My Mother’s Revenge

by Lori Dwyer on May 21, 2010 · 14 comments

Mushi mushi,

Does it come as much of a surprise to anyone that I was a somewhat difficult child?

I’ve blogged before, back in the early days, about how I was weaned onto apple juice at six months old, after months of continual screaming. It didn’t help. Eventually, my mum’s doctor told her to put me in my cot, shut the door and walk way. It wasn’t ‘controlled crying’ as such- she had already tried that and it hadn’t made a lick of difference. It was more because the doctor was concerned she was going to have a nervous breakdown from the stress of a continually screaming baby.

It’s an odd thing, a screaming baby. Irritating, if it’s not your own baby, indeed. But if it is your own baby, it is just heart wrenching. It’s designed to be that way, biologically. Your child screams at the exact volume and pitch to cause you maximum anxiety.


All for good reason, of course. It’s so SAHM’s don’t list their children on EBay with a Buy It Now price of 55 cents AUD including postage.

Whatever. Anyway, within the first year of my life, I almost gave my poor mother, bless her heart, a nervous breakdown with my crying.

And I wish I could say that was the only time I almost gave my mother a nervous breakdown.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t.

Lori, toddler-style was apparently just as bad, if not worse than, Lori, baby-style.

As a toddler, I was, much to my mother’s dismay, a prize winning tantrum chucker.

My parents were both shocked and awed at the veracity and aggression such a tiny, deceptively cute child could produce. My tantrums were the stuff of legends. Kicking, screaming, biting, hair pulling, clothes screwing frenzies that went on for up to an hour.

And we all know the only real way to deal with toddler tantrums when the child in question is not distressed (which I rarely was), but simply trying to throw their weight around (and very, very cranky).

Ignore them. Or pretend to, for as best and as long as you can, anyway.

Easier said than done.

My mum says a particularly low point for her was actually locking me out on the upstairs balcony one day when I was about three years old, in the throes of being an uncontrollable banshee. I stood there, screaming and attempting to kick in the door for the next 15 minutes.

And that was just fine with Mum. Because at least if I was trying to kick down the door, she knew I wasn’t throwing myself off over the railing of the balcony. Which was her main concern.

These tantrums continued well past the ‘terrible twos’. I vividly remember still having tantrums like that at about six years old. In fact, I can remember chucking a massive tantrum when I was sixteen.

But that’s probably the topic for a whole ‘nother blog post.

The funny thing here is, I remember, with perfect clarity, how it felt to be in grip of a tantrum like that.

And it was never pleasant.

I remember burning up from the inside out with rage and frustration. I remember feeling so out of control, unable to stop hateful words screaming from my moth, unable to stop my hands from squeezing and screwing whatever was closest, just to let the anger out. I remember feeling like I desperately wanted to stop. I remember knowing I should stop. That this was just upsetting everyone.

But I also remember, very clearly, being completely unable to stop, no matter how hard I tried.

And I remember the terrible shame that followed.

Shame is a heavy, suffocating thing for anyone, but especially a little person, and especially when no one else recognises that that is what you’re feeling, and you don’t have the vocabulary to express it.

It’s an emotion I hope to avoid, for my children, if I can.

It’s probably not going to be easy.

You see, it seems that God, with her slightly warped and twisted sense of humor, has dished out my mother’s revenge.

I am now, myself, the proud mother of a prize winning tantrum chucker.

The Chop’s tantrums are ferocious, screaming, kicking ordeals. If mummy is quick enough and smart enough, she can attempt to diffuse to situation before it begins with reasoning or distraction. But if Mummy is too late, or distracted by the humdrum of everyday life, and a tantrum starts… well. Within a period of two minutes, the child is inconsolable.

And here’s the bit that breaks my heart, every time. My darling little boy, once the anger is over and the beast is soothed. Coughing and choking on his tears, telling me “Mummy, sick”. Climbing onto my lap for a cuddle, asking for a dummy and his Humpty, wanting to be rocked. Feeling so tired now, overwhelmed and exhausted. His emotions spent, his anger over.

And what is left is the shame.

Which is why I could never deny him my affection, my love, during the tantrum come-down. It’s why I will fetch for him his objects of comfort, why I will scoop him up into my lap and cuddle the fear and pain and shame away. Tell him I love him, and smother him with kisses, just as soon as he will let himself be held. And remind him that it’s OK to be angry, but acting out like that makes everyone unhappy.

