I am not my child's tantrum.

Recently, I was reminded of the fact that even small children have their own free will. It was a normal day, like most others really, EXCEPT it happened to be the day that Jane realized she could open the door to her room. She had been opening all the other doors in the house for a few weeks, and the one in her room was no different. I'm not really sure why she hadn't opened it before, actually.

Her not opening the door had its conveniences, the main one being that she would stay in her room at least (and her bed at most) during nap time.

Obviously she chose to discover her new skill during one such nap time, those sacred precious hours of the day when I can have the freedom to do anything I want so long as it's at home. I put her down, she got up and out of her room. I put her down again, she got up again. I put her down again, she got up again. Over and over, until finally I just realized that either I needed to install a lock on the outside of her door, or put her to bed when she was tired enough to want to sleep.

Fortunately, Jane is child who loves her sleep. I ask her, "Are you tired?" and she will say, "Yah." Those are times when she won't get out of her bed.

But put her down when all she wants is to be anywhere but bed, then you get a Tantrum.

I think she has entered that zone called "the Terrible Twos." She's usually a sweet child, but sometimes things happen that for whatever reason, she can't stand, and then she has a huge melt-down, starts screaming, pounding her head and fists against the floor (or whatever else is around), and is very difficult to console.

Like for example, the other day when we were taking a walk: I am trying to teach her how to walk near me and follow. We do this outside on the sidewalk during the day when there are few cars on the road. On this particular day, she really, really wanted to go to a friend's house. She signed, "Friend! Friend!" over and over. Every house we passed, she tried to go up to the (complete stranger's) door and knock on it. Every house. Finally, she couldn't take one more rejection house, and had a complete and total melt down. A tantrum. Fortunately, nobody was home, and she calmed down a lot once I forced her into the stroller. But it took a lot of work.

My librarian friend was complaining yesterday on facebook about the parents of a kid who was throwing a tantrum in the library. Pretty much all of her facebook friends declared the mom a failure, "neglectful", etc. One person wrote the following:

Yup, that's the Utah mentality. "Whatever I'm doing is way more important than EVERYBODY ELSE here, so they're just going to have to deal with my screaming child/reckless driving/holding up the checkout line while I have the cashier run my ...credit card 37 times, thinking maybe THIS time it won't be declined..."

Most people outside of Utah, aside from all but the most narcissistic, do, in fact, respect the people around them enough to absorb the inconvenience that their children/everyday lives pose, rather than foisting the burden on the general public around them.

There are always situations where there's nothing you can reasonably do (on an airplane with a sick crying child, for example), but 99% of the time, it's just the typical Utah attitude of "I'm much too important to be bothered with common courtesy, so f**k the rest of you. Deal with it."

Reading that made me laugh. Apparently this person has either never been around a 1-3 year old for more than five minutes, or he's never traveled outside of Utah. Newsflash jerkwad: they're like that everywhere. It has nothing to do with Utah. I guess you could make the argument that people in Utah are the only ones who have children nowadays, but obviously that's just me being tongue-in-cheek. Kids are everywhere.

Oh yeah, and it's soooooo selfish and "narcissistic" to shop for groceries to feed your family instead of dropping everything to shut down the tantrum.

Isn't "common courtesy" a two-way street? If the kid is screaming and the grocery line is ten miles long, I've had really awesome, kind people offer for me to go in front of them.

I hope this guy gets a colicky baby. That would serve him right.

My point is, cut the mom some slack. She is not her child's tantrum. Children have their own free will and sometimes it does not coincide with good behavior, and that does not make you a bad parent. I guess you could say that the parents are reflected in the sum total of the kids' melt downs, and how they change through time (hopefully decreasing until the kid is mild mannered and sweet all the time. Yeah right). But one public tantrum does not a bad mom make. Neither do several.

Here was my response to my friend's complaint:
I know you deal with this every day so it's irritating, and none of us probably understands exactly what went on with her, but I think you should cut the mom some slack. Terrible twos/threes suck. Maybe she doesn't have internet at home and... needed to send an important email from a library computer. Maybe she was desperate for some time in the library. Maybe demon child's older sibling had to be at the library at that moment so mom and kid had to wait there. I dunno. Maybe a lot of things.

Parents of small and loud children get the ability to tune out the crying/whining that gets on others' nerves. Sometimes we don't notice it's happening, force of habit. Probably not a good thing.

I guess what I mean is that sure, perfect parents would drop everything and remove a tantrumy child from the situation. Sometimes it's really hard to do that. Like if you were in a grocery store checkout, and the child starts having the same horrible, ear-splitting tantrum. Do you pick up the screaming demon and take him to the car, and screw those groceries you just spent forty five minutes picking up so that your family can eat, or do you endure the hateful glares from every non-mom around you so in 15 minutes it will all be over with?

Anyway, I know it's really hard for you to not be irritated because you deal with similar situations every day. When similar things have happened to me while I'm at my library, trying to check out but Jane is screaming her head off for no apparent reason, our librarian comes over and starts talking to her. Usually that keeps her quiet long enough for me to finish getting my books and get home for her nap time. I dunno, kinda sounds like you couldn't have done that in this situation, though.

I'm really glad that toddlers are small because that does limit their free will. I wouldn't be able to pick up a fully grown adult Jane and put her in the car when she has her meltdowns and tantrums.

I guess what I'm saying is, please try to be patient with parents with cranky kids. They can't control their child's actions.

Here's a story about my brother: My mom was in sacrament meeting at church with my older brother when he was a few months old. Suddenly, during a silent part of the meeting, my brother fills his diaper with poo in an extremely loud way. This offended a lady who was there. She told my mom that she shouldn't let him do that during sacrament meeting. I guess she didn't understand that she was asking his mom to control somebody else's bowel movements. So weird!

To be sympathetic to those who are not used to being around small children, I will finish with this story. A lady at my quilting group was talking about what her Christmas was like. Her parents or in-laws, I can't remember which, were excited to have all the grandkids over for the holiday. This was something like eight children under the age of eight, four of whom were under the age of three. Needless to say, it was a madhouse! My quilting friend was laughing because the grandparents, who thought they remembered, had actually forgotten what it was like to have that many kids around. She described it as a constant, steady stream of meltdowns. Which is about right.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. A good reminder to those of us without kids to be a little more patient and understanding with noisy kids, especially since I'll be in the same boat someday.


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