Tandem tantrum breakdown…

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Getting juiced up and ready to go!

Yesterday was a Saturday. A lovely, overcast Texas afternoon that makes you want to spend the day indoors. Since we needed to go and buy the little weed some new clothes it seemed like a nice day to run some family errands. In the past this has not an incredibly successful type of event for us. When Jp was younger, his tantrums were outrageous and typically brought about bickering between my husband and myself over how to handle them in public. Bickering that typically resulted in us partaking in separate activities for the remainder of the afternoon –Jp and I watching movies and Chris on the piano playing Nine Inch Nails (oh please, make it stop, we get it, you’re mad)- for hours after the event, not arguing in front of our son, but not talking either. In our house we don’t fight…we ignore. Being passive aggressive is a house specialty in the Perea home.

Yesterday I thought to myself, “Jp has improved so much over the last two months, this is going to be fine.”

Famous last words.

The beginning of the trip was a portrait of an adorable American family. All smiles and laughs and inside jokes. Jp had his “listening ears” on and even picked out a toy in Toys ‘R Us without a fit or tantrum in sight (that store used to be one place I would not take him). He began to look a tiny bit tired after that so we made the decision to finish up and head to the grocery store, which was the only errand that we had to do and just for a few items).

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Toys ‘R Us..Success!

As soon as we hit the front doors of the local grocery market the tantrum started. It was intense. It was like a Tsunami hitting the beach. Damage control level ZERO. Now, I know that tantrums are something that all parents contend with. I know that it just a simple fact that children are incapable of controlling their emotions in these types of scenarios. Though with Jp it is even more tricky than your average child.

When he hits that level of emotional breakdown he not only cannot understand he isn’t even listening to you. There is no bribing, no typical taking them to the restroom to calm him, none of the things that are suggested are capable of averting him in these types of fits. So I have my own little way that I have learned through countless amounts of trail and error that work. Or maybe it doesn’t…but he knows when he has a tantrum that he has to sit in the cart and he doesn’t fight me about it. When the tears start then he has to sit in the cart (which he hates) and that will usually calm him after a few minutes because he may not care about rules and regulations and social politeness but he doesn’t want to be forced to sit in the grocery cart.

As soon as the storm began, I put him in the cart. Dad wanted to take him out and coddle him. I understand. It is the natural reaction of the parent to want to comfort the tears of the child. It is a basic human reaction. I have tried it a million ways from Sunday in tantrum town. But unfortunately, it is one that I have found typically makes it worse in these situations. Calming him doesn’t help in the long run…he has to calm himself. Though this is something that Chris doesn’t know because while I take Jp everywhere with me, Chris never takes him anywhere alone. Ever. So my methods have a reason and he didn’t see them.

Out of the cart -tears and flailing and screaming like a deranged banshee- he comes. We are trying to grab things as fast as we can but since I am not the one who made the list or knows what we need I end up with Jp in my arms while Chris grabs the necessary ingredients.

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Calm before the Storm

One of the reasons that I came up with the “Cart or Calm” rule is that I am a small woman. I am 5’3 and 120 pounds. Jp is nearly 40 pounds and over 3 feet tall. While I am bigger, when he is all raw emotions and flailing limbs, I cannot quite control him. It’s terrible, I know. But he is over half my size and strong as an ox. So here I am, trying to hold a tiny man who is going crazy like he has been sniffing those newfangled bath salts, and I am losing my cool. I am fine with finding my calm zen center while he yells in that cart and I grocery shop like he singing me a fine piece of classical music. I’m used to that. It took practice but I can do it without batting an eyelash.

Not this. This is a nightmare.

He is going berserk. I am trying to get him back into the cart but since he came out once I can’t use the old trick now. I can’t hold him. He does that ‘dead-weight-melting-to-the-floor’ thing (only my kid?) and now I am on the floor of the store trying to pick him up while he is trying to kick me. Is this really happening right now? Who IS this kid?! I literally cannot even get him off of the floor, much less off out of the store, and Chris is nowhere in sight as he is grabbing the rest of a very short list. The one bonus is that this is the first tantrum in public that I didn’t receive not ONE dirty look. This was a genuine moment where people felt sorry for me.

Yep, it was that bad.

Finally, Chris reappears and takes Jp from me. He calms down within a minute. Insert several expletives here. Now I am mad. If he had just let me do it MY way I could’ve handled it. I wouldn’t have looked like a crazy person trying to kidnap a child from the bakery isle. But no! We had to do it his way and I not only had one of the most difficult times I have had in ages…I lost my temper. I was not my usual calm self in the face of a tantrum. I was frustrated, aggravated, and furious. My face was beet red and I was muttering under my breath like a schizophrenic off their medication.

There is where my picturesque day went south.

I wasn’t mad at Jp. He has always had tantrums. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I was angry at myself for not handling it better and frustrated I couldn’t just do things my way since I am the one that has been through the ringer finding what works. We paid for groceries -still muttering, hair a mess- and left. When we got to the car Chris looked at me and said,

“Man, you really lost it back there.”

“What!? Wha..wha…what?! Of course I did! That was hard! Why wouldn’t you let me do it my way? I know what works! I do this all of the time! I am his mother!”

Great, now we are fighting. There is nothing worse than bickering with your spouse about parenting differences. Especially when, as moms, we almost always think we are right. So my husband looks at me- still practically panting with aggravation- and replied,

“Parenting is a team sport, Amber. I could have taken him. I know you have to find a way to deal with it on your own but when we are together we are a team. Why didn’t you just ask me to help? You don’t have to ‘put up with it’ when there are two of us there. Isn’t that the point of going together?”

Um…well…I don’t know why I didn’t ask for help. I should have. If you want him out of the cart, you hold him. It makes sense. Plus, you’re bigger and he knows better than to fight you. So why didn’t I? By the time we left I was so worked up but with that one statement I realized I shouldn’t have been angry at Chris because I was doing that ‘I’m supermom/martyr’ thing that I do sometimes. It’s like I have to prove that I can do everything, handle it all, that I never need help…it’s ridiculous and counterproductive to raising a child in a multi-parent home.

Ah, me. Why must I be so determined to be the ‘best’ at everything? Instead of just asking for help I ended up losing my temper and almost subsequently, my mind in the store. All because I am proud. I wish sometimes that my brain was like a computer and I could just go in and erase “programs” like Megalomania from it.

Maybe then I wouldn’t have post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks every time I pass the fresh baked muffins… 😉

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Childhood Development Parenting Parenting and Childhood Development

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Amber Perea View All →

I'm just living minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.

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