emotions running high

Life seemed to be going on more or less swimmingly until this recent spate of tantrums. Sometimes I think it’s a hunger thing, or maybe having had too much sugar, but other times I’m at a complete loss as to what sets her over the edge. When she’s in a mood, she speaks more loudly, more rudely, and when she’s really mad, she hits her fist on a surface and stomps off very loudly (well, thanks to the hardwood floors). Her anger is blatant and I sometimes have to wonder where all this pent-up emotion comes from. Lucas thinks she gets set off easily when she doesn’t get her way, which is probably true when she’s already in a bad mood. Yesterday, there was the instance when we suggested she carry her bag of tomatoes vertically rather than horizontally to make it easier but she was anything but open to our suggestions. And then asking her to take her tights off when we got home resulted in a crying fit, but I think that was due to hunger as she hadn’t had much to eat at lunch. In the evening, Lucas told her to go back to bed while he was searching for something in a box and she got upset.

Lucas and I had a long talk after that last one. The recent tantrums seem to mostly happen in his presence (ie. it rarely happens when it’s just me and her) and perhaps that’s a result of him being more likely to stand his ground and his sterner parenting style (his words), something I think he’s internalized from his own childhood. He said that growing up, he’d never have dared question anything his dad said or he’d have gotten it. I said that from my point-of-view, as a parent, it sucks and is annoying when Raspberry’s being defiant but I’m glad she’s questioning things and standing her ground, because I don’t want her to grow up to be passive, all-accepting and uncritical. At the same time, I understand it’s hard to shake what you’re familiar with, as I’m the same way. But in recent years, I’ve sort of adopted the idea when parenting Raspberry that if it’s not going to hurt anyone or anything, then why not? I’ll admit that my knee-jerk, Type-A personality reaction is often to say “no, you can’t,” but then when I really think about it, if we don’t have to be anywhere or if it’s not life or death, then it’s all right. This stands in contrast to Lucas, who isn’t as permissive, and sometimes Raspberry says things like, “don’t tell Lucas,” if she does something that she thinks he’ll get upset over. Like a few mornings ago, when she woke up and had to pee. Lucas was already up, getting ready to go to school and she said, “don’t tell Lucas I’m up.” But she had to go so I told her to just go. When I told Lucas this story last night, he said that it was likely because once, many months ago, she woke up early when he was getting ready for school and startled by her presence, he told her in a not-very-pleasant tone of voice to go back to bed. Of course, he’s uncomfortable with the fact that she tells me not to tell him certain things (he said that the very first time she said that months ago) and I don’t like it myself. I want both Lucas’ and my relationship with her to be the kind where she can tell us anything. He said he’s not sure why he reacts more sternly with her than someone else, if they pulled the same crap. I’m not sure, but maybe because she’s his kid. I don’t know. We didn’t really resolve anything last night; I think I was mostly a sounding board for Lucas.

Today, Raspberry had an epic meltdown while we were at a community breakfast; I’m not sure if this was many days in the making or if it’s just the tip of the iceberg. People were about to leave and I said she could have one more slice of bread before we went. She’d brought her stuffed duck, Paprika, and placed it on the table. Lucas moved it because the table was sticky and covered in crumbs and she freaked the hell out (in recent weeks, she’s been very protective of her stuffed friends — according to her, Lucas and I aren’t allowed to touch them), full on screaming and wailing. And we were in a small bakery filled with people, so you can only imagine how loud it was. To an adult, it was clearly an overreaction (like two weeks ago when she started crying — real tears and all — that her imaginary paper snowflake had been ripped).

I took her outside immediately, but it didn’t help and her tantrum only escalated, complete with jumping up and down. She kept yelling that if I stopped talking, she’d calm down, so I did but it didn’t help any. Lucas brought our coats and my bag out and insisted we start walking, but I was still hopeful that she’d stop crying and screaming. She repeated a number of times that she wanted me to help her do deep breathing and I said she had to calm down first in order to do that, but she didn’t. I can get triggered easily by Raspberry’s outbursts and end up being horrible and mean and yelling (definitely not my proudest moments), but today, I surprised myself by being level-headed the entire time, but I think I tend to be when I’m not personally involved in the tantrum, that is, Raspberry’s beef isn’t with me.

We must’ve been quite the sight with all the wailing, as I noticed this man outside the bakery watching us (he’s the guy in blue in the above picture; I didn’t want him in my picture but he wasn’t leaving). At first I thought he was just curious about the commotion, but as Raspberry’s tantrum showed no signs of abating, I saw he was still looking at us. I’m wonder what he thought was going to happen. Maybe he thought we’d start yelling back at her, creating even more of a sideshow? Maybe he thought I was being ridiculous, taking pictures of my crying child (I took only two and sometimes when I feel helpless during a tantrum, I turn to image-making instead as a temporary diversion)? Who knows?

