Friday, April 1, 2011

on tantrums

Let me begin by saying that I hate the word tantrum.  Tantrums.  Tantrumming.  It gets bandied about a great deal by parents and parenting experts and what people usually mean by this is: kids stomping their feet, whining, screaming, wailing, whathaveyou, and generally kicking up a fuss because they don't get what they want.  Ignore this, the experts will tell you.  Give them a time-out, say parents.  Don't allow them.  And so on and so forth.

I don't know what else to call the emotional outbursts I have dealt with.  I hardly know how to describe them.  I know they are not these things other parents describe as tantrums.  They do not occur because my child is trying to get his way and doesn't.  Because he wants a toy at the check-out.  I can see them coming from miles away.  They build.  Grow.  Intensify.   Bits of tired here.  Bits of anger there.  And then they pick up speed.  And then they explode all over me and anyone else in proximity. 

I knew one was coming.  We were off kilter.  I could feel it all day.  His sister got nailed.  I got slapped (and in case anyone's wondering whether I have a flight or fight response to getting slapped, I can tell with you certainty, I wouldn't recommend it.  I had to use everybit of deep breathing I have not to put up my dukes). 

And then, during bathtime - eruption.  A tiny thing, out of place.  A hairtrigger. 

And then 10 minutes of holding the naked slippery child as he rends his head backwards, slamming into my jaw, my forehead, trying to keep a hold on him, trying to keep him from damaging his body, his bedroom, me.  His small bedroom fills up with the overwhelming sense of this little body trying to run from it's own huge, collossal feelings.  And I am overtaken with the almost unbearable need to make it better for him, and wonder, for the millionth time in the past four years if my heart will hold up, if I am strong enough to bring him, me, us through it.  Breathe baby.  Breathe baby.  Just breathe with me baby.  I chant this again and again, while ducking, dodging, holding it all in/together.  I'm not sure how it ends.  But finally it does and we curl up on the floor together.  I finally remember to breathe too.

I fucking hate the word tantrum. 


  1. And yet--sounds like you did something right. Everyone's still breathing. No one's been picked up by Child Services. Good on you, mama.

  2. Mama T, have you ever considered your little guy's sensory processing? Whenever I hear 'tiny trigger' I think culmination of overwhelming sensory experiences... just mention because there is lots that can help if so... but I agree, you handled it well!!! So hard to see our little ones upset.

  3. Hey Eve - yes - we have definitely considered (and are aware) that there are sensory issues, and he has more issues than most with transition as well...

  4. Glad to hear you're in the know Mama T! So many parents are not, so I wanted to mention just in case. I seem to know dick about parenting but my other hat when I'm not busy having babies is OT if you ever want to chat it up about sensory stuff. I would feel practically famous and may ask for your autograph or something equally dorky.

  5. Eve - that would be amazing. Can you find me on FB through Daena's page?