Merry Xmas Tantrums

It didn’t go as planned.

Z woke up out of sorts, tripped on a blanket on the way to turn on his light switch, and he just never seemed to recover his usual cheerful mood.  My husband’s picture perfect under-tree presentation brought smiles, but they didn’t last.  The presents were a hit, until each one revealed some fatal flaw that doomed it for a round of screaming “No, no, no, no, no!”s.  The dumpster on the  Duplo garbage truck didn’t lift the way he wanted.  The awesome car carrier from Nana and Papa kept coming apart (the way it’s supposed to, but who can explain that to a 2-year-old in need of a nap?).  Finally, Jeff opened the side of the car carrier to display the amazing ramp that whooshes the cars down at the press of a button.  Z burst into tears:  he thought Daddy broke the toy and lost his cars.  That was probably the moment we realized the day was a lost cause.  If the coolest thing ever is gonna make your kid cry, it’s over, man.  Your new job is surviving until nap