Living with a four-year-old, I am no stranger to the temper tantrum. They didn't actually start during the so-called "terrible twos," but escalated quickly once little brother was born when Jabberwock was three, and honestly there are still days that we see several in one day. Most days, they don't make me totally crazy, especially since he's nice enough to save them for home most times, when I don't have the added stressor of an audience, judging me.
Monkey is closing in on 18 months, and already he has pulled a tantrum or two, collapsing in a wailing heap of limp, disintegrated skeleton when his will is at odds with mine. I try to verbalize feelings for the boys, help them to understand what they're feeling. "It's hard when you can't have what you want, sweetie, and I know you were having fun with that steak knife. But Mama just can't stand the sight of blood right now, punkin." I try to stay close to them, talk quietly, and hug them when they're ready to be hugged.
Above all, I try to show them a good example when I am feeling frustrated, angry, or otherwise upset.
And then there's today. I am a mess--a raging whirlwind of foul mood, ranging from all-out tantrum to sullen sulks. I am slamming doors and cursing under my breath, sometimes none too quietly. And I don't have any idea really what's wrong. Sure, there were lots of pretty damn annoying things that have gone on today, like when Monkey made a beeline for my water glass this morning and then fell on top of it, sending exploding glass all over three quarters of the main floor of our house, at the precise minute we needed to leave the house in order for me to make it to my meeting on time. Still, was it really necessary for me to slam my way out to the van, nearly shouting the f-bomb into my quiet morning neighborhood? Of course not.
Then of course there was the perfectly pointless meeting that I had to attend, without notice, without reason, in which I was being asked to do something or other about a big project for a student who is not my responsibility and who only has eight days left of school. This with at least seventy end-of-year deadlines looming and stress piled on like a deluxe super supreme pizza with extra double cheese. Still, was it really necessary for me to glower at the meeting facilitator, making it perfectly clear that I thought my presence there was ludicrous and time-consuming? Possibly not.
And yes, Jabberwock was being rude at the dinner table when he was shouting "Look at me!" fifty thousand times, getting louder and louder, at the same time waving a fistful of spaghetti noodles wildly, while dear husband was trying to have a conversation with me about some idiocy of George Bush's Israel visit. Still, was it necessary to yell so brusquely at the boy? Yes, it was true that he was being rude, both by interrupting and by playing with his food in such a way, and yes, he is perfectly aware of both facts. But why was I unable to stop myself from using that rough and mocking tone of voice? Definitely not cool.
I know I should do just what David suggests and go outside for a walk or take the van to the car wash, anything instead of sitting here, seething about nothing. I have this foul mood wrapped so tightly around me now that I can't even move, don't want to feel better. I just want to grit my teeth and feel miserable, I guess. I want to let everything around me annoy the hell out of me just because. Because maybe then I won't have to admit that this mood is not about the kids being rude or breaking things or even other people wasting my time pointlessly. It's all inside me, my own reactions, and I am not setting a good example for these two boys, who are always learning about how to be a grown-up. I think about that part of me that watches Jabberwock flinging himself upon the floor in a crying puddle, that part that thinks, "Get a grip already, jeez, kid." It wouldn't help if I said that out loud to my son in the middle of a tantrum. But I'm saying it right now to myself, and I sure hope it works.
I hope someone around here will still be close by to give me a hug when it's all over. And I hope I grow out of this kind of behavior soon!