Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Toddlers and Spectacular Tantrums.

I had to nip down to the local shop a while ago to buy bread and milk. A normal sort of morning thing to do. While I was there I perused the magazine section and then ambled slowly towards the checkout, where a group of people stood in line, as the slowest man in all the land operated the cash register.
But no matter, it was a warm and sunny day. I don't mind standing in line, especially when I can people watch. And by golly did I get the price of a full ticket today.
At the head to the line was old woman, behind her an impatient taxi driver (he'd parked him taxi slap bang in the middle of the cycle lane and put his hazards on)
Next a well dressed man with a paper who sighed and glanced at his watch a lot.
Then a mother, with a small baby on one hip and a toddler/small boy * standing beside her.
Then me.
I"m not sure how it happened really, but there is a plastic stand full of jellies near where she was standing and I'm sure that had something to do with it. I'm sure I heard her say, 'No Noel, put that back.'
Noel-said toddler countered with. 'Cannnoiii getoneodem?"
'No.' said his mom, rather mildly I thought.
Well sweet fucking chulutha. I'm not sure what the child heard, perhaps voices in his head, perhaps faeries-invisible to the grown-up eye- suddenly started pulling his hair and stinging him with wands made from bees or something, because the next thing this... SOUND came out of him.
I can't describe it really, it was a howling keening rising wailing caterwaul. It started hoarse and ratched up in seconds into an ear-splitting, eyebrow raising screech of such agonized pain and fury that I for one smooched my bread in terror.
The man with the paper jumped mid-sigh and even the taxi driver looked startled.
I shook out my bread and stepped backwards. We all backed away a little.
But it was remarkable, he kept at it. He just stood there, eye scrunched up tight, fists balled, face as red as a lobster, making that sound.
And his mother, she wiped dribble from her baby's chin with a hanky, and stood gazing at some cards on a display rack.
Was she deaf?
THe old lady finally paid for her goods and moved off. The taxi dude was next. The line moved forward, or rather some of the line did. The mother tried. I was stymied.
She held out her hand.
'Noel come on, hold Mammy's hand.'
Clearly Noel heard, 'Hey fuckface, I'm going to kick you really hard and then I'm going to rip up all your comics and melt your action men and you'll never have sweets again, EVER!'
He must have heard that, there is no other reason for him to do what he did next, which was pitch himself straight onto the floor and kick and scream with wild abandon.
I'd never seen anything like it, it was like he was simultaneously being electrocuted and racked at the same time, stiff, crazy ass wiggling, stiff, crazy ass wiggling, and all with the noise, oh the noise. I swear I can still hear it.
His mother tried lifting him, but he wouldn't have it so the poor woman let me go ahead of her while she dealt with the small explosion that was her son. So grateful was I that, with tears in my eyes, I stepped over the writhing ball of rage and then fled the shop with nary a backwards glance lest I be turned to a pillar of salt.
I could hear him for quite some time. My teeth ache, my jaws still haven't fully unclenched.
My god, is that normal? Do small children do stuff like that on a regular basis? If that was my son I"d have fled. Or threatened to end his suffering right then and there. How could she have been so calm? Maybe she was deaf too. Or on Xanax.
yes, that must be it.

* when does the toddler stage end?

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Blogger Glinda the good witch said...

Yup that's normal. And it improves markedly when they're about 5.

12:27 p.m.  
Blogger Annie said...

That poor woman. There's nothing you can do about that kind of behavior in public without someone accusing you of child abuse.
I'm glad my kids are well out of that stage. Well, for the most part. My 20-year-old daughter is a rather sensitive soul and every time the phone rings I wonder (cringingly) if she's going to be wailing about something or other. She will talk incredibly fast and wail uncontrollably at the same time. I can't understand a word and certainly can't get a word in edgewise. At these times I usually require a shot of Jameson.

12:33 p.m.  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

Oh Christ, I can't wait for this stage...

1:24 p.m.  
Blogger Medbh said...

Fuckface is one of my favorite words.
Your experience is one of the many reasons why I don't have children. I don't know how to deal with that kind of behavior other than to follow your example and flee the scene.

1:48 p.m.  
Anonymous Claire said...

I'm sorry to say that yes, it's normal no matter how angelic they might be at other times...I have the mental scars to prove it. Supposedly the best course of action is to ignore it, which is probably what that woman was doing. That or she was going to her happy place and pretending the kid wasn't hers...which is what I do.

