Tag Archives: rage

The History of a Tantrum: For the Well Meaning Bystander

Have you ever seen an adult dragging a small child kicking and screaming down the street, stuffing them in a vehicle and peeling off down the road? Just so you know, it might be me. I sometimes wonder if you passers-by have a moment of concern about this situation. I wouldn’t be offended if you took a second look, I’m all about protecting children.

No doubt you would soon notice that A) the shrieking midget in question bears a striking resemblance to her “kidnapper” and B) the perpetrator is exhausted, overwhelmed and most likely close to tears herself. No one WANTS to be that parent, the one getting all the pitying and/or disapproving looks on the way to the grocery checkout. If you think it’s a pain to be stuck on an airplane with a crying baby, try being the Mom who feels the weight of everyone’s displeasure.

I remember the good, old days. The “I have one well-behaved child” days when everything was neat and orderly, and I had all the answers. I knew in theory that there might be more to a situation than I could see, yet my inner dialogue usually went something like this “Tut Tut… listen to that bratty child carry on. Some consistent discipline and clear expectations is just what she needs. I would never let MY child behave like that.”

It’s not that my opinions and experience as a parent and daycare teacher were wrong. Reality is just so much more complicated (and exhausting) than all the theory in the world. I look back at that smug, certain parent I used to be and I cringe. I was so quick to offer answers and advice, so sure that I understood the challenges of parenting… so completely untested.

So, next time you witness a monumental melt-down give me a break. If you have to look, look closer. My daughter may be 7, but she is developmentally delayed and so are her emotions. There may be a long and complex back-story to this split second in history. There may be extenuating circumstances. Or there may be no good reason whatsoever, just a bad day all around.

This afternoon as my howling child trotted down the sidewalk of a busy street, all by herself, in the rain, without a jacket – it was all of the above. She had just had a blood test. It happens every few months and lately, each one is worse than the last. While two lab techs hold her flailing arms down, I try to keep her still, pin her legs down with my own and sing”Jesus Loves Me” in her ear. I haven’t yet found a way to make her understand how necessary this is. No amount of candy bribes, stage appropriate explanations and fun games in the waiting room seem to make a difference. She gives me a look of such utter betrayal each time. Then it gets even worse when they slap on the band-aid, something she hates almost as much as the needle itself. The minute she was off my lap today, she was out the door and down the street with me in hot pursuit.

In the end, it was only a moment in time, a bad moment, but over quickly. She’s happy now, showing off her war wound and telling her daddy all about her “dee-do” (which we think means needle). She is painting a picture with bingo daubers while her sisters are doing a science experiment (aka – messing up my kitchen). And suddenly I’m feeling like a good mom again, but I’m pretty sure I was this afternoon too, even though it didn’t look like it.

So here’s me, with a lot fewer answers, and hopefully, a lot more compassion for the next tantruming child I meet.


**it Happens.

I was in fine form this morning. I lurched out of bed and a curious smell wafted down the hallway. Nothing says “Good morning” quite like this: something our family fondly (okay, not so fondly) refers to as a “craptastrophe.”

And it was all downhill from there. The big girls fought about absurd and unimportant things for hours on end. The checkout lady at the grocery store was the slowest moving land mammal on the planet. My usually attentive husband was watching a mind-numbing golf tournament all day.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Well, they don’t call them truisms for nothing. I was selfish, resentful, impatient, angry and altogether ugly today; so the whole family followed suit.

As my 9 year old stood before me weeping, I kicked the rant into high gear. The yelling was beyond a tone of voice. It felt good to embrace the rage. When I was finally done dressing her down, she hiccupped, “Can… I .. uh… just… uh… say… something?” Grudgingly I allowed her to speak.

This happens often when she’s in trouble. Regardless of how clear the situation, she launches into her version of events, hoping to explain her superior perspective. I suspect she may end up becoming a lawyer like her aunt.

Usually, this only gets her in more trouble. Today, however; at the end of her halting explanation, I was appalled to realize that the entire thing had been a misunderstanding on my part. She hadn’t actually done anything wrong.

That was the low point.

There’s no other way to say it: shittiest parent in the world.

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I wrote this two weeks ago and haven’t quite brought myself to post it. What would be the point? Not only is it an exceptionally un-flattering peek into my world, it is just so depressing.

But then I remember how that day began:  Craptastrophe. For us, this goes beyond a poopy diaper. Thankfully, what was once a bi-weekly experience is now a rare opportunity to test our parenting metal. Our daughter occasionally dabbles in something the developmental psychologists call “smearing”. Perhaps it is a convenient medium for her artistic endeavors. Perhaps she is trying to clean it up. Whatever the reason for this bad habit, when things are very quiet and very smelly, we know what to expect.

I’m sure you have the mental picture: it’s on the sheets, on the walls, on her clothes, in her hair… And if that’s not disgusting enough, she gives us her usual toothy grin. Yep, it’s in her teeth too.

Even now, when we gag and complain and offer each other outrageous favours to do the clean up, she’s still cute and sweet and altogether wonderful to us. We love her just as much even when she’s covered head-to-toe in shit.

Cause that’s what family does. They love me, not matter what: even the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad version of myself. Whatever clean up needs to happen – an apology, several apologies, an anger management course, a time out… I know that they’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs.

So here’s us, shovelling it together.


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