Saturday, September 15, 2012

Anatomy of an epic tantrum

My son is pretty crafty. There are some days when he just knows how to ask only questions to which the answers will be no.

Can we watch another Wild Kratts? No, you've had enough TV today.

Can we have gum? No, you've had enough. (And the last piece you chewed wound up ground into the carpet.)

Can I do computer time? No, we're about to eat dinner.

Can you get my tracks down from the attic? No, we're going to eat dinner in 10 minutes. (And I have chicken juice all over my hands and a whining 2 year old cornering me in the kitchen.) 

Can I? Can I? Can I?  (I probably should correct him and say, "May I?" or "I don't know, can you?")

I feel the most panicked and overwhelmed between 4 and 6 pm every single day. And he knows it.

It's the last two hours before Daddy gets home. I have one more kid than I do all day. I have to get dinner together or wrapped up and simultaneously deny food to ravenous children so they'll eat that dinner.

Friday afternoon was no different. His father wouldn't be home until after dinner. The younger kids were happy to be kicked out into the backyard. Not Danny. His mission was to pester me until he got a yes.

And then I served up the no that made the 5 year old snap. Danny Boy didn't just snap, though; he went bat shit crazy on me.

I gave him choices: Go outside to play or play in the playroom. 

No deal. He began to scold me for daring to tell him no.

I told him: That is inappropriate. I will not talk to you when you are disrespectful. Go to your room. 
No deal. He plopped himself atop the trash can, gritted his teeth, and clenched his fists, frantically looking for some object to take out his anger on.

A freshly picked green pepper was within his reach. So he crushed it. (Insert confused, bemused look here.)

I repeated my request. Several times. Calmly. He repeated his refusal. Several times. Loudly.

I asked if he needed me to carry him up.

NO. I don't want to go upstairs.

Oooookay. I proceeded to pick him up off the trash can. He started grabbing onto whatever he could.

Then he ran from me into the dining room. I decided to go through the hall to meet him there. He poked his head into the hall, saw me and ran the other way.

I went to the kitchen door, he poked his head in, saw me and ran. We repeated this dance a few times.

Did I mention he was screaming, "I don't want to" at the top of his lungs the entire time?

(Now let me just point out right here that the parents who say things like "My child knows better than to do that" or "I would not tolerate that" really have no idea what this kind of intensity is like. My inability to shut him down immediately does not mean that I tolerate the tantrums. My child somehow does not know better and that is not my fault.)

At this point, panic sets in. My thoughts race.

Is this really happening? I can't chase him. Hell, I can't catch him. Oh my God, I can't catch him. OH MY GOD, I can't lose this battle. I bet so-and-so's kid would never do this to his mother. I wish I had a tranquilizer dart gun. (Seriously, this thought crossed my mind.)

After thanking Lucy (the crazy lady in my head) for her input, I told her to sit down and that I would be handling this. And instead of seeing that white hot flame of anger in my head, this time, I saw something different. I saw what was actually happening. It was utterly ridiculous. I laughed as quietly as I could and found some non-crazy thoughts roaming around my head. That's when I spied his beloved Hot Wheels loop track.

I reached for the track and began to talk calmly over his screams.

"Here's what's going to happen. I'm going to take your car loop and your pillow pet and put them back in the treasure chest until you can control yourself," I told him.

Well, that certainly got his attention. Or at least it got him to the stairs where I calmly repeated the go-to-your-room mantra and he screamed his I-don't-want-to mantra some more.

Another impasse. Great. Thank God the other two play so well together. At this point, I had no idea where they were. (My guess was the backyard since I heard running water from the spigot.)

I had no idea how to get him up the stairs as he was now clinging to and hanging from the railing. So I just started walking. He followed but continued to dig in his heels, refusing to go to his room. At least he'd stopped screaming at this point.

I stepped into his room, took a good look around and said, "What else do you want to lose today?"

I reached for Dennis the monkey. He freaked and ran into his room. Finally.

After about 20 minutes of screaming and wall kicking, he came to the top of the stairs and asked if he could come down. I told him, "Only if you can tell why you're up there."

And he did. The rest of the afternoon he played with train tracks in the playroom without incident.   

Mommy, 1. Danny, 0.


Cindy said...

So proud of you!!!!

Monica said...

awesome moment of clarity. wow. i have sooooo been in these battles and i don't seem to have those moments of clarity. so, yay you! i will think of this post (maybe - or try to, anyway) the next time i am battling the insane will of the three year old (which is a little like stepping through hot coals on your way to hell).

Dirty Martini Queen said...

I found your blog yesterday and read the entire thing with tears just running down my face. You are living thru some of the same shit that my mother went thru raising us three hellions. She started young and had all of us before her 21st birthday and we're all less than 2 years apart so it was total chaos in our home! But the great news is that we all lived thru it and are now productive 40 year old somethings with families that drive us nuts too. Growing up what I remember my mom saying more than anything is "I can never have anything nice thanks to you damn kids" which was usually uttered after we had destroyed furniture by jumping off or on it, or maybe after we painted the new wallpaper with paste and hung up our construction paper mess from school, or maybe it was after we ate all the flintstone vitamins, baby asprin or even the chocolate candy bar "exlax" which we did more than once. Or my daddy's favorite saying "When you kids are grown and gone, don't be bringing any grandkids home to us expecting us to babysit. I'm building a one bedroom house so you can't come back once you are out" And of course, nothing could be further from the truth because they kept thier first grandchild overnight before he was even a week old!

My husband and I are childless by choice after 25 years of marriage but I'll be reading your blog from now on. I may not be a mommy but I grew up in a home where kids fought, ganged up on each other, terrorized each other and other misc things but above all loved one another. We had an instigater(me), a ADHD (middle brother) and a baby brother that was way too laid back for his own good. We lived thru it and so did my parents!

Josee said...

Oh my goodness, Donna! Your siblings sound like my kids. My daughter is the instigator and half the time we have no idea what she did, just that she did something and the boys are all upset. my oldest is ADHD and the baby is pretty laid back as long as he can suck his thumb and play with his penis! I tell my husband that we're selling the house and living on a houseboat when the kids move out!

I'm glad you like the blog. It's totally therapeutic for me. I go back and read things from a year or so ago to remind myself of how much worse it could be and I'm amazed that I've survived!

God bless.

Susie said...

I really enjoy the honesty of your blog...your life! Blessings!