I am very lucky I know because Mirabelle rarely has a real blow out tantrum. However when she does she does so in spectacular fashion. Once started, her crying and shouting kept getting louder and louder and so after a few minutes I decided that it was time we left. Outside the story room door she hurled herself onto the carpet, thrashing away and screaming even more loudly. It was impossible to talk to or try and reason with her, so in the end I had to drag her kicking and screaming out of the library, all the while watching the astonished faces of onlookers witnessing this little ball of fury being dragged back to our awaiting car.
Even though we all know these tantrums are just part of toddlerhood and are not something to be taken personally, that it is just a rant and rave at life, it is very hard not to get emotionally invested yourself. At such times I find myself just wanting to join in, feeling the urge to jump up and down and shout and scream too!
So, when I opened this month's issue of Parenting Magazine I was delighted to see they had a feature on ways to help deal with such situations entitled "Before You Explode, Read This!". So I did, and then I started to laugh, and in the end I could not stop laughing. Why? Because I have never seen such a ridiculous set of suggestions for coping with those nightmare moments in Mommyland in all my life. Let me share with you what they suggest and see if you agree.
They suggest that if for example, the kids are fighting, dinner is burning and the cat just threw up on your new rug, you do one of the following:
1. Pop a life saver in your mouth - apparently they believe that sucking and concentrating on the flavor will make you feel calm and tranquil
2. Carry around something meaningful - something that reminds you of a peaceful time, like a pebble from the beach, with which to recall past moments of tranquillity
3. Count backward from 15 to zero - breathing in and out as you count and "observe how irritating thoughts have left your head"
4. Recall the smell of your Grandma's kitchen - remembering the smell of fresh baked pies will transport you back to soothing times
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!?!? THAT'S ALL THE ADVICE YOU HAVE TO OFFER WHEN I AM AT BOILING POINT AND IN A CRISIS OF MOTHERING?!?!?
For any of these "solutions" to work the mother in question must surely have had a lobotomy and/or be taking multiple prescription drugs or have been transformed into a Stepford Wife. I'd just like to take a moment to comment on each of these suggestions:
1. Life saver sucking: for those of us living in the real world, how can you seriously expect sucking on a life saver to be of any help whatsoever? They are not really life savers dear Parenting magazine, they are just called that.
2. Carry around something meaningful: if you are like me, you spend all day picking up the things your child discards whilst also pocketing the tokens of affection they find and lovingly give to you. At the end of the day my pockets are full of all manner of strange objects: beads, acorns, dried up dandelions, coins (my daughter prefers real money to play with), things my daughter is not meant to play with but somehow has got her hands on again like my rapidly disappearing (and meagre to begin with) jewelry collection, bits of tissue paper, soggy bits of burst balloon and many other items. There is no room in my pockets for pebbles from the beach and even if there were how on earth is that really meant to help in a time of crisis?
3. Count backward from 15 to zero: when confronted with a screaming, thrashing child how on earth are you meant to achieve that when you can't even hear yourself think???
4. Recall the smell of your Grandma's kitchen: imagining "fresh baked pie smells" isn't going to do it for me either, it will just remind me of the fact that life at the moment is anything but full of heavenly scents!
So having read the Parenting magazine article I am left no better equipped I fear for the next challenging moment. Although it certainly made me laugh.
The only thing that works for me when things get really bad is to either put myself or my daughter in time out. On the day of the library meltdown when we got back to the car and my daughter showed no signs of calming down I did both. I put her in the car, shut the door and waited outside in the freezing cold. People driving by were no doubt wondering who this crazy woman was, standing alone by the road side on a wintry cold day, shouting at the sky (my way of letting off a little steam was to shout out loud). In the meantime the car was rocking back and forth as Mirabelle angrily jumped up and down, screaming and shouting all the while.
Eventually she calmed down and I got in the car with her. As with all toddler tantrums, once over it was as if it had never happened. So when all was calm again I tentatively asked Mirabelle why she had started shouting and screaming in the library. Her answer? "I didn't want to go to story time." I wish she'd told me that before we left home that morning.
So does anyone have any tips for those moments when we Moms come dangerously close to exploding? If so please do share them. It is after all in the world of blogging where we find real Moms trying to deal with real Mom problems and not the unhelpful platitudes these Mom magazines sometimes dole out!