Logan and I rode the wave of a beautiful tantrum this afternoon. The tantrum itself wasn’t beautiful, of course, but the experience was.
It started because she was pillow fighting and refused to stop (she was the only one playing). I asked her if she wanted to put the pillow back onto the bed herself or if I should help her by taking the pillow and putting it back. In the end I had to remove it from her. She lost it. At the start of it I recognized she was tired, but I felt some deeper frustrations as well.
This has been a period of rapid development for Logan. She is awaiting her fourth birthday in June and has begun to question more deeply. ”Why does the sun come up? Why does it ‘no (snow)? Don’t a baby ‘ave tew eat when nay in a mommy’s belly?” She finds me during the day and demands to be taught the correct pronunciation of words she struggles with. She wants to cut in a straight line, she wants to measure flour out correctly, she wants to reach the high shelf. Logan expects so much of herself.
Her latest quest is to master the art of tying a bow. We have gotten as far as the initial knot, but she gets lost after that, naturally. It’s confusing and her fingers are small and sometimes uncontrollable. She is ready to do these things in her heart and mind, but her body does not agree with her. How frustrating that must be.
When I took the pillow Logan began to grunt and hit the wall with her hand. She hopped over to me on the bed, crying, and I asked if she wanted help calming down. She asked if we could go to her room to breathe. We left my room holding hands, Logan screaming as we walked. She stood on her bed so that we could see eye to eye better. I asked if she wanted to hold hands and she did. I took both her hands in mine and we went slowly in…and out. In…and out. In…and out. She looked into my eyes. Opened her mouth. SCREAMED in my face.
She turned to the window and started to hit the blinds. This is where it got beautiful, for me.
I felt the familiar tug of anger at having lost control over the situation. I looked at a child smacking the blinds and screaming, and I was consciously aware that my first inclination was to think: unruly. disrespectful. wild. I had already asked Logan if she wanted me to help her and she’d kept smacking the blinds, so I told myself to just shut up for a minute and watch her. I didn’t attempt to stifle the feeling I was experiencing, instead I went with it. I held onto those words and let it aggravate me. I owned and allowed my feelings. Then, I dropped anything else I was thinking about: how loud the screaming was, how she “knows better”, what would happen to the blinds, what needed to get done around the house. I let go of all of it.
And you know what? The anger dissipated. When I allowed myself to feel only that feeling, and didn’t compound it with any other pressures or concerns at that moment, I was able to view the tantrum more objectively. And I wasn’t upset anymore.
And I heard my voice in my head: what can I learn from this?
I realized immediately that I wasn’t looking for an answer from myself. I was reminding myself of what my goal is – why do you use time-in instead of timeout? For one thing, Logan isn’t a child who prefers to be left alone with her big emotions; at least for now. But ultimately I love time-in because it allows me to watch Logan at what can be considered, for a toddler, a “low point.”
When I was married and my husband or I were having a hard time, we seldom left each other alone. When we did start to walk away from one another during our times of distress, it signaled the end of our friendship and our relationship. Standing by my husband’s side and listening to him express what was bothering him always brought us closer. It helped me to view the events of our lives from his perspective; and to appreciate that a shared experience can in fact present very different obstacles, for different people. The same goes for when I would talk to my mom, or my sisters, or my co-workers. The same can go for our little people.
What can I learn from this? I saw Logan hitting the blinds and screaming and I remembered what a little perfectionist she is. I thought, “She doesn’t like losing control. It is my job to step in and to show her that she can do this.” I said, “Lo we don’t hit objects, please. Can you stop or do you need help to move away?” I’m actually not sure what I was going to do if she’d said she needed help , but usually when I ask her these questions she accepts the help. This time was no different.
She turned to me and stopped hitting but kept screaming. I stood by and watched as she expressed the range of her emotions. I walked away from the bed and sat down on the floor. She came to sit, still screaming, her back turned to me. She put her head into her lap.
“I don’t LIKE mysuwf!” She shouted.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because I do sumpin WONG!’
“What did you do wrong, Lo?”
“She looked up at me and cried, “I wiss it could be my buwfday now!” She came to sit on my lap and put her head to my chest and cried. I rubbed her back and stayed quiet.
“Sometimes it’s not easy to be three, is it Logan?” She picked her head up.
“No,” she answered.
“I understand Logan. I was three before, too. There is so much you want to do and sometimes it’s hard.”
“I can’t diiiiiiie a booooooow!” She cried.
“But Logan, think of all the things you can do!” We sat and ticked off what she’s learned, and she started to look more proud of herself. She was tired and spent. It had only been about fifteen minutes but she’d worn herself out. I hugged her close and kissed her soft, round cheek.
We sat quietly on the floor. I told her I was going into the living room to sit with Ry. She waited a few minutes and joined us. Sat down and started to color. All was well again.
You won’t read a personal blog written by a three-year-old. There is no Facebook page or website run by an actual toddler, highlighting the daily challenges they face. The books are written by adults – doctors, teachers, psychologists, scientists. What about the babes themselves?
I like to offer Logan a forum to air her troubles. Toddlerhood is a carefree, happy time – but toddlers face challenges that are very real to them. Taking time-in with Logan, even when her behavior challenges my patience (but everything challenges my patience), gives me a greater appreciation for issues I may not consider enough in the moment. It has taught me that when Lo comes to me and asks to learn a skill, and she finds she can’t master it immediately, she doesn’t just forget it. She thinks about it when she’s quiet. She tries to understand why she can emulate the exact motions of a task in her mind’s eye – but she can’t seem to carry it out in reality.
Just as when I fall short and I feel I can do better, it heavies my heart. I sometimes carry it with me. And fortunately I get to write this blog and tell others about my trials, and I have the privilege of receiving feedback and support. Toddlers don’t network. They count on us to listen to them and offer advice and feedback. That is tough to do when we’re using time-out.
There are exceptions to every rule, I know and understand. Generally though I feel it’s we should try to find ways to help our toddlers calm themselves without the use of time-out. It is educational for us and affirming for them. It reminds them, pointedly, that someone (or some people) is always there for them, always supports the, no matter what they do. Toddlers put enough pressure onto themselves, we shouldn’t add to it.
What can I learn? As has increasingly been the case, I’ve learned that many of the tactics I apply in my relationships with my adult loved ones work every bit as well with my children. Our children deserve the same consideration (more in my opinion), that we give anyone else. They are people just like us, only smaller, so we tailor what we do to fit them. Let everyone have their chance to be heard.