I only hope that is enough. I can’t control his temper for him. I can’t take the urge to scream and rage away.

The best I can do is be his soft place to fall.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Justine May 24, 2010 at 8:39 am

and that's what makes you such an awesome mummy – cos you give him the perfect response so that the shame doesn't destroy him: love.
So he knows he's still ok :)
Isn't that the big developmental challenge for the age (Erikson? Shame vs ? efficacy? (can't remember. no brain. lol. Will look up earlier).
But you didn't need some smarty-pants psychologist to tell you.
You're awesome. So's chop!


lori May 22, 2010 at 10:02 am

Oh, poor little guy. At least you know what he's feeling when he's in the middle of it – that's really the best you can give him at this age – understanding and comfort. I hope you give your mum the best mother's day presents ever for putting up with you! haha.


Mich May 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Like you Lori, I was a tanty chucker and as a teenager, I had exhausted my mother to the point where she very loudly cursed me with 6 daughters all to be as horrid as I was. And as you know, I have already got 3. And they too are prize winning tanty chuckers. (which is plenty) and am adamantly refusing to have anymore at this point in time. as I know due to a genetic issue with each pregnancy I have a 3 in 4 chance of having a girl.


Kerry May 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Oh my. What a strange doctor for telling your mom to do that.

I've learned to tune out my kids' cries but not in a bad way… I guess.

I'm glad you're able to revisit that situation and not be destructive about it. And now you're learning from it with your own. :)

Thanks for stopping by my blog.


Jen May 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm

You are a wonderful mum Lori. So often I watch my daughter lose the plot and I flash back to the way I was at a child, karma is a biatch. I wish I had of read this this morning before DD drove me crazy with a tantrum, thankyou for the reminder on how it feels to tantrum and to let go of my own frustration and anger and yo hold and hug her. xo


Epskee May 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm

That's just how I was, and is just how my son was. Still is, even.

It's so hard, and you're exactly right about the small window for deflection. As my boy (now 9) grew, I learned to anticipate, read the signs, and even sometimes pick a fight with him. The idea being that if I could let some of the anger & frustration out for him at a controlled time/place, it would lessen the eventual outburst (inevitably due at the worst time and in public)

You're doing great. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Anyone who says you aren't have no idea what they are even commenting on.


Teacher Mommy May 21, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Oh, so very hard. So very hard. I was a Strong Willed Child myself, putting my parents through hell. I clearly remember throwing a tantrum when I was about eleven. My mother (bless her saintly heart) never lost it with me, but that day she turned, looked at me, and said, "I hope that someday you have a child Just Like You."

The kicker? I stopped the tantrum, glared at her in horror, and said, "Mother! Don't curse me like that!"

And now I have two.

God has a nasty sense of humor sometimes.


Thea May 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm

And they're the best cuddles!!


In Real Life May 21, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Awwwwww…it is those cuddling, calming down moments that he will remember and gather strength from as he grows. He will know with all certainty how much his momma loves him.


Brenda May 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Awww. You're an Awesome Mama, Lori.XO

PS. That Karma dudette is a royal beyotch. The end.; )


Wanderlust May 21, 2010 at 10:00 am

Oh, that's really very sweet. Emotions can be such a monster. I'm sure that means a lot to your son that you are his safe place. My Anna loses her temper every now and then. It's rare, but when she does she seems to escalate out of control and needs to have some time alone to find her center again. Once she does she also needs lots of cuddling and reassurance.


Kylie May 21, 2010 at 8:06 am

Aghhh!! That "your" that should be a "you're" is now sticking out at me like a sore thumb! Sorry!!!!


Kylie May 21, 2010 at 8:05 am

How lucky is your son that you can remember what it's like to be in the tantrum. While your frustration level may rocket during the event, you understand how he feels and the importance of the love and kisses afterwards. Your son won't feel shame, just relief that while you don't enjoy his tantrums, at least you don't hold them against him. Your are a great mum.
BTW, I'm not suggesting your mum wasn't understanding of your tantrums, you don't discuss the aftermath, I just wanted to praise you for your handling of your sons!


Lucy May 21, 2010 at 7:28 am

This makes me want to cry. You are good Mummy, you know that? xx


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