I’m sorry to keep harping on the tantrum thing. Of late it’s become somewhat of a pattern: he wants to keep doing what he’s doing; he insists on doing everything “all by myself”; I tell him it’s time to do X and he decides he’d rather do Y.
Before these tantrums started in earnest (say, three or four months ago), I had nearly broken my arm patting myself on the back for having the patience of a saint with my toddler. Me, a notoriously impatient person! I could handle this mothering-a-two-year-old thing with aplomb, without losing my cool. As all the books and experts tell you to do, I would give him a choice of two things, he would choose one and we moved on. To my surprise, this technique worked for a long time.
But the game has changed. On Tuesday, he will officially be two and a half years old. He’s smart. He’s fiercely independent. And he knows how to push my buttons mercilessly. He’s got my number, all right, and the patience I thought I had seems to have evaporated overnight. The other day I lost my temper with him and yelled and swatted at him in the car. Shaking and near tears, I apologized, hoping that the tantrum I'd just thrown in response to his hadn’t scared him or lost his trust.
A good friend of mine says it’s good sometimes for them to see that we have limits too. I don’t know. I’m not sure what it is about having a child, but everything you thought you wouldn’t tolerate, everything you thought your child would never do, comes back to you in spades. It’s a lesson in control for both of us. Sometimes I can’t control the situation, or his behavior, and it scares me. Sometimes he can’t control the situation and he lashes out, angry and frustrated, wanting to do something by himself or on his timetable, and I can’t let him.
There’s where I can see common ground. It’s just being human. We like to know what’s happening to us, to be aware and in control and if that is taken away from us it’s frightening. When I step back, I recognize and understand how he feels. And it always passes.
This morning we were again at an impasse. It was time to leave for preschool and he wanted to play in the house with his trains. I could see him start to get upset and knew what was coming. Sure enough, two minutes passed and we were in full tantrum mode. This time I did keep my cool, but still had to force him into his car seat. Once we were on the road this time, I only had to endure a couple of minutes of yelling until he stopped and asked me quietly “Mommy, did you lose your temper?”
I said “No, honey, but you lost yours.” He sniffled and said haltingly “I’m sorry Mommy.” Then he asked “do you love me?”
That was the sound of my heart shattering into a thousand tiny pieces. The fact that my baby could formulate a question like that blew my mind. He is full of questions these days: what is that? Why did you say that? Please can I have this? Many times, he already knows the answer before he asks. I told him, over and over again, that I loved him, praying that this was one of those times.