I’m pressed for time, and my daughter and I are at the grocery store to pick up a couple things. She’s at that age where she still wants to be held and coddled, but she also wants her freedom — and rarely does she want either of these things at times that’s convenient for me. I’m rushing, toting her on my hip with a shopping basket in my hand and she gestures that she wants down.
Fine, I won’t fight it this time.
“Okay, walk next to me, honey,” I tell her, and she obeys. We approach the snack aisle of the health foods section and I pick out something I know she’ll like. Meanwhile, she grabs something else off the bottom shelf and continues walking in the other direction. “No, honey,” I say, picking her back up and taking the box (it was cookies, of course) from her hand.
Bloody effing murder. Her screaming triggered more than a few turned heads in our direction. As I whisked her away from the snack aisle, I held the box of cookies and even put it in our basket, thinking if I could trick her into believing we were buying them she’d be okay. Nope, not okay. Amid the screaming (which is now directly in my ear, because I’m holding her) I put the cookies back on the shelf and decided to just get out of there as quickly as possible.
Something similar happened in Target. She was trotting alongside me, getting all sorts of adoration from an employee near the checkout lines. But when it was time to check out and I told her to follow me, she stopped in her tracks and screamed at the top of her lungs. The employee’s face fell, “I didn’t scare her, did I?”
“Oh, god, no,” I said, scooping up my ball of wailing offspring. “She does this randomly, everywhere.”
I knew this was coming. Every new mother knows. They say the terrible twos actually start around 18 months and don’t end until…when do they end? Ever? But sometimes I feel like my PPD leaves me really ill-equipped to manage these tantrums. It’s not so much that I “lose it” or fear I might hurt her. In fact, it’s more of the opposite. I don’t know if I’ve become desensitized to her cry because I’ve heard it so damn much, but my instinct is to do nothing.
I’m not an asshole parent, so I’m not just going to let her scream as I stroll through the library perusing books or something. I’m aware that there’s a certain public etiquette, and it would be rude to allow my daughter to disturb everyone else’s peace. She did have a tantrum in the library recently, and I bounced her out of there so quickly I was probably a blur to bystanders.
But when I’m at home, it’s a different story. I would say daily, she probably throws three tantrums in the living room, six in the kitchen, two in the dining room and three in the bedroom — peppered with about 100 mini-tantrums throughout for good measure. Oftentimes, these are for obvious reasons — she wants to go outside but I’m cooking dinner, she wants to help cook dinner, or she wants that sharp thing up on that shelf there. Other times, she’s just upset. Bored, maybe. But I will not and cannot be her constant entertainer. It’s getting to the point where I feel apathetic and foggy-headed when she cries, and whether this is due to PPD or desensitization, I don’t know.
But what I’ve been doing lately is ignoring these tantrums. Or I look at her square in the eye and (somewhat callously) say “don’t be a brat.” Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. But my husband can’t stand my blase attitude about it. He interprets my reaction as giving up. And maybe I am, a little, because I just don’t have the energy sometimes.
But my husband wants to fix, fix, fix. When baby woke up at midnight while my husband was out of town on business, I called him, in hysterics, wishing he was with me. He rattled off things I could check — diaper, injury, fever — and we wound up fighting over the phone because he was so damn frustrated that he couldn’t be there to help. She actually did need a diaper change, pretty badly, and it worries me that my instant reaction as of late is to assume she’s just throwing a pointless tantrum rather than actually needing something.
But these experiences are kind of making me understand that “reasons my son is crying” meme. At a certain point, tantrums just get kind of ridiculous, and it’s hard not to just laugh/cry about it. My daughter has thrown tantrums over pens, paper, books, leaves, bibs that won’t stay on, bibs that won’t stay off, trees, a glob of food stuck to her hand, a locked door, et cetera ad nauseum. Dr. Sears would probably say she’s just trying to communicate and I must be sensitive to her cries. I would ask Dr. Sears to kindly step off, and acknowledge the fact that sometimes toddlers are completely unreasonable and NOTHING will please them.
(photo: HK’s creative distraction)