I thought I was done with tantrums.
I mean, my twins are nearly six, and we’ve had one year free of embarrass-mom-in-public moments.
Most tantrums I barely remember, my body activating the Parenting-Amnesia reflex, the one that enables moms and dads to crawl out of bed the next morning at 5:45.
There are some vague memories of tantrums floating around my hippocampus, though. I can recollect fireman-carrying my son out of a bookstore when he was three, screaming and kicking through the Children’s Section, the Self-Help Section, and then the Fiction Area (how I wished it were fiction). I can remember dragging my daughter’s arm through the library turnstiles, knowing the rest of her body would follow….all to that two syllable Meltdown Soundtrack of “Mommmmeeeee,” screamed with the urgency only children can.
So needless to say, I was gobsmacked by my son’s twenty-minute tantrum at the mall last week.
After post trauma analysis, this meltdown revealed a cause-and-effect relationship:
KNUCKLEHEADED PARENTING IDEA = TANTRUM = OPPORTUNITY FOR PARTIALLY-REDEEMING PARENTING MOMENT
Allow me to elaborate.
Knucklehead Parenting Idea, Part 1:
My kids were quick enough to potty-train during the day, but ultra-slow to demonstrate bladder control at night. I should have left well enough alone: they’re water drinkers, their doctor said not to worry, and the pull-ups did the job. But, tired of spending 50 cents a day on diapers, I introduced The Reward. In this case, Build-a-Bear: you know, that chance to spend $40 on a stuffed animal wearing a baby shirt?
Of course, Vivian, being extremely competitive, rose to the challenge. She was night-trained months ago, and never forgot the Build-a-Bear promise.
Knucklehead Parenting Idea, Part 2:
Take both kids to Build-a-Bear to purchase a reward for one kid. Yup, this follows much the same logic as opening a can a beer in front of a newly recovering alcoholic. I explained to William that we’d get him a Good Brother Award somewhere else (“At the Dollar Store?” he asked, genuinely excited). But when he saw the machinations of Build-a-Bear and the menagerie of stuffies, he freaked out. A good mother would’ve predicted this tantrum. Not me. If I once saw the glass half full, it was now empty and cracked.
Full-on, writhe on the floor, scream, beg, jump-up-and-down, cajole. The thing was, I partly agreed with him. It was unfair. So I called my husband for moral support – or to ask for permission to get William a Build-a-Bear too. My husband encouraged me to stand firm. More tantrum. Screaming. To one passerby mother, I said, “Want another son?” She looked at me with schadenfreude. I called my husband again. He said he had no idea what to do. But that brief adult contact gave me my idea.
Opportunity for Good Parenting:
“We’ll go buy you two toys, William!” I said, mustering as much enthusiasm as I could. He stopped writhing and said, “You’re not listening to me, mom.” Fair enough. I paused, trying to repress my solve-all-conflicts gene. He continued, “It’s not fair. And I’ll never get Build-a-Bear. I still pee in my pull-up. I try not to, but I still do.”
What a freaking awful mom I am I was I sometimes am. Epic fail. On so many levels here.
So I listened, so we went to a department store, so the Patron Saint of Stressed-Out Mothers smiled upon me: we found an $8 stuffy with the name “William” on it. There was no Vivian teddy bear, nor was there a Leanne bear. But there was a William. Finally, he felt special and appreciated. A chocolate mini-egg rounded out Toy 2. And when we returned to Build-a-Bear, the kind worker (who witnessed the tantrum at her store front) did a give-your-bear a heart ceremony on his stuffy too.
Good to know that I have to go through this one more time…when William gets his Build-a-Bear after his nighttime pull-ups are history. Not to mention every night when he sees his sister’s gigantic pink bear named Heartsy.