Peaceful Tantrum


I know. What the Hell am I talking about?

Today Ian spied The Museum Of Flying while playing with his lovely babysitter, Sophia. They checked out the planes that were outside for a few moments since the museum wasn’t open. Apparently, Ian was very, very impressed (what’s funny is I took him to this museum in January and all he wanted to do was swing on the ropes that were supposed to protect the planes from toddlers like Ian).

He came in the door crying, “I want to see them! I want to go to the museum, please! I want to ride them! I drive the planes!” He was inconsolable until Sophia quickly grabbed a piece of computer paper from our recycling bin and fashioned a paper airplane (swear she’s more qualified than I am for this gig). Crisis averted until nap time. Cried a bit more, then nursed and quickly passed out. 30 minutes later, hysterically crying in his crib, with his eyes closed, “I want to see them! I want to go to the museum, please! I want to ride them! I drive the planes!” I shushed and rubbed his back and he fell asleep. 45 minutes later, repeat, except now he was awake and SUPER PISSED that we were not on our way to the museum.

This is where the peace comes in. I will be forever indebted to Barbara Olinger, who runs the toddler program and preschool at the YWCA. I asked her, “What do you think about tantrums?” to which she replied, “I think they’re great!” She went on to say that they are an important stress reliever and outlet for some little ones to express and process new, big feelings, and the best thing I can do as a parent is keep them safe and hold space for their process. The goal, she said, is to raise little ones to have their feelings so they can grow up to be adults who can have their feelings. PREACH.

She encouraged me to not try to name what he’s feeling, try to talk him out of his feelings, or ask questions. She empowered me to keep it simple, saying things like, “Wow, it looks like your having big feelings. I’m here. I’m ready to give you a hug if you’d like.” And then I just wait. I don’t get mad because I no longer feel like I must be doing something wrong or this wouldn’t be happening. Ian is a passionate little man, and he feels things deeply. I trust this will serve him well in life.

I’m so grateful to know that all I need to do is be with him in times like this. I don’t have to figure a way out. And he’s learning that when he’s experiencing these feelings, the only requirement is that he keep his body and mine safe (meaning no hitting, kicking or biting mama). After this epic tantrum, I felt triumphant because there was zero hitting or kicking of mama! He gave himself space to thrash without thrashing me.

And then, just like that, it’s over. He asked me to hold him and carry him downstairs. We watched Thomas and he nursed a bit. He didn’t want me to leave the couch to dry my hair, so we negotiated a few more moments to snuggle. Then we walked to our friendly neighborhood optometrist to deliver some treats for a party she was hosting, came home, had dinner, played with the paper airplane, danced, read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and bed.

About 20 minutes after I left his room, I heard him calling me. Was it going to happen again? “Mama, you put the blankies on me?” “Okay, one blue blankie, one yellow blankie. I love you so much, sweet boy. I’ll see you in the morning.” And sweet peace. We are both tired.

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