If you’re a parent, or if you own a dinosaur, then you know all about tantrums. Tantrums are the loud and sometimes violent outbursts that take place when a child feels overwhelmed, under-appreciated, powerless, powerful, hungry, sleepy, sneezy, dopey, bashful or when they are unable to get the things they want, like candy bars for breakfast, all the toys ever or the chef’s knife down from the counter.
Undoubtedly you often feel like throwing tantrums yourself, like when interacting with the IT staff at your job or when stuck on the Eisenhower. When it takes five minutes to pay at a parking meter in -25 degree temperatures or when waiting in a church basement to vote while centenarians learn how a touch screen works. Or when your child is throwing a tantrum.
The different between you and your child is that you exhibit self-control and a sense of proportion, while they are flailing Id monsters, less akin to humans than they are to gremlins or to the bad guy monkey from the latest “Planet of the Apes” remake. (The one who rides a horse whilst firing two machine guns.)
Tantrums are very frustrating for parents due to their noise, their brutality and the embarrassment they cause in public. And they often leave parents asking themselves difficult questions, like:
“Are other people’s children behaving this way?” (Answer: “Yes.”)
“Am I doing something wrong?” (Answer: “Probably.”)
“What plague have I unleashed on the world?” (Answer: “A bad one.”)
Below are five sure-fire tips for dealing with the tantrums that will arise as you inevitably turn to the wrong pages in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” that is parenting:
Remember, you are the parent in this situation. Your impulse to lift your child over your head like Thunderlips does to Rocky in “Rocky III” and hurl them into the Chicago River is a natural one, but is frowned upon by medical professionals, law enforcement and people on architecture cruises who don’t want to get bonked on the head by your screaming child. Count to 10. Then, as your child continues to lose their minds, count to 100. Then find the glasses your child has ripped from your face and stomped into dust, hide in the bedroom and count to 10. When you think your child is going to kick through the door, lean against it and count to 100 again.
Hug it out
If your child is tantruming, it’s probably because of something you did, or something you didn’t do. Perhaps you told them they had to go potty in the potty instead of in the Trader Joe’s bag you just set on the kitchen floor. Perhaps they asked you multiple times why supper couldn’t be “Beef Salad,” which, while it sounds delicious, is not something you’ve ever heard of nor something for which you have the ingredients.
Regardless, they need to know that you still love them and that you hate yourself. Hug them tightly, preferably while pinning their arms to their side and avoiding their gnashing teeth. Do not let go – they need to know you care and you can’t afford to have them rip your glasses from your face again and stomp them into dust.
Remember, life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, and marriage isn’t “Love is,” it’s “Spy vs. Spy.”
Often the best way to deal with a tantrum is to ask for your spouse’s help, then get “a phone call from work” and go into the basement for 20 minutes. Sharing is caring.
Mix things up
Two ounces of Chicago’s KOVAL Rye Whiskey, a half ounce of their Rose Hip Liqueur, a half ounce of Dolin Dry Vermouth, two dashes of Angostura Bitters. Stir, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist. This is for you, not the baby.
Walk it off
Sometimes the best thing to do is remove yourself from the situation and spend some time on mindfulness. If a more responsible adult is nearby, you may wish to walk calmly out the front door, down the steps and out to the street. Contemplate your life choices. Consider the young adult you once were – happy, carefree, with thick hair and a smooth face. Head East. Ponder what the world will be like in fifty years and why anyone would willingly decide to bring a child into it, anyhow. Keep walking. Feel the sunshine on your face. Meditate on the skyrocketing cost of tuition. Breathe deeply. Count the good years you have left, if any. At some point you will make it to Lake Michigan. Stare deeply into it’s unblinking gray eye as it calls out to you. Ignore your cell phone as it buzzes frantically. Collapse on the icy water’s edge and gaze into the sky. Share a tense smile with yourself, like you’ve just been let in on a huge cosmic joke. Let your muscles relax into the sand and taste your own bitter tears. Eventually, a jogger will see you and call for help.
Your child’s is probably happily watching “Sheriff Callie’s Wild West” by now and has forgotten why they were upset in the first place.
I hope these five simple tips are helpful to you. When they aren’t, remember that this isn’t Rocket science, it’s parenting. Rocket science has answers and put a man on the moon, while parenting is just a bunch of guesswork and desperation. Enjoy!
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