I should probably not be tempting fate by putting this sentiment into writing. But here I go anyways!
Boy-o's tantrums have almost totally abated, confirming what we had had not let ourselves dare to hope. They were not the product of anything horribly, terribly wrong (you can't see me, but I'm actually jumping up and down, waving and contorting my entire body in a wonky prayer of thanks to the God/dess of children). The tantrums were, in large part, the product of yet another developmental leap. They were also a big old wake-up call - clueing us in to what we had suspected, but not yet confirmed. We have a sensitive and spirited child on our hands. He is beautiful and bright and inquisitive and amazing. But we've learned that Boy-o gets overwhelmed and overstimulated very easily. We've learned that we must cling to the mid-day nap like a drowning person clings to a life-preserver. And we've also learned to be better watchers for cues of our 4 household enemies: over-tired, overwhelmed, hungry and overstimulated.
There have a been a few concrete hard and fast rules that we've developed that have helped our rocky houseboat find calmer waters.
1. We never, ever, ever do more than one out of the house thing per day (and it's really best to have a day between activity days wherever possible). So if we have a dance class and get invited to a playdate immediately following - it's gotta be a no. If we have a dance class and I realize I just need to pop into the store and get something - I suck it up. One thing and one thing only. It is a pain in the ass. It makes me more isolated because I have to say no to things more often than I'd like. But in the larger scheme, it makes all of our lives happier and calmer.
2. Nap or quiet time is an absolute must. Every day. After lunch. Without fail.
3. Absolute consistency with tantrums, and developing safety rules for tantrums as a team. We came up with: 1. No hitting or hurting, 2. No throwing things, and 3. We have to go to our room until we are calmer (and one of us would always go with - this isn't meant as punishment).
4. Listening to him as well as expecting him to listen to us. If we are somewhere and he says "I want to go home," instead of blowing it off, we stop and take stock of the situation. What's going on? Is he overwhelmed? Tired? Hungry? We've learned that sometimes, we're gonna need to check out half-way through the grocery shop, leave the playdate or dance class or soccer game half-way through. Or if we are supposed to be going out and he insists he doesn't want to go - why? What's going on? Maybe we just need to stay in and chill out. We're learning to go with his flow a bit more these days - not always easy, but infinitely worth it.
5. Never, ever, ever go anywhere without snack. Lots of snack.
I'm not saying we're livin' la vida tantrum-free. But they are shorter in frequency and intensity - and they make sense. (As in, we are not having a tantrum because I committed the injustice of purchasing a watermelon at the grocery store and deigned to bring it home, even though it is one of Boy-o's favourites, I SHOULD have known better. This of course, made absolutely no sense, thus making the hurricane of emotions it evoked much scarier and confusing. Now it's more like, I am mad because you won't let me watch more TV, which makes sense. I'd be pissed if I were him too.)
The beauty of turning the corner on this phase, and of all of us learning new coping skills together, is that we get to go back to really enjoying watching him grow and learn and thrive in the world around him! Boy-o has been seeming so wonderfully and terribly grown-up lately. It's wonderful, of course, because watching your child flourish right before your eyes is such an amazing gift. And it's horrible at the same time, because there will always be that part of you that wants desparately to keep them small and wee and with you forever. He has been sprouting complex words in complex sentences, using amazingly imaginative play, delighting in his daily new discoveries, and just generally being a joy.
And I am so thankful right now: that I don't have to turn into the mom-from-hell anymore - not saying she's been vanquished - but she certainly creeps up less these days; that my Boy-o is way more Dr. Jekyll than Mr. Hyde; that Girlio no longer lives in a warzone; that we are all free to enjoy our days in a way that was just not possible a month ago; that we can focus on just being, as opposed to living for second-by-second damage control. I'm not so stupid as to think that we are in the clear - developmental leaps and challenges will be back. But I am so much more confident in our ability to cope with them when they do arise.
Life ain't perfect - but it sure feels like a weight has been lifted.
P.S. if any readers feel that their tots might have some sensitivity issues, I really, really, highly, and especially recommend reading: "Raising Your Spirited Child" By Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It made me feel infinitely less crazy during this challenging process.