Monday, January 23, 2012

Tantrums: A Brief Index

It's been close to a year since I wrote this about an inappropriate comment that an old man made to me in a coffee shop. So, I'm checking in again with some more totes inappropes comments from a stranger, and weighing in on the phenomenon of toddler tantrums. On Saturday Brian and I took the boys over the icy path, along the crunchy snow that the boys wanted to eat, "like the man in the merkercial on TV, Mommy!" (commercial), to the Barnes and Noble across the street. Since the fine Barnes and Noble booksellers now boast "the greatest toy selection in the world!" (?) they added a block table within the expanded toy section that the boys and I played on while Brian went to pick up the book he needed. The boys are much better with Duplo (big Legos) blocks than they used to be, but they still sometimes have a hard time clicking them into place.

We had great fun at first, but soon frustration set in with the boys just as Brian found his book and came over to play too. Cal was emotionally injured by Daddy using some of the blocks he had been using and did some shrieking. I call these the Pre-Tantrum Tremors (PTTs). They are warnings that a meltdown is immanent if nothing is changed quickly. I took him to another toy and he calmed down. Then Clark started getting frustrated over blocks and started shrieking ridiculously loud, his PTTs rapidly escalating to a full-blown Physical Anguish Tantrum (PAT) as he flung blocks around. So Brian took him out the front doors and tried to calm him down. I took Cal, who at this point had calmed down and was perfectly content, outside with Brian and Clark. I stood out with the boys so Brian could go pay for his book before we left. I calmed Clark down from his indignant rage and then took both boys inside to fetch our stroller that was just inside the door, and leave the premises.

When I put Clark in the stroller he started more PTTs and squirmed almost through the bottom of the feet space, so that his feet were on the ground and his head was partially under the little tray on the stroller. His screams were reverberating around the once-pleasant interior of the store and I pulled him up by his coat, which of course only made him scream louder and slide down again, his PAT coming back with full force. He would not be reasoned with. I started pulling the stroller out the door, which made Cal enter PTT mode because he wasn't in the stroller too. By then there were about three people backed up around the door, trying to leave, while my giant stroller and I were taking up the small door space. I couldn't really pull or push it straight because the stroller itself was walking, thanks to Clark's little feet sticking through and his PAT.

I don't understand fits like this--the I'm-in-physical-anguish-and-must-be-heard-by-all tantrum. I really don't. My response is usually incredulity, rather than anger, (Really? You're really screaming hysterically over a block?) and my tactic is usually to remove the child from the scene, while at the same time not overreacting and making it worse-- which is probably what the little fit-pitcher wants. So in the ensuing awkward movements that it took for me to maneuver the walking stroller with the PTT boy and the PAT boy through the door, a random old man helped me. It was nice of him. I didn't need him to open his mouth though, as it turned out. He instructed one of the boys to, "Stop crying! Your mom is probably going to start crying herself."


Weird. I mean, I kind of wanted to pick up Clark by his coat and shake him, and I was a perturbed and flustered to be in the awkward door situation, but I wasn't anywhere near crying and I don't know why he thought I was. So, as if Door Opener Man hadn't said enough, when Brian showed up with his book purchased and helped me get the stroller through the last door DOM opened his mouth again. "Oh, your help disappeared on you. I see," he said, nodding toward Brian. Come on, man. Really? If your door-opening comes with the price of your thoughtless comments, then why don't you just forget it. I'll have my PTT-ing boy try to hold the door open for me.

Anyway, that's my inappropriate comment from the weekend. And the giant meltdown, which was a prototypical PAT, was probably the worst public one ever. Below is a pictorial index of the main tantrum types caught on camera.

PTT's characteristic warming-up of the extremities for the physical display to come

The Physical Anguish Tantrum (PAT), this time over a computer screen
The annoying, but much-preferred in public, Silent Protest


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