue to simply whine or start to completely wail. I changed her and asked her to wash her hands. Something happened from the time the paper towel hit the garbage can to the second she stepped outside the bathroom (I still have no clue what it was). She was on the floor flopping, kicking and SCREAMING. A high pitched, ear shaking scream. The kind that causes mass panic that a child is being abducted. Now here is where experts diverge. One group advises you not to react. Just keep the “demand” on her and expect that she will change her behavior. The other group advises to stop what you are doing and get down on the floor and hold your child. I have both experts arguing inside my head. I have another child in tow and I am carrying several bags packed full of kid gear who do I focus on first? I go from taking deep breaths to survival mode in only a second. It’s fight or flight and I’m looking to flee to the next open door!
There is no end to the screaming. No amount of gentle tones or soothing hugs is getting this kid to move. As we inch slowly to the door she’s screaming, “No! No! No! I don’t want to go out the door! I don’t want to go home! I don’t want to leave this place.” I start preparing my response to the CPS worker who will be greeting me when I get home. I try to muscle her through and tell her this is NOT OK. You NEED to get up and walk to the car NOW! I can feel my temperature rise and my heart beat escalate. Nothing is working and as we make our way out the door she’s screaming, “pick me up! carry me!!”
My mind is now a blurry fuzz of options: 1. I can walk away and leave her there- except we are on a busy corner with heavy traffic. 2. I could attempt to (painfully) carry everyone up the hill. 3. Just flop on the ground myself and start screaming. 4. Remain calm and drag her. I went with #4 and I keep my focus on just making it to the car. My mind is split between just taking baby steps toward the car and praying the other kid continues to be cooperative. If they both melt down at the same time I have no choice but to just plop down with them for one hell of a cry. Not even a good cry.
That’s when “Super Grandma” jumps in with her two cents. “My grand kids act like that I just step over them.” Oh, ha ha … yes I already thought of leaving my volcanic child here on the corner of a busy street while I walk to my car 10 cars away. I smile, nod, ignore her remark and keep walking. Then I heard the words, “just a bad kid.” I swear I could feel my hair catch fire. If I wasn’t so focused on keeping it all together I would have turned around and verbally blasted this woman.
A child having a tantrum (even in public) is only a small snapshot of their day. We don’t see the bigger picture of their day. What grandma failed to recognize is how hard I was working to keep it together and not flipping out on my kid in public. She also doesn’t know about the many sleepless nights I spend wracking my brain trying to figure out what I am doing wrong as a parent, or how I beat myself up because I’m failing at this parenting gig. Lady, I can assure you this is no cake walk for me. I do not enjoy, or ignore the fact my child can’t control her own emotions yet. It is actually painful for me to watch and feel powerless.
This day it was only one kid melting down. I have experienced tandem tantrums. (That’s where both kids melt down at the SAME TIME in PUBLIC. Usually when we need to get some place on time). I have heard a lot of hurtful remarks, “there’s something wrong with your kid!” “My kids would NEVER act that way.” “You’re kids are hyper.” “Good luck with that one.” “Her behavior is over the top.” “How do you put up with that?” “She’ll NEVER learn to cope with the real world.” These comments have come from teachers, strangers and even friends and family. They are all hurtful and none of them help me resolve the issue. They all feel like an F on my parenting report card. It’s hard to not look at my kids and think, “why can’t you just be like all the other kids?”
I have learned to deflect those comments by reminding myself how beautiful my girls are. The way their smile lights up a room, how they can be absolutely charming and how incredibly smart they are. I try to remind myself that they are still learning to navigate how the world works and their place in it. It is my job to teach them how to cope and how to identify boundaries. In those moments when I am under fire by other parents (and grand parents), it is MY responsibility to role model for my girls how to handle adversity. How I respond to those comments is going to teach my children how to respond to those same personalities when they are adults. Kids aren’t going to have it right the first time around. It takes practice and it takes repetition. My kids may not fit into any one size fits all check box and that’s a good thing. I have been called “persistent” “bossy” and “defiant” too. It is those traits that have made me the most successful in life.
So Super Grandma, go ahead and make your judgments when you see my kid melt down in public. You can assume the worst of me as a parent. But, keep it to yourself. If you really want to help give me a thumbs up, tell me it only lasts a short time and maybe offer to hold my bags while I walk my kids to the car. If you can’t do any of those things then please follow this protocol: take your right hand out of your pocket, place it over your mouth and keep walking.
To my friends and family, before you quickly judge that mom at the store who is just loosing it on her tantruming child, or you see her trying to wrestle her kid into a car seat while the kid is kicking her in the face, just think she isn’t enjoying this moment. Remember you don’t have the whole picture. This is one small peek into their day and is not an accurate reflection of this persons parenting style. It’s easy to forget that, so I offer up the same protocol listed above.
I rarely share how hard it is to have twins because I don’t want anyone to think I am looking for sympathy. Motherhood is just hard no matter the cards you are dealt. With twins, most people assume one twin is “easy going” and the other is “difficult.” I am blessed with two formidable little ones even Hercules would bow to.