Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Today my son had three full-blown tantrums.  If you think a tantrum is a trifle. You are dead wrong.

Motherhood didn't "change" me at all.  I didn't become someone different.  In fact I become a radical version of myself.  Motherhood cracked me open and let loose the Pandora's box of my collective self comprised of my history up until the moment before I pushed my daughter into the world.  Pandora's box, let me specify, is used here as in something that seems like merely a natural rite of passage--woman becomes mother--and yet has far-reaching consequences.  It turns you inside out.  It turns you upside down.  It doesn't change you at all.  It reveals who you were all along.  Needless to say, this is not something anyone can possibly believe if they read it in a book.  Nor can they believe it even when told by a very close girlfriend who has become a mom before them.  It cannot be learned.  It has to happen when your tiny baby cannot smile at you or cuddle you.  She cannot hold you, but you cannot hold her enough.  Your arms go numb and still you hold her.  Your entire being is aware at all times of her.  You know that she is your best self and yet you have no way of explaining what that means in actual spoken language.  So you sing lullabies.  Off-key and without stop.

It used to take years off my life when my babies cried.  And when I say cry, please know that they can scream in what seems like bloody terror.  I felt my blood chemistry lose vital strength.  I could feel my skin tighten around my glazed eyes and break into lines.  It was an out-of-body suffering.  It was terrible.  And then your hormones stabilize, somewhat.  You begin to understand that the little one is vital and resilient.   You get more than four hours of sleep in a row.  Sleep, that is a whole thing.

Now when my son throws a tantrum at the age of three and a half, the Pandora's box is opened--here used in the sense of letting loose all the dark stuff from within me.  Yes, I know he is riding the storm of his emotions.  I know I am not supposed to take it personally. I know he is not trying to be difficult or hurt me.  But when he gets backed into a tantrum and becomes a raging, weaponized munchkin, I don't want to wait it out. Or hug him.  Or empathize.  I want. the. screaming. to. stop.  I want to dodge the bullet.  Or fire back.

I distinctly remember reading parenting books before I had children that addressed the need to walk away and cool down.  I absolutely remember thinking with total certainty that I would never need to walk away from my darling child.  Ha.

The problem with a toddler throwing a tantrum is that you can't walk away--they will follow you screaming and pulling at you.  It's a logistical nightmare.  Or consider when a tantrum happens while walking on a major city street, in inclement weather, with a slighter older preschooler also along for the ride.  There are serious safety issues at stake.

Recent scientific advice suggests that the best response to a tantrum is to do nothing.  Just wait until you have a tantrum on your hands and see how difficult it is to do nothing, but do it in a way that communicates your loving presence.  I would rather, at times, literally do nothing.  But I hope that is not what they best scientific advice intended.

I've had friends on Facebook mention days when "raging bitch mom" appears and they have to figure out a way to put her back in her cage or medicate her.  Or at least feed her.  This is what I did not know about motherhood, especially parenting a toddler (or two), the raging bitch is inside me too.  And it ain't pretty at times.  But, once again, it is back to the resolve:  wait it out, stay close.  Don't take it personally.

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