The downside of vacation is you have to come back from vacation. When you’re four this is especially traumatic because what’s awesomer: your grandparents doting on you and feeding you malasadas and rainbow sherbet on demand or your parents making you put away your own laundry and trying to sell you on the homemade whole wheat pitas and crockpot falafel that they feel are an economic, healthy use of pantry staples?
So the last few days have been pretty dramatic. Case in point:
The little pink dot is Ms 4 screaming at the top of her lungs and refusing to move from the middle of the path at the zoo. The dude in the somewhat unfortunate shirt walking towards her in an effort to calmly and logically handle the situation is my sainted husband. The woman behind the cell phone camera cycling between laughter and stifling the urge to yell, “That’s right! STRAP YOUR CONDOMS ON, PEOPLE!” at passersby is me.
Why was Ms 4 shrieking like a burn victim? Because she had “leg pain.” The kind of leg pain that’s severe, intermittent, and tends to flair up when your persistent, whiney requests for donuts and ice cream are denied and your parents refuse to carry you all over the zoo. As public scenes go it was pretty epic. I give her props for committing to the bit.
Though I’ve digested my fair share of articles, books, and chats, I don’t follow any “parenting method” in particular. I kind of pick and choose from various techniques based on what seems to work and make sense given our personalities and circumstances. I try to make respect and mindfulness the overarching guiding principles.
Am I respecting my kid as a person? Am I actually thinking about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it? Yes? Then ok.
Only that’s not always easy to do. How do you act respectfully towards a pink clad ball of fury who’s busy screaming bloody murder at a very inopportune moment? And how do you make sure to be mindful when you feel pressured by the eyeballs of dozens of strangers who are either laughing along knowingly or staring daggers at you for forcing your poor injured child to walk?
We tried getting down to her level and talking to her.
Counting to three and revoking privileges.
“NOOOOOOO! CARRRRRRY MEEEEEEEE! I CAN’T MOVE MY LEGS!”
Reminders and reassurance of future opportunities to be carried and consume junk.
Appealing to her sense of altruism because from mommy and daddy’s perspective, man, is the middle of the zoo not the best place for tantrumming.
And then, finally, acceptance: Yup. You want to mainline high fructose corn syrup and be carried around on demand Cleopatra style. We’ve picked up on that. Because you’re causing an epic public scene. Apparently there’s not much we can do to stop you that doesn’t involve caving to your demands. But here’s the thing: We do not negotiate with tantrum-ists. So we’ll just hang out to make sure no one abducts you until you decide to get to the car under your own steam.
Now the day is over and I’ve been sated with dinner, wine, and down time, I’m trying to process this. And, honestly, aside from doing a better job of picking up on warning signs, seeing the tantrum coming, and heading it off at the pass by getting the hell out of Dodge I’m not sure what we would have / could have / should have done differently.* Not that there aren’t more things we could have tried. It’s more that the whole situation was a seat of your pants thing happening so quickly. Each spur of the moment judgment call precludes other options by default and you end up praying your experience, preparedness, and risk assessment ability stand you in good stead. Kind of like a way less dire “The Perfect Storm.” You’re thinking, “Man, I just hope we get through this.” Not, “Man, if only I had read more Harvey Karp.”
Perhaps tantrums are like potty training or skinned knees: they just come with the territory.
What has been your experience with parenting mid-tantrum? Please share your tails of epic public scenes and woe.
* If you’re thinking, “When I was a kid I *never* did that. We minded our parents. When they said it was time to go we went. We wouldn’t even *dream* of throwing a tantrum like that. And neither will my children.” I kindly request you call your parents and end your sentences with #ShitPeopleWithoutSmallChildrenSay.