Published on September 9th, 2013 | by Mutha Magazine


ASK A MUTHA: Tantrums!

Mutha asks Muthas, what was the worst tantrum your kid threw, and what did you do about it?

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Logan airport in Boston in the women’s bathroom rolling around on the nasty tile. Remember that Ada is a 2 year old the size of a 4 year old. I was getting glared at by some woman and I realized I hadn’t been glared at in a bathroom in years, and only ever for being queer. I picked up this giant kicking long-legged kid and carried her out. I was whispering in her ear kind talk about bagels and stickers because I felt so bad for her. She had wanted to pee in the big potty but we didn’t make it in time. There was a lot of deep, deep grief over that. – Shoshana Von Blanckensee

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It is difficult to choose just one tantrum, because my daughter has had a succession of small, repeated tantrums: her shouts over having to take off a blue tutu from a second hand store, her frustration over having to wear clothes or shoes, her cries when movie time is over. One that does stand out is when we were traveling through the airport. I don’t remember what had created her tension; perhaps it was the fatigue of traveling. I bent down to wipe her two year old tear stained face, and she said, “Don’t wipe my tears mama! I need my tears!”

I felt like there was a great truth in her words. We do need our tears. Since then, sometimes when there is no apparent reason for an oncoming tantrum I look at her, and calmly ask, “Do you need to let out some tears?” – Sarah Maria Medina

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My daughter is almost two-and-a-half so we are entering the storm. What makes an outburst a tantrum? Is it when the protest is unreasonable (to you)? She had a hilarious huge tantrum once because she wanted “blue one” pants, and we couldn’t determine which of the blue ones were the “blue ones.” Her head back sobbing sobbing sobbing BLUE ONE, BLUE ONE, BLUE ONE! But all her known blue pants were presented in turn. Blue meant something else. We didn’t understand. Blue was that thing, that thing we all want so much.

But then I think about when she screamed uncontrollably as I cleaned her after she vomited everywhere, and we were out cross-country on the Oregon coast after flight delays and hours driving. I was also covered in vomit and it was red from strawberries and chili and we both were in a warm shower. I held her close. I sat on the tile floor and nursed her, but she was still crying. I knew everyone in the hotel could hear. Was that a tantrum? It seemed reasonable that she was angry to be washed against her will. I didn’t know how sick she was; I’d thought she’d been carsick but it turned out to be a virus. I wanted to wash her. But she threw up again maybe 20 minutes later, then more through the night.

What do you do? Stay as calm as you can. We breathe and try. I say “You are angry. You want it. You want it but you can’t have it.” I say “I love you.” If she wants something and we have said she can’t have it (let’s say a machete or more likely a third granola bar), we don’t give it to her (usually). I hold her or I let her sit on her own and stand nearby. We give her space for a while then bring bunny and dolly into the picture to kiss her knee.  – Meg Lemke

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A few weeks into this endless, preschool-free season they call summer, my toddler threw such a grandiose shit fit in my favorite bakery that I fear I can never return. To her credit, she thought we were getting donuts, but the donut place was closed.  Next we tried a hipster diner, but the skinny dudes behind the counter were so bitchy about my mama friend and I toting four kids and two strollers that we just bailed. So, by the time we got to La Victoria, the scene of loudest 15 minutes of my life, she was confused, hungry, and had just been shamed by several 22 year olds with handlebar mustaches. I get it.

However, her choice to run into the bakery, find a seat at the back, and then scream at me at the top of her lungs, “GET ME TREATS MAMA!” over and over was not exactly a measured response.  I had the two year old we watch on Mondays with me in the stroller, and my mama friend had a toddler and a baby – all three of those kids, who are not in my family, were acting like angels while my little demon was wilding out in the back of the bakery, screaming and screaming at me, “WHERE’S MY TREEEEEEEEEEAT?!” I yelled back “Give me a minute! I’m buying them now!”

Struggling with the money, several pastries, the toddler in the stroller and the tourists who tried to cut me in line because I was going too slow for them, I admit I did not speak overly patiently with her. I suppose I should have shut it down, held her while I did the transaction, engaging her in the process so she could see what was taking so long. But I just wanted to push through.

Which might be my main tantrum tip (other than trying to prevent them in the first place by doing your research on where to go for snacks): don’t push through. Don’t be afraid to just change everything if that’s what it turns out your kid needs.  It’s not worth it.

We finally sat down with our gluten-full treats, and my daughter pretended that nothing had happened, that everything was cool. It’s safe to say that my mama friend and I were traumatized, and the other kids were looking at my daughter like she was a ticking time bomb.  She just grinned through her mouthful of snack.

My mama friend said the most affirming, non-judgmental thing she could in that moment, “Welp, that was dramatic.” It sure was. Therefore, next time I need a cream empanada fix, I’m saving my bakery trip for one of those rare moments when I can be completely alone with my pastry, to eat it quiet and slow. – Rhea St. Julien

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Exploring real-life motherhood, from every angle, at every stage.

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