This is a picture of my son while he is calm and cool. But this post has nothing to do with him being calm and cool. I posted the picture because I like it. He was watching another child getting his face painting at a friend’s birthday party. The real story about this post is nothing calm and cool.
So the real story is, I met a good friend for drinks last night, and we ended talking about parenting for a part of the night. I was telling her that in my naive days (pre-baby), sometimes I looked at parents with a kid throwing a temper tantrum in public, and I would think to myself, “Why don’t these parents teach their kids some manners? I’m going to discipline my kids so well that they do not act out like this.”
Yes, go ahead and laugh at me. You have every right. And I’m not even being sarcastic.
So now, I’m “one of those parents” with a kid throwing temper tantrums in public.
Yesterday morning I was taking Joshua to gym class. After we got into the hall way, I closed the apartment door, and lock the door. At that moment, Joshua pointed up at my keys and asked for them. Sometimes I let him play with my keys at home, but not when we’re out in fear of losing them. So I gently said, “No baby, I’m not giving you my keys when we’re going out. Come on, let’s go to class.”
That set off something in him that I could not fathom. All the muscles and bones in his little body all of a sudden lost their usefulness, and he melted to the ground in tears. He screamed, “keys! keys!” He cried so loud that it echoes in our hallway. He rolled around on the ground like he was in pain, all the while crying and screaming. Neighbours opened their doors to check if someone was getting killed in the hallway. When they saw my limp child on the ground screaming, they awkwardly smiled and retrieved to their apartments.
So after gym class, I figured Joshua would be tired enough to be calmer. It was not so. Half way home, he demanded to get out of his stroller. I said ok. I took him out of the stroller and set him on the sidewalk so he can walk. It turned out that he didn’t want to walk. I put him back in the stroller, then he screamed. He didn’t want to be back in the stroller either. Then he demanded to be held. My back has been really sore lately; I was in no condition to hold this wiggly 26 pounder with one arm, push the stroller with my other arm, and walk 4 blocks uphill. So I left him in the stroller.
Well, he started screaming and crying, for 4 blocks straight. No amount of comforting and reasoning was doing any good. He would have none of it. The last block was walking past a busy bus stop, a grocery store, and a drug store with a lot of foot traffic. Everyone turned and looked for the source of the screaming. To top it off, he cried so hard that he threw up all over himself while some elderly ladies watched on.
Yup, that’s me! I’ve become one of those parents with a screaming child I cannot control.
Back when Joshua first started throwing temper tantrums a few months ago, I had to figure out what to do. I’ve heard parents raise their voices telling their kids to “Just stop it!” I’ve also heard, “If you don’t stop crying, you won’t get ice cream”, or the flip side, “If you stop crying, you’ll get ice cream.” I’ve also heard, “Boys don’t cry”, or “Everyone is going to laugh at you if you keep crying.” I just don’t like any of the foregoing. I actually thought long and hard about what I am going to do. At the end, I decided that as long as the environment is safe (i.e. he’s not rolling around on the ground crying in the middle of traffic) and allows for it, I’ll let him work through his emotions in his own time. If that involves him rolling around screaming in the hall way and all my neighbours think I’m a lousy mom, so be it.
My main reason for my decision is that I hope, in time, Joshua will learn to work through his emotions rather than denying it or avoiding it. I think it’s fine to be upset when you don’t get what you want, because feeling something is a part of our nature. I do also think that it’s important to acknowledge your feelings, and then try to deal with the feelings. So at his age, if he needs to scream and cry, I am ok with that. After he calms down (and he always does once he runs out of steam), I always tell him my reason for not giving him what he asked for, and I love him more than anything in the world. I hope one day he’ll understand what I’m trying to say. And I really hope that as he gets older, and gains more vocabulary, he can use words to communicate his feelings more.
So next time you’re walking around in Kits and see a little boy rolling around on the sidewalk screaming in front of Starbucks, wave! I’d be standing right next to him waving back at you.