1:52 p.m.  
Blogger Cathy said...

You describe it so well,I could feel the pain of it, and remembered the selective deafness (if I ignore it, it will go); it jolted memories of my now very well-behaved child (hmm) who was allergic to Penney's, and would literally throw himself on the ground screaming "No, no! NOT THAT SHOP!"

2:42 p.m.  
Anonymous Jimmy Page's Trousers said...

Yep, sharp as tacks, the toddlers. Just looking for the slightest chink in a parent's armour and, if found, it will be forever repeatedly poked.

Ignoring is the only weapon at a parent's disposal as rising to it, telling them off, locking them under the stairs, etc. only serves as encouragement for future tantrums.

It's bloody embarrassing when the go off on one in public though.

- The Voice Of Very Bitter Experience

2:47 p.m.  
Blogger Conan Drumm said...

Hope that's sorted your broody issues. The little feckers can be total headwreckers... only thing you can do is start as you mean to carry on so teach the meaning of the word NO!! from birth. And never ever go back on it, even if it occurs to you after you've said it that you have been totally unreasonable. Age two to three and a half is worst - hence the expression 'the terrible twos'.

Once you say 'NO!!' you become completely deaf. Did I forget to mention that?

3:32 p.m.  
Blogger Caro said...

Apparently its cos at that age they're old enough to have independent thoughts and wishes, but haven't the vocabulary to express it adequately, or the powers of persuasion to get what they want. Which leads to frustration and the resulting tantrum. It's very embarrassing in public though cos most people seem to think its the parent's fault...

3:53 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Oh God, I didn't think it was her fault at all, poor woman. If you ask me she should be sainted. Nope, what actually got me was the resigned look on her face. And the fact that she was carrying another one on her hip that would probably become the one on the ground in less than a years time.
That terrified me.

3:55 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

hah! Annie, that's exactly the sort of way my mother talks to me on the phone.

3:56 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Sinéad! How much longer? Are we talking weeks? Days? Minutes?

3:56 p.m.  
Blogger Boliath said...

Perfectly normal, but you knew that. Have been lucky myself so far, the little fella hasn't done that to me, but I'm sure he will, probably when the 2nd one is on my hip. He did take off like a bat out of hell in the supermarket the other day and instead of stopping him, people stepped out of his way and watched me in my spelendid pregnant glory waddle as fast as I could after him trying to resist the urge to bellow at him like an enraged bull. Couldn't believe people not stopping him tho'.

3:59 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Prolly afraid if they put their hand on him you'll wap them upside the head. Can never tell with pregnant women how they're gonna react, bit like collies.

4:04 p.m.  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Yes. Completely normal. They're trying to see what they can get away with and they don't have too much control over their emotions at that point either.

The worst thing to do is to cave and buy the sweeties. It might save the ears of your fellow shopper for a minute but future fellow shoppers will hate you for it and your child sees a weak spot she will tap and tap and tap at again.

Parents pretty soon develop a brass neck brassier than Jade Goody down the pub. If you're standing in line - ignoring it is the only option you've got and just praying other people will bear with it on the path to raising a halfway decent human being.

Much more effective is, if the tantrum occurs before the checkout, to just abandon your trolley somewhere out of the way and haul the monster child out to the car where you put them in their car seat, quick hug, tell them why they're there, tell them they'll only get out by quitting screaming, and stand outside the car by their window until it finishes.

I had to do the latter with one child twice - the other pretty much cottoned on that this would be her fate too if she tried anything. It's damned inconvenient, the last thing you feel like doing, and it takes time and good dentistry because you will grind your teeth with jaw pressure they have never before experienced. But it works. They learn the lesson they need to learn and you age a year in an hour.

I've had public tears from both girls at the same time - and some of my own when I've been really knackered - but no public tantrums in stereo, thank The Beardy Guy. I'll always be pathetically grateful to the sprogs for not publicly exploding at the same time.

A good deal of parenting is boring, wearying consistency, plus acting - pretending you are supremely unperturbed by the purple screaming thing on the floor in front of you.

My girls are 5 now and happily, joyfully past that stage. They're out of pre-school for the summer so they're home every morning and we've been having a jolly time together over the past week - definitely worth the terrible twos. But it means I don't have much time to blog these days, and by the evening I'm exhausted so I just go to bed with a book. So, it's been a bit quiet lately over at my site.

