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.