Hey Kid, I Won't Let Your Tantrum Break Me

by Kristen Hewitt
tantrum parenting
Kristen Hewitt

Today was one of those days for the books—the kind of day you know you’ll always remember but can’t wait for it to end.

It all started at 5:30 a.m., when the threenager woke up too early. She has been ill and wanted to color. And that’s when the first battle began—before the sun was up and before I’d had coffee. Over crayons.

“They’re right in front of you on the table honey!” She replied, with that whiny tone that makes you cringe and want to stick a fork in your eye: “But my legs are soooo tired. Bring them to me!” Yeah…no.

Kristen Hewitt

How about reaching across the table?

Twenty minutes later the tantrum ended, and I’d ignored every single second of it. It really is freeing to not respond when they’re pulling on you. It’s ironic that she could get up to yell and pull my shirt, but those little legs didn’t have the energy to propel her toward the crayons.

Next up was our 6-year-old who was a little crabby as well. She was nervous that I might be leaving town to go on vacation. My mom, who normally watches the girls, had a bout with pneumonia and was just released from the hospital, so things are uncertain and that was upsetting to our sensitive girl. “I don’t want you to leave. I don’t want to go to art camp, I just want to be with you all day! Baa wah wah!

After breakfast, I could see another meltdown brewing. It happened when the outfit I chose was awful and then when the braids I wove weren’t tight enough, and finally when the poop wouldn’t come out. “Why aren’t you encouraging me to get it out?!” she screamed at me. Everything is mom’s fault, if you didn’t know.

Kristen Hewitt

Evidence that the braids indeed were tight enough and beautiful.

In the sweetest and sappiest voice I could muster, I said, “Oh, sorry honey! Push the poop out, push, push the poop out! Did that help?”

“No, I’m not going to camp!”

I calmly talked to her about positive self-talk, and how she would feel better soon. I knew she was feeling anxious and needed a bit of reassurance and attention. But after a few minutes, I needed a time-out, so I said a prayer. “Please God, give me the strength to stay calm and not react today.”

That’s when it happened.

I brought her some apple juice with probiotics to help her tummy, and when I handed it to her, she knocked it out of my hands. I was shaking with anger and beyond frustrated with how horrible the morning was going. I felt my mouth open and was about to yell “Noooo!!!” But instead, through clenched teeth, I made another vow to myself not to react.

“I understand you’re sad, frustrated, angry and tired, and it’s OK to have these big feelings. It’s even better to cry and get it out. But it’s never OK to use your hands and act this way. Please clean it up and get dressed now.”

To think, just 10 hours prior I called my husband to cancel the trip—his birthday trip and our first time alone together in almost two years. I felt guilty, and sad, and scared the kids would be miserable, especially without my mom holding down the fort. I was once again putting their needs before my own. But what the little buggers didn’t understand was their behavior gave me strength. It reminded me how much we desperately need a break and motivated me to try to make this trip happen—no matter what.

She ended up going to art camp, unhappily, but had a fun day. And I learned some valuable lessons from our little assholes this morning.

It doesn’t matter how cranky you are, you can’t ruin my day unless I let you. Change might be hard, but you’ll get through it. Because while routine and consistency might be great most of the time, sometimes you just need to try something new. And Mommy and Daddy can’t be there every second of every day, and that’s totally OK.

Unfortunately, our trip had to be postponed, and my dreams of Sin City, fancy restaurants, and sleeping in will have to wait. But at least now I have a renewed energy and strategy for coping with their outbursts.

Let’s hope I can remember this the next time they act like assholes, which will probably be tomorrow when I make pancakes instead of waffles for breakfast.

Anyone want to babysit?