I’m intrigued by all the words associated with “tantrums.” Children can have a meltdown, hissy fit, blow up, let off fireworks, get in a huff or cause a scene. Of course, adults can have the same issues, but then it’s a different article and borderline abuse. I’ve thrown a few tantrums back in the day. I’ve also watched a few meltdowns wondering what in all that is holy had I done to be on the other end of such an emotional explosion. My initial reaction was that we were disturbing the general public. It wasn’t the best reaction. So all the parents out there in parentland learn from my mistakes.
When my child turned limp in my arms in an escape attempt to slide to the floor, I did what I could to get the chores completed. Yes, I’ve stepped over my wriggling child to reach a different brand of salsa than demanded. There were times when it felt like I rewarded “bad” behavior with juice and crackers and other times when I ignored it. I became a magician of distraction.
Recently at the store, a family was experiencing an epic tantrum. I could hear this child screaming from one corner of the shop to the other. While walking the aisles, I’d pass various people. One person nodded as if in solidarity because we understood that sometimes you need to get a job done while a two-foot-tall tyrant is staging a coup. Other people were annoyed, forgetting that they used to be children and not consistently stellar examples of polite society.
The child acted like a trapped squirrel wrapped around the head of the parent. The adult looked at me and over-explained that this was unusual behavior for their normally good child.
It hadn’t crossed my mind whether the child was bad or good. I wondered if it would be impolite to reach around them to get to the baked goods. The parent’s comment was heartbreaking. It is difficult to handle a tiny human without feeling pressure from strangers.
There is usually a reason for the behavior. My children were too young to communicate their emotional distress. The signs were there for me to read; I didn’t always have the time or the flexibility because chores still needed to be completed without the agreement of miniature family members. Other people have other reasons for tantrums.
It took time for me to realize that most people understand the complexities of childrearing because they have children, have family members, or were previously a child. The key is remembering the parent doesn’t need public guilt in addition to an existing tantrum. Be kind and let the parents know you are only staring at the cookies on the shelf behind their cart. Peace!