Tantrums. A word that sends shivers down many a parent’s spine. An action that when unleashed in public, causes embarrassment and dismay.
Do you ignore it? Do you try to placate? Do you bribe? Or do you edge away and pretend the toddler lying facedown on the ground isn’t yours?
It’s common knowledge that toddlers lack social and emotional maturity, are at the beginning stages of language development and seek independence over their environment. As a consequence, toddlers are prone to tantrums when they become frustrated or upset. While it is a normal part of child development, it’s still painful to deal with.
“Remember Henry, if you want to walk,” I tell my tantrum-prone toddler, “you must hold Mummy’s hand.”
“Ok Mummy,” Henry replies, looking innocently at me.
I know better. I squat down to his eye level and reiterate my point. “You have to hold my hand. No running.”
“Yes Mummy,” he replies, adamant. “I will!”
“Promise?” I tease. Seriously, as if I can trust the word of a 2.5-year-old.
We start our hundred-metre walk to pick up his sister from school. We get two metres from the car before Henry tugs at my hand.
“Mummy! A bug!” Henry exclaims, pointing at a dead beetle.
“Oh yes, a bug.” I gently pull him along but he resists.
“Mummy, bug bite me?”
“No, it’s dead darling.” My second attempt at leaving fails.
“His Mummy and Daddy will be sad.”
I sigh. “Yes, so sad but they’ll always remember it.”
“Is it a boy or girl?”
Ah shoot. I don’t have time for this.
“I don’t know darling.” I pull him forwards.
“Hey look over there!” I point to nothing in particular.
“What?” Henry asks, his interest piqued.
“I see something interesting over there,” I lie. “Lets go have a look.”
Henry starts walking in the right direction. There are two randy teenagers exchanging saliva on the sidewalk. Henry decides to stop right in front of them and blurts out, “Bleurgh!”
The teenagers stop their tonsil hockey. I suppress my laughter.
We walk another five metres before Henry refuses to hold my hand.
“Mummy, I’m ok. I was here,” he argues, pointing to the footpath.
“No Henry,” I admonish. “Hold my hand.”
We are so so close to our destination, I could cry.
In a flash, his hand slips out and he’s running towards the road. I sprint after him like Wile E. Coyote after the Road Runner.
I drop my phone in the process. I’m appalled to admit that for a split second I had considered the merits of stopping to pick up my phone.
I grab Henry by the jacket before he gets hurt. He throws an epic tantrum as I drag him back to retrieve my phone.
I struggle with small fists and legs thrashing around. I’m sweating from my exertion. My phone screen is cracked.
It’s a fine balance between giving your child the opportunity to feel independent and keeping them safe. Some days I feel like throwing in the parenting towel. It’s a hard role. The toughest gig I’ve ever had.
Next time you see a harried parent with a toddler chucking a tantrum, give them a sympathetic smile and try not to judge.