The sleep deprived ramblings of one full-time mom. I pretty much write to stay marginally sane and to make other moms feel better about themselves. You're welcome.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tantrums: Not Just For Toddlers Anymore

We expect toddlers to have tantrums. We may not enjoy them, but we realize they're age appropriate and we (usually) have the tools to deal with them and move on. But what about when an eight year old throws one?

I don't mean a fit in the grocery store or a falling-on-the-ground kind of display. I do mean a full-body, out of control, screaming tantrum. The parenting books don't cover that one. And our instant response is to think, "What the hell? He/she is way too old to be throwing a tantrum!"

And yet... Have we as adults been known to lose it now and then? Are we always calm, cool and collected simply because we've blown out a certain number of candles on our birthday cake?

Case in point. I recall a family trip to Colorado when my son was two. My husband and I were in one vehicle with Miles while my parents were in another car traveling with my (also two year old) niece. For the lucky few out there who haven't been on a road trip with a small child (or two, or three...), let me just say that the phrase "hell on wheels" takes on a whole new meaning.

We drove across the entire state of Kansas (an incredibly scenic trip filled and shit) and made our way to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The trip took about 13 hours, the equivalent of approximately 47 hours when traveling with a two year old. (It's like dog years.)

We arrived, exhausted and cranky and ready for a nap. The toddlers were also grumpy. My dad decided that he and my husband needed to run grab fishing supplies while my mom and I hung with the two overtired children. Someone had to buy food and supplies for the condo so I volunteered and took my son with me. Big mistake. Big.

Somewhere between the frozen food aisle and the bakery, I lost it. As in, shoved the cart away from me, yelled at Miles, burst into tears LOST IT. There were strangers staring, people pointing, and probably several calls being made to social services.

It was not my proudest moment. And I was 28 at the time.

Then there's a dear friend of mine, an amazing mom and an incredibly successful business woman who normally exudes poise. But one day she reached the end of her mommy rope after breaking up one too many sibling brawls, cleaning up one too many spills, dealing with one too many sassy kiddos. She ended up throwing the mother of all fits in front of her husband and children, jumping up and down and crying, LOSING IT.

Not the high point of her existence. And she was 36 at the time.

So perhaps I need to put things in perspective when my third grader fails to control his emotions. Perhaps I need to remind myself that even "grown ups" lose it now and again. If I can't always keep it together at 34, should I be so harsh with him when he can't at 8?

Maybe next time I'll take a deep breath, give him a bear hug and tell him I know how it feels.

Or maybe I'll just join him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

*wraps arms around you*

Remember the stuffed panda bear that took a flight across the playroom to land in an undignified heap at the base of the wall? Thrown by yours truly?

Yeah, I get it. I think the hardest thing -- for me anyway -- about tantrums thrown by "older" kiddos is that we are at a loss to comfort and control.

With littler ones the standard excuses of "they're tired" or "it's hard when you don't know how to communicate appropriately" spring immediately to mind. But when you know that they theoretically know how to communicate and/or feel that they "should be" able to take a breath and calm down, those excuses aren't always so immediate.

Your point is clear, though. Sometimes we just reach the end. THE END. And we are tired. And we don't know how to calmly articulate why the fact that the dishes are still in the sink and the kiddos are asking for another drink and the hubs is staring blankly at you because you happen to be the one standing in the kitchen at the time sends us RIGHT OVER THE EDGE.

The stressers are different. The reaction the same.

The thing that you pointed out that got to me the most wasn't that tantrums happen to us all, it's that it's our job to help the "older" ones learn how to cope with those out of control feelings. And how freakin' hard is that when we sometimes don't know how to do so ourselves?

Sometimes you have to let it out, let it go, rant and rail and throw things and physically exhaust yourself through emotion. Sometimes there isn't another way. But as parents we have to be strong enough and "with it" enough to coach our kiddos in what to do not only in the moment but after the moment.

How to get a grip.

They don't have books on that, do they?

You do a good job, lady. You are the mom he needs, and you are learning from him about you just as he's learning from you about him. It's a balance. Just keep breathing and you'll get through the next one, too.

By the way, I hope it's okay that I comment on each of these blogs. I sometimes wonder if you just need to write it out to find your own balance...y'know?