Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Tantrums and tears

Picture the scene.

A father is carrying a screaming child who he has wrapped up in front of him from one end of the gardens to the car park.  The child is crying out that the father is hurting him; it appears to be a firm but non-restrictive hold.

Some passers-by wince.

"That would never be our child" thinks a father.  "Ah...wait.  This is my child.  I am that parent.  Bugger."

I thought we had some tantrums during the terrible twos and I entered Henry's threes with a certain air of smugness.

"Yeah, he's had some tantrums, but nothing too bad."

Smug sod.  I hate past-me.

Henry has very clearly been demonstrating that we are not in control and we are nothing like as good at this parenting thing as we thought we were.  He has demonstrated some real barnstormers in the last two months.  On two occasions I have worried that the incident might end in pea soup.

And here is the really difficult part to accept as a parent.  No matter how patient you might be, how good your distractions might be, how much you ignore and how focussed you are on the good - three year olds get tired.  And they cannot be controlled.

Nobody can be controlled, except yourself.  You can attempt to create conditions that give the illusion of control, but really all you are hoping and praying for is that the child makes the choice you want to.  And in this period of development, sometimes, he or she just thinks:

"To hell with what you want.  I am an individual!  A small, tired, incredibly vocal individual!  Hear my roar!"

And all that is left for you as a parent is to weather the storm and pick up the sobbing pieces afterwards.  Because once the storm has blown itself out you are left with a very vulnerable, upset little boy that doesn't really understand what just happened and needs reassurance that everything is ok in the world.  It would be so easy to get caught in a vicious cycle where each other's frustration feeds and adds to the other's.  The trick to parenting is securing their world and putting aside, for the moment, everything that was triggered in you - the lack of control, the frustration, the guilt and, I will admit it, the anger, and get back to being what your little boy needs you to be.

It is so very difficult, but so very important.  Acknowledging we are human is not something we do often enough as parents.  Emily and I are very lucky to have each other, close family and friends with children of a similar age that we can share stories with, offload and seek advice without fear of judgement.  I dread to think what it would be like without them and I appreciate them every day.