March 12, 2012

My Daughters, Tantrums and Permanent Psychological Damage

The girls spent the weekend with their grandparents and Sara and I took FULL advantage of the time.

Friday night, we made pizza, watched an episode of Sherlock and went to see a few bands play at the The Altar Bar.  Good friends of ours, Neon Swing X-Perience was opening for the mediocre Reverend Horton Heat.  As usual, their set was awesome and they warmed up the crowd of aging Rockabilly punk fans for the two following acts, The Goddamn Gallows, and Larry and the Flask, both of which were really fun to watch.

Then Heat came on and it was time for us to go.  Saturday rolled around and we went to breakfast, followed by Sara going to a bridal shower.  Upon her return, we went to a potluck with the derby folks that culminated in 5 hours of skating, late dinner/early breakfast at Eat N Park, college-style, and back home at 3am.  Needless to say, it was an amazing time.

On Sunday, we drove up to the in-laws to have lunch/dinner and pick the girls up.

Harper was happy to see us and Brynn was napping.  When she got up, she was pretty happy as well.

Harper has been speaking more and more and has been prone to asking coherent, albeit short, questions.  This was clearly in evidence yesterday when, during dinner, Harper asked Sara if she wanted a certain salad dressing.  When Sara politely declined, she was faced with an inquisitive toddler, curiously asking "Why not?"

I was a bit taken aback and the momentary silence allowed the tyke to ask again.  "Why not, mommy?"

My unbearably adorable offspring gave everyone hugs and went down for a nap.  She woke up, screaming less than an hour later and all of the warm feelings that I had from her earlier inquiry quickly vanished as she went into full blown tantrum mode.

I am, or like to think I am, a relatively intelligent human being.  I think that I can tell the difference between Harper throwing a tantrum and when something is seriously wrong.

As I have stated before, I am prone to horrific nightmares and it seems that Harper has inherited this amazing trait.  Occasionally, she will awaken in the middle of the night, screaming for either me or Sara.  We go in, get her, calm her down, assure her that everything is ok and that we love her, and then put her back to bed.  The entire process takes about 5 minutes and she's back to sleep and dreaming of something other than being crucified in the desert by her close relations.

This was not that.  This was screaming, kicking, going limp and sliding out of grips, followed by more screaming and kicking and screaming "NOOOOOOOOO" at the top of her lungs.  For twenty minutes.  Sara tried to console her.  My mother-in-law tried to console her.  I tried to console her.  At this point, I decide that nothing is truly wrong and that she is throwing a tantrum.

At this point, my parenting style differs drastically from that of my wife and mother-in-law.  Were we at my house, the conversation would have gone like this:

Me: Harper, calm down, please.  Everything is alright and you need to breathe.
Me: Alright.  You're going to sit in your bed until you calm down.  I'll be right outside when you're ready.

However, that did not happen.   There was rocking and walking and screaming, and kicking and crying and soothing and shushing and more kicking and screaming for another 20 minutes.  Somehow, through the tears and limb-flailing, they managed to get her coat on and took her outside.  In the mean time, my father-in-law and I took the pleasant child on a stroll around the yard!

He is not sleep-walking.
I have no patience for tantrums.  Daily, I see at work the products of tantrums having been fed.  My students are often genuinely confused when I don't allow them to do whatever they want.  I don't really think my kids will grow up to be like that but the thought is always there in my mind.

At the same time, I don't want to stifle expression of emotions or ever have them believe that I don't care when they have something wrong.

It's a tough tight-rope to walk.  I have to get it right by the time they are 4 or they'll be screwed up forever and will hate me, right?

I need to stop reading "How To Screw Up Your Kid: 4 Easy Steps."

That book doesn't exist, but maybe I can make my millions writing it...


Kibler said...

Kevin was annoyed by his nephew constantly asking, "Why?" even when he responded with a reason. Eventually, he just started saying, "Physics." or "Biology." or "Algebra." very matter of factly and it shut his nephew up every single time. He has since tried it on me multiple times, but it never seems to work as well...

Justin Aion said...

I can't tell you how much I love that response. Harper has taken to asking Why Not, regardless of the appropriateness of that question. I find myself framing all statements to her in the form of a negative just so it makes sense when she says it.



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