Matt has a terrible temper. I have a terrible temper. So it really should not have come as much of a surprise to us to discover that we have generously passed this fantastic character trait on to our daughter.
Even so, this last week has been really tough. I wish I could know what’s going on in that little girl’s mind as she struggles to navigate through her emotions and toddlerhood.
The tantrums are becoming louder and longer. When I walked to pick Alice up from nursery this week, she decided that she didn’t want to walk home and nor did she want to stand on the buggyboard. So, we decided instead that we would wait outside the nursery doors in some kind of Mexican standoff. What ensued was a meltdown of monumental proportions, where she simply could not be placated. I let her work through it, as she screamed and lashed out at various inanimate objects; kicking people’s prams and scooters, and de-leafing innocent bystanding plants. However, instead of working it out and calming down, she kept getting more and more agitated. This carried on for about fifteen minutes until my patience ran thin and I ended up walking half a mile home with her under my arm. Which, incidentally, is the second time I have had to carry her like that this week.
She has also been painfully contradictory. Irrespective of whether she has asked for something, if you then present it to her the world goes into meltdown and a full blown tantrum develops. I’ve found out that there is a wrong way to peel a banana, and a wrong way to open a drinks bottle. It has been incredibly testing. The rollercoaster of her emotions is so difficult to mentally process, as we can go from having a wonderfully happy time together to her being completely inconsolable and unreasonable in a matter of seconds. I am walking on eggshells around my two year old. I am a prisoner in my own home to a toddler dictator!
A part of me does like an aspect of these behaviours. She’s extremely strong willed and determined and she knows her own mind. These are great qualities which will stand her in great stead as she grows and manages to work through her emotions better. And she is, for the most part, such a happy girl to be around. She is incredibly smart and funny, she’s kind and caring, and she is so gentle with others. Even when the red mist descends she would never hurt or lash out at another person and she is so sensitive to the feelings of others.
But today, after a week of relentless tantruming, I just had to get out. I left Alice with Matt, and I took Jack for a long walk in the pram. I thought about all of the literature I have read lately about dealing with toddler tantrums, because it is really important to me that I am not a shouty mum. This is at odds with my natural disposition of generally being an aggressive shouty person, so I am always making a very conscious effort to be calm with Alice. What I realised is, Alice hasn’t read the stuff I’ve been reading. She doesn’t know how the book says she should respond to my calm soothing words, or to me waiting for her to ride out her emotions. All she knows is that in that moment she is feeling so overwhelmed and she has no idea how to express it. She doesn’t want comfort, rationalising or understanding, she just wants to feel that emotion. So for now, when I can, I’ll make sure she has that space to do it.
It’ll be through gritted teeth at times, because everyone always has somewhere to be. This is part of the problem; I never stop. I’m always so desperate to avoid being stuck in the house that the poor girl never has chance to just chill out, and I’ve realised that as she’s begun to ask more frequently to just stay and play at home. Where I’ve been thinking I need to constantly keep her (and me for my sanity) out and about to avoid the tantrums, instead it’s probably contributing to them as she never has any downtime.
So, two years in and I guess Alice and I are still getting to know each other in some aspects, and learning new things about ourselves. We’ll keep bumbling along together, bring Jack, Matt and Mr. Jinx along for the ride, and hopefully we’ll all come out of the other side better people. In the meantime, give me the strength and the Malibu to see me through these tempers, because I can assure you this girl has ginger rage!
(I am sure my mum is secretly giddy that my daughter is acting exactly the same as I used to…karma!)