Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Tantrum

Last week my husband worked nights and Miss didn't nap.  That wasn't the best combination, and we had a few rough points during the week.  It reminded me of another time my husband was working nights and Miss had her first super crazy meltdown tantrum.  Aaaah, memories...


Okay, so I am floundering a bit with this "Terrible Twos" thing. I hate even saying that. "Terrible Twos." Having a nearly-two-year-old is not terrible. Most of the time, it's pretty great. But I have found myself in this place recently where sometimes, just sometimes, it is totally. crazy. psycho. During Miss's toddlerhood thus far we've had our share of "moments." Brief little fits. Minor tantrums. They were usually short and they'd blow over quickly. Miss could be distracted pretty easily, and if not she'd pull herself together without too much drama. The one area where we sometimes would have a big meltdown would be after nap when Miss would sometimes wake up in a terrible mood and just have a screaming fit for what seemed like an age.

And then we had today. This morning. My girl woke up like a little ray of sunshine, as always. We had fun playing and coloring and watching a little bit of Sesame Street. We pretended to be dinosaurs. She pretended to make lemonade. Then she said she was hungry so I took her in the kitchen to get a snack. I asked her what she wanted. "Bunny crackers." "Yogurt." Okay, no problem. I got out the yogurt, got a spoon, opened the yogurt and started to put it in front of her. Strawberry yogurt. Yum. Then she asked for a sandwich. I simply said something like, "Well honey, let's have a little snack now and then I'll get you a sandwich at lunchtime." Hello. Commence screaming. Seriously. She started howling like a banshee and did not stop. I tried all my usual tricks. I tried to get her to laugh. I said something like, "I'm sorry you're upset. Please use your words to tell me what you want and I'll be happy to help you."  Ha!! After a while of more shrieking I thought I heard her say, "bunnies," so to try to positively reinforce her "using her words" I got the bunny crackers out and put some on her placemat. She screamed harder. I ate her yogurt and tried to wait her out. She said "down" so I got her down from her chair, at which point she fell to the floor and continued howling. My husband, who was upstairs trying to sleep came downstairs and asked her why she was crying. She stopped for a second, said "Daddy" and then went right back to yelling. He looked at me, I shrugged, he went back upstairs with a comment to the effect of, "Well, I just wanted to make sure that you weren't knocked out down here or something . . ." The rest of what he said was lost in the noise of our daughter. I'm pretty sure that was his no-so-subtle way of saying, "Okay, since you're conscious, can you please do something about our child's insane wailing?" It didn't help that he happened to come downstairs during the part where I was eating her yogurt and trying to wait her out, so it probably looked like I was just chillin', having a snack, not realizing that our child had turned into a little puddle of insanity on the floor.

Anyway, it went on. I could describe the whole painful morning in detail, I'm sure, as it feels as though the scene is scorched into my brain, never to be forgotten. The First Big One. But I'll spare you the details. Okay, I probably already gave way too many details. So, we can leave it at, It Was Bad, and move on. I probably could have ended it rather quickly by turning on the TV or letting her watch Yo Gabba Gabba on the computer or something like that. But I could not bring myself to do that. It just felt like that would have been reinforcing a behavior I'm not anxious to have repeated. Okay, don't laugh, I know it will be repeated in some form quite a few times and probably agonizingly in public on at least a few occasions too. I'm just saying, I don't want to increase the frequency of the Tantrum From Hell by reinforcing it. I'm a psychologist. I'm all into my behavioral principles. I know them forwards and backwards. I guess I automatically get Skinnerian in my head when dealing with this discipline stuff. But I gotta say, this morning, I felt L.O.S.T. I wasn't mad. I wasn't really even upset. I just had no idea how to make it stop. I knew I didn't want to reinforce the behavior, but I also wasn't trying to punish her. She's almost two. She doesn't have good control of her emotions and still has trouble expressing herself. She's learning to deal with this stuff just like I am. But wow. I felt like I had been dropped into the deep end and had forgotten how to swim. I suppose, to stick with this simile, I managed to tread. And you know what eventually worked? I sat down on the floor where we had been coloring earlier, picked up a crayon, and started coloring. Within a minute she had stopped crying and was sitting next to me coloring away. Who knew?

So, I don't really know where I'm going with this post, except to say that I am finding more and more Mommy-moments when I really feel like I'm not sure what the heck I'm doing. I always end up just going with what feels right to me, and things turn out okay. But then I look back and analyze everything and wonder if I did it right and am I going to screw my kid up forever or is she going to turn into a raging brat because I didn't discipline her enough or did I do it too much and now she's going to be insecure or rebellious??? Maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration. I'm not quite that neurotic. But I do tend to look back on what I did and see if there's something I should do better or differently the next time. I guess I'm just making a mental note to myself that, even with all my principles of reinforcement swirling in my head, I still need to learn how to make it work with this girl. And maybe it will be different every time. And then I'll have to learn it all over again with Lass. And so on. So, I've come to realize that there is no greater in vivo learning experience than motherhood. This is my classroom.

After Miss's fit resolved, I got Lass (poor thing was just hanging out playing during the whole drawn out drama) down for a nap and asked Miss if she wanted to do some finger painting. This was a first for her so she had no idea what I was talking about, but she sure thought it sounded cool. So we got messy as our way to "make-up" (not quite the right word, but I liked the alliteration of the title) after the meltdown.
She liked squishing the paint between her fingers.
Masterpiece #1.
A bit of a lighter touch with this one.
After a while she got freaked out that her hands were so messy.
So she cleaned them off and got right back to it.
She decided to try tasting the paint and didn't much care for it.
For the record, Crayola's "washable" finger paints are indeed washable.
She seemed to like this set up better.
Aaand, we're done.
What better way to finish a messy craft time than with a bubble bath?
Hanging out with Lass at lunch time. We had no more eating-related meltdowns. She had forgotten entirely about the sandwich. For lunch she wanted strawberry yogurt and Cheerios. Unfortunately I had eaten the last strawberry yogurt while she was howling face down on the floor, but she was content with apple. And I wasn't gonna fuss about the lunch menu today. Apple yogurt and dry Cheerios? Sure.
And here she is proudly showing off her artwork to her Daddy when he woke up.
Before I click "Publish Post," I feel like I should say that I know this is my second post in less than a week that might seem like it has a bit of a "complain-y" feel to it regarding mothering a toddler. I am not complaining. I realize all the time how lucky I am to have these two little people to bring up in the best way I can. Sometimes I screw up, and sometimes I nail it, and always I hope that I will learn and get better. And this blog is my way of chronicling this journey, and sharing it, and helping myself to figure it out by getting the words out of my head. So that's it. Going to Arizona tomorrow. Wish us luck on the plane! Good night.


Things are back to normal around here this week and much improved, though Miss still isn't napping, which means she's a bit of a mess by bedtime.  But nothing like she was that day^^^  

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