Today(Editor’s note: this was written last week), I passed a guy on the corner of a Rite Aid parking lot holding up a sign that said “Broke. Odd jobs?” And, I SWEAR, I almost paid him whatever was in my wallet (which was likely about two bucks) to help me strap my daughter, V in her car seat. I was pulling over in the Rite Aid parking lot, after viewing a tantruming V, dripping yellow snot and tears, as she poked her beleaguered face into the rearview mirror. Little miss thing had tantrumed and squirmed her way out of the car seat restraints.
We are the owners of one vehicle. While in mid-sized city, Michigan, this worked for us because of the availability of public transportation; it is significantly more challenging to maneuver in small-town West Virginia. Thus, every outing with V is a bit of a production as it involves me dropping my husband at work, then driving to said outing or waiting anywhere I can proximate to the outing destination rather than returning home, then back again, etc. All of this has to be coordinated around V’s nap; which is a scheduling nightmare of sorts because if I miss the window to get her home before she falls asleep, I either wake her and chance missing a naptime or sit in the vehicle for upwards of two hours. And then I rush from V’s nap waking to give her snack, load her back in the car, and pick up my husband again. We have to make this work financially, so we do, and I comfort myself that our situation is best for our budget and better for the environment, but some days, it can be a real pain in the rear.
So I was thrilled to find a local recreation center with an open gym time that started at the perfect time for me to drop off my husband and drive there directly, one that ended with enough time to get V home BEFORE her nap time started, so that I would not have to drive in circles or wait in the car for the duration of her nap. This morning, having been cooped up since the New Year due to teething induced sleep deprivation, then a week of everyone in the house catching some nasty bug, I was excited to pack V in the car and spend two hours of the morning with her as she played ball, drove Fisher-Price cars, and bounced in bouncy configurations. Our gym time went so well, and I thought, with two hours left before V’s naptime, that we’d have plenty of time to meet M at work for a family lunch. So we did, and had a lovely time.
Then it came time to load V in the car. At which point, today’s soul sapping tantrum began. V yelling “My Daddy; My Daddy; My Daddy” inconsolably. V wanting to be comfort-nursed in the freezing cold compact car. V wanting me to ride in the backseat. V running through the parking lot towards his office and fighting me with all her strength as I attempted to return her to the car; stiffening her legs so that I couldn’t bend her to fit her through the car door. I put her in the car and shut the door to keep her safe from writhing out of my arms onto the concrete or running into traffic. I tried calling my husband to talk her down; no answer. I calmed myself down. A little. Then I opened the doors and wrestled her into her straps, as she continued screaming at the top of her lungs. A university van passed, the driver watching me carefully to assess the situation. I didn’t appreciate the stares.
I drove out of the parking lot, turning on Spanish guitar music, hoping the soothing sounds would calm one of us down. “NO MUSIC!” from the backseat. More shrieking. More heartwrenching, “My Daddy” pleas. I counted down each landmark on the way to our house, hoping I could make it to the next one, trying my Yoga breathing techniques to drown out the drama in the backseat. This brings us to the aforementioned Rite Aid stop, about 5 minutes away from campus. I pulled over, pulled V from the car seat, “Do you want to go in the store and look around until you calm down?” “Yes.” So we did; 15 minutes later, a relatively calm kid in my arms, I opened the car door to face tantrum take two.
Reflecting, reasoning, waiting, scanning the parking lot for any respectable looking person for help, I find only a guy in a white van with blocked out windows (I’m secretly convinced all serial killers drive these and so that’s not an option). An ambulance pulled down the street; I wonder how much they’d charge me for services. I check out the sketchy looking man scouting for odd jobs on the corner and reflect that odds are that he wouldn’t attack me in a visible parking lot in the middle of the day if I asked him to help, right? I decide not to chance it. The fire station is across the street; maybe I can enlist a big burly man (or woman) to get her to just sit in the blessed car seat already. More yellow-green snot flows. I finally get her arms in her seat without bending them at such an angle that I’ll hurt her and pull the straps as tight as they’ll go. She’s not scooching out this time. Pulling out of the parking lot. Two miles down the road, I hear silence in the backseat. She’s asleep.
I finish driving home, run in to grab a book from the house. I keep driving. I get my oil changed. I drive a half hour away to buy diapers and wait in the car reading Dr. Sears’ The Discipline Book. I normally love the Sears’ parenting series, but today, having tried all the strategies in the temper tantrum chapter, I find the advice insufficient and grating. I work a couple of logic puzzles to focus my mind elsewhere. I sit in the parking lot until she wakes up and we go in the store to buy diapers. I prep her for the car seat, reasoning that we are going to pick up Daddy (a half hour late) and holding my breath until she’s in and settled. THANK GOD! The tantrums have been too frequent lately. Only last week, I called my husband, begging him to come home, to change V’s diaper after a poop covered, bare-bottomed hour long wrestling and crying match to complete a simple diaper change. I am so done with tantrums.
We’ve been through tantrum-filled weeks before. Usually, V is teething or sick. Usually the tantrums subside after a few days. I know it is not a discipline issue; we’re pretty good on that front and everyone comments on how V is so well-behaved. It’s just these days, V wants her dad. And she’s what Dr. Sears has called a “high-need” child. One that challenges, one that actively negotiates and barters at the age of two (“One sticker AND one candy, Daddy,” ” I need chi-chi (nursing), I grumpy. Chi-chi helps, Mommy.”), one that wants more time-ins, more nursing, more connection during sleep, more, more…and sometimes, we just can’t give her what she wants. She has strong needs, strong emotions, and little ability to emotionally regulate at this point in her development. I know this about my child. But some days… some days, I want to enlist a stranger off the street to help me through the tantrums. Or have a nursing free day so I can savor a glass of wine…or two. Or take a long, uninterrupted nap. Or call my mom and half-jokingly suggest she make the 10 hour drive from MI for a long weekend with her granddaughter (hint, hint, Mom!).
Have you ever been unhinged by a tantrum?
Linking up with Shell’s Things I Can’t Say for