Golds and Silvers

I’ve just crawled into bed and tucked the covers under my arms when there is a soft, hesitant rapping at my bedroom door.

“Yes?” I call out, knowing full well who the teeny tiny rapping hands belong to.

“I need to give you something,” comes the calm reply.

It is nine-thirty at night, and I have just finished refereeing Sunny’s hour long tamtrum. I am exhausted, puffy eyed, and my arm is already sporting the telltale ache of a bruise forming in the spot that her heel made contact with me – several times.

We had been enjoying a relatively calm streak as far as tantrums go. They seem to ebb and flow with Sunny; tidal waves of emotion that arrive with the force of a tsunami and then retreat quickly like the gentle lull of low tide.

A year and a half ago they were occurring almost daily, seemingly provoked by the tiniest minutiae. I DON’T WANT TO STOP TOUCHING THE DOG’S EARS! Doors slammed, books thrown off shelves, shoes hurled. I WANT TO HOLD THAT REMOTE CONTROL! Slaps, kicks, screams, writing on the floor, covers pulled off bed.

Worse than the tantrums that seemed to be over silly things were the tantrums that seemed to come from nowhere, as last night’s was. Five minutes before her complete and total meltdown, Sunny had been tucked into bed, read to, kissed goodnight, and left to dream sweetly. And then, for reasons I’m still struggling to understand and she is still struggling to express, she got out of bed and went across the hall to her brother’s room where she grabbed a piece of the puzzle he was putting together right from his hand and then ran away. Then she proceeded to roll around on the floor of the hallway, clutching the puzzle piece in her tiny fist and waving it over her head like a lighter at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, all the while chanting “I’M NOT GIVING IT BAAAAACCCCCKKKK.”

Like most parents of strong willed kids, I’ve tried a repertoire of methods to deal with her tantrums, and in my case I’ve found that no two every work consecutively. Sometimes I can divert her before she escalates. Sometimes I can ignore the situation and she’ll come to the realization that she’s making bad choices on her own. But sometimes, and this was one of those times, none of my old standards worked.

When I tried to walk away she clung to my leg like a dryer sheet. When I sat in front of her door and talked to her calmly, she vaulted over me a three foot four version of like Nadia Comanechi in the Montreal Olympics. If I wasn’t so focused on chasing her down before she locked herself and the dog in the bathroom, I might have awarded her a 9.5 for her efforts. It was a warm night, and all the windows were open, and all I could think was that our neighbors probably rue the day we moved in.

Eventually, after sitting on her floor in silence for what seemed like forever, she calmed down. I tucked her into bed, told her that I loved her, and that we’d deal with the mess she’d made of her room in the morning. As I walked the short distance to my room, I had two prevailing thoughts. Number one, please don’t let this be a return to how things were a year and a half ago. All the attachment therapy and progress and identifying triggers and working on expressing emotions – if none of that worked, I don’t know where to go from here. Secondly, I don’t know how we functioned when that kind of thing happened nearly every night. It took everything out of me.

As parents, I don’t think we do a very good job talking openly about the moments when our kids are doing things that are less than perfect – or things that make *us* seem less than perfect. Tantrums are so often seen as being a parent’s problem, the result of over-stimulation, coddling, not paying enough attention, paying too much attention, spoiling, permissiveness or whatever else might be a possible cause. It’s embarrassing to think that you’ve done something wrong in your parenting, and as a result your kid is acting like the baby from Ghostbusters II when it was possessed by the spirit of Vigo the Carpathian.

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