(Photo: 3/27/07 - Hazel 2yrs old, Ginger 9wks old)
Hazel turned two last week. And something changed. We had a massive public tantrum two days after her birthday - I'm still too traumatized to discuss the details but the point is that she's TWO! I've read enough child development books to understand the physical and cognitive issues behind tantrums, but I was still caught totally unprepared to handle one. I felt confused and totally helpless, with added frustration and embarrassment of strangers and friends watching. As she lay prostrate on the ground kicking, crying and screaming, HELPLESS was my main feeling - helpless to make her feel better, helpless to fix the situation, helpless to communicate with her, helpless to stop the scene. Anger ran a close second - angry at the people watching, angry at myself for not knowing what to do, angry at Hazel for being "so unreasonable"! And then angry at myself for being angry at her when I understood it was all she could do to express her own frustration.
We just high-tailed it out of the situation as soon as we could, sat outside to recover for awhile, then came home. Put on a show for her (what else? Dora...) and called my Mom to help me recover. Took me all day to recover, really. I also ordered several books on toddlers and tantrums and a brilliant children's book called The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum. I don't want to stifle or shame her when she has overwhelming emotions, but I do want to get better at 1) seeing them coming, 2) understanding what's going on behind the tantrum, 3) minimizing feeling embarrassed in public so I can focus on my daughter, and 4) helping her work through them. My mom said this is great practice for the teenage years and she's not the only one. Experts say they're very similar. Don't I know it - I don't remember being two but I distinctly remember having such extreme emotions as a teenager I often didn't know what to do with them - too old to tantrum but lacking any other effective outlet I spent a lot of time crying. Maybe I can help my daughters have a little better time of it...starting now.