Taboo Topic: Tantrums – Meet Belinda Mountain
This is a post that Belinda Mountain has generously allowed me to use. Make sure you click through to her blog ‘Making Mountains’ (out of molehills) which i link to at the end of this piece:
Lessons in Humility
We’re back. And I wish I could say that I’m super relaxed from a lovely lazy holiday but actually my nerves are shot, my back muscles are all tensed up and my parenting chi is completely in tatters. Why? (you may ask). A 2-year-old that’s what. Let me begin my ‘Lessons in Humility’ story with the accompanying image..
That is Ben. A little boy sitting on a very big bench having a time out as he gazes over the hills of the Drakensberg.
Below him you will find some groups of adults attempting to play lawn bowls. One group was my family and another was a group of English tourists who probably didn’t imagine that they would be terrorised by a badly behaved two-year-old. They’ll head back to London and tell their friends that South African children are REALLY badly behaved. I cringe.
They are trying to have a civilised game of bowls and sip on a G&T but a tow-headed toddler in a blue shirt keeps stealing the little white ball or moving their black balls or getting in the way when they are trying to throw. He does NOT want to play with the spare set of bowling balls given to him specifically for this purpose. No, he wants to play with the real thing obviously. And then he has a tantrum when his mother stops him. And another one. And another one. He lies on the field and kicks his little legs and screeches and rolls around until after the third time, he gets removed to a bench where he contemplates his behaviour, apologises (Sowee Marmy) and then proceeds to do it all. over. again.
But this doesn’t just happen on the bowls field. It happens on the croquet field and when some strangers are playing tennis and when a little girl is kicking her own ball on the lawn. And it doesn’t just happen with balls. It happens when another toddler plays with “his” Lego (not his at all, belonging to the resort) or when he can’t have cereal for dinner or when I try and pick him up on a walk to the waterfall.
I carry him thrashing in my arms through a crowded dining room full of strangers and feel all of my confidence that I have finally got the hang of this parenting lark crumble off into bits. I am completely humbled. Because my inability is on show for all to see, there is no hiding from it. I want to crawl under the table behind the table cloths and pretend he belongs to someone else.
But I don’t of course. I pick him up and rock him to and fro and whisper in his ear and try calm him down. I claim that he is mine and when an older (very well meaning) lady asks me “Shame, is he sick? Or tired?” I answer with honesty and say that No, he is just two and a little angry and frustrated at life.
It’s a phase! (all the books say). But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to question what I’m doing wrong here. I’m quite consistent with discipline but the ‘time out’ that worked so well for Rachel does not appear to be working one little bit. Ben will sit on that bench dutifully but does not appear unhappy about being admonished at all. In fact, he seems to view it as a bit of a game.
What’s comforting me is that he hasn’t been THAT badly behaved before. His tantrums are pretty limited when he’s at home and when he is going to school and is in his routine. He’s mostly a happy agreeable little guy who is loving and funny and behaves like a typical little boy I think. But there’s something about being on holiday, surrounded by lots of other kids, and having me at his beck and call (i.e not at work or away from him) that brings out the worst in him. His tantrums never appear in front of teachers or his nanny Norma or parents of his friends – they seem to be directed squarely at ME, his mother, and I feel like this is my fault.
I was humbled this weekend and embarrassed. Fellow parents are wonderfully understanding people but I’m quite a shy person and don’t like to cause a scene and my child put me SEVERELY out of my comfort zone these last two days.
I need to buy some books on this issue or do some research. You’ve given me some wonderful advice before on a previous post I wrote. But ignoring him doesn’t tend to work. And acknowledging the reason (I KNOW you want the balls but you can’t have them right now as the adults are using them) has not got us anywhere. This piece one of you sent me on letting the tantrum play out just feels too difficult in such a public space. Any other recommendations or techniques or tips? I really could do with some help.
love from the most incompetent parent ever (sob!)
P.S. I forgot to mention that he also head butted me in the windpipe.
Belinda Mountain writes a (sort of) mommy blog (as she calls it) called Making Mountains which you can go and take a look at over here. If you benefitted from reading her story here at all, or just want to offer her an encouraging word, then please head on over there and leave a comment.