We started walking home, as Raspberry kept on crying and that seemed to help as she did stop eventually. As we walked, high on emotion, Lucas and I talked about the situation and how confused we were as to why it happened, as she was having such a great time immediately before the meltdown. We talked to Raspberry about it once we got home. Normally an incredibly chatty child, she clams up and is a reluctant talker after something happens, so it was like pulling teeth when we asked her questions to help us understand why she reacted the way she did. She did say that she was angry and we tried to help her come up with some ideas to deal with her anger. It was good that she was able to offer some solutions on her own, but the tricky part is her employing them in the heat of the moment. It’s going to take a bit, just like it took her a while to remember to use deep breathing to help calm herself down. I think she’s experiencing more negative emotions lately and having a hard time being able to control them so they all come rushing out in the form of a tantrum. Actually, I think she’s always had a hard time with her emotions since she was little. Anyway, I’m not sure about Raspberry but the events of earlier in the day were emotionally and physically draining for Lucas and I. I can only hope this full-blown tantrum “reset” her emotions but as with just about anything else with kids, her moods will probably be unpredictable.

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9 responses

  1. She obviously feels his disapproval deeply, and is he isn’t around as much just him and her, she is used to you as a twosome and dad as the gruff interloper.

    I also wonder how much her behaviour stems from being the sun to both your moons and not going to kindy etc where she would realise she isn’t the sun and there are many suns and where she can have the opportunity to relate to other adults and children, and find her place in ‘community’ and ‘society’.

    Even one day a week in an informal setting where neither of you are there is immensely helpful for them to develop cognition around where they end and you and other people begin.

    I know you take her many places and she sees other people, but I don’t think it is the same when its still ‘Raspberry’ focussed most of the time and where she always knows she has your ear and attention.

    She could also be bored. Do you tell her that her behaviour is not acceptable and you will not respond to it? Do you both have a set way to deal with her outbursts where it is consistant, and where you both have each other’s back?

    If she is 5 and still pulling the tantrum thing, its obviously working for her. What you don’t want is that to be compounded by the new arrival, meaning less attention for her, nor do you want it to continue to teen years where it can manifest in other unpleasant behaviours and can become violent.

    My sister was the same way.

    November 25, 2013 at 8:52 am

  2. and I am not a parent and I understand this may come off as super rude in that way you hate your family ‘butting in’ but maybe trying to reason with a 5 year old about her behaviour is not working for you and you need discipline to stamp it out. I don’t mean hitting or verbal abuse, but firm and consistant indications that it is not on.

    If you think there is an underlying issue to her behaviour then perhaps a child psychologist could help.

    November 25, 2013 at 8:55 am

  3. lifesabanquet1

    Hi Dawn! I was just wondering if you would be able to answer a quick question about your blog! I’m Heather and my email is Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)

    November 25, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    • Hi Heather, I just emailed you!

      November 25, 2013 at 10:22 pm

  4. Anonymous

    I totally agree with rushofsun about the sun and moon thing. Very well said. I have seen those tantrums and know how you & Lucas try to reason with her but it is absolutely impossible during those meltdown moments. It’s certainly putting a lot of stress on #2 inside you. Considering kindy should be an option as there is no longer only one sun. and she realises there are other planets too.

    November 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm

  5. “let me give you more advice on your life” haha
    I think kindy or whatever other type of loosely coordinated child social group you have access to would benefit YOU, by having time for yourself. I was super concerned when you wrote about your complete lack of independent time. Lucas gets it with school, and you should get it to. Especially with a new born on the way.

    November 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm

  6. Of course this is the least important part of the whole post BUT you were at the Homebaked bakery! I love this project and really want to visit it. It’s such an inspiring thing x

    November 26, 2013 at 11:00 am

  7. Actually, I very much like your comment :) I didn’t know Homebaked was that famous. I think it’s a wonderful initiative and would definitely like to go there again. They had a workshop earlier in the morning where they teach you how to make bread and I’d like to have gone to that, if it wasn’t at 7am!

    November 26, 2013 at 6:01 pm

  8. Oh yes, I am a massive fan of the work of the artist Jeanne van Heeswijk who helped to start the project about 2 and a half years ago, and showcased it as part of the Biennial last year before it opened, so I followed the development of it as a project quite closely! I think it’s such an incredible example of art which successfully engages people and makes a social impact – the kind of work which completely inspires me and makes me want to work with artists who have this kind of practice. The fact that it is both some how an artwork but also a valuable, independently-running business that is part of its community is just wonderful. One of the biggest questions about ‘socially engaged’ work, for me, is about the legacy of projects and the impact they have after the artist has left – this answers them both excellently :)

    x

    November 27, 2013 at 2:32 pm

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