Still an' all though, I gotta gets me daily fmc.

4:16 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

The mind boggles Sam at the thought of that noise going off in tandem, it really does. And nice maneuver with the sprogglettes, I doff my metaphorical cap to you.
No wait, I"m wearing a top-hat and monocle today. Doffing doffing.

4:35 p.m.  
Blogger John Mc said...

Sam - write a book! Youa re band on. My eldest now 5 and a affable angel, was a complete devil in mid tantrum when he was 3. He would writhe scream and on occasion head butt the floor, (never that hard, he learned that lesson quickly). I would just totally ignore him. You just have to hold firm,be consistent and let them know that tantrums will never result in their desired outcome. They do eventually get this.

Remember that even while going through the toddler stage they can be totally angelic outside of the tantrums and very affectionate. Some never hit that stage, my daughter breezed through it. I am worried she is saving it all up for when she hits the teen years - gulp!!

5:53 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have 4 kids, and no, that's not normal behavior! Kids are almost as easy to train as dogs if you know what you're doing. I must say though, all my kids tried it once, and only once. I immediately stopped what I was doing (in line at market, or dept. store) and told them I was not going to tolerate such behavior, and left. I even went so far with my son (his tantrum was a lot like what you described and he was my first child) that I just turned around mid-wail and walked away. He was 3. I stopped as soon as he did, turned around and asked him if he was coming with me or not. He came with. That wasn't the end of it by any means though. When we got back in the car I shamed him mercilessly and told him I would never allow him to embarrass me like that again, and if couldn't learn to control his temper he would never be allowed to go to the store with me ever again, and never get another candy bar ever! The next time we went to the store, in the checkout line he asked if he had been good enough for candy this time, and i told him being good this time means he gets candy next time. That worked on all the rest of them too! Maybe I just have strange children, but damn, all 4 of them?!

7:23 p.m.  
Blogger Kim Ayres said...

I don't know if you've seen this one before, but it's always worth a revisit:


7:39 p.m.  
Blogger Mairéad said...

Broodiness all gone then FMC?
Mine weren't like that? Ever. (3 of them). My secret? Kind, but very firm, discipline from the start plus plenty of my attention and love.
Did I say they weren't ever like that? Mmmmmmm - the teenage tantrums are a million times worse! God help little Noel's Mommy - if she can't manage him as a toddler, he'll break her heart entirely when he's 17!!!

8:46 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I gotta tell you, nothing kills broodiness faster than that sound. I mean, it was like nothing I'd ever even imagined could come from a small human. I was telling Etheline about it earlier before yoga and I swear to you all I fear our eggs shrivelled in our bodies. I'm considering having mine ossified and made into fetching drop earrings.

11:14 p.m.  
Blogger Manuel said...

sounds like a chef

11:14 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

And I'm quite sure Noel's just darling the rest of the time, but still...

11:15 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Or a head waiter on a busy Friday evening when tables are running late and the hatch hasn't been cleared of plates.

11:15 p.m.  
Anonymous Primal Sneeze said...

Some journo in the Indo recently very aptly referred to the terrible-twos as the Roman Emperor Years of Toddlerhood.

5:53 a.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

That's brilliant, AND for the Indo you say? Odd. They must have stolen it from somewhere.

9:48 a.m.  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

FMC, 13 days to go, but it feels like 13 weeks at this stage. Roll on!

12:57 p.m.  
Blogger metaphysicallywrinklefree said...

My dear gods, this made me laugh so hysterically that I embarrased myself in my own office. Totally worth it, though.

10:28 p.m.  
Blogger Nic said...

Yes. I can't say a lot more. I am still in the trenches. I especially love how other people's stares say, so blatently 'Mummy - you suck'

9:05 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Don't worry Nic! You'll get your own back some day, maybe with naked toddler pictures on debs /prom night.

12:34 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happened to me twice with my first child. First time I freaked out and dragged him out of the store kicking and screaming. The whole store, WallMart stopped and stared at me as if I was kidnapping my kid. I guess I kind of panicked. But the second time he did it I waited calmly (even know it was unexpected and I was panicked) until he stopped and said "do you see that everyone is staring at you and laughing?" Sounds bad but at the moment it was all I could think of and it worked. He calmed down right away and I told him that if he ever does that again I won't take him into any store again. He never did it again.

8:20 p.m.  
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2:28 a.m.  
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2:29 a.m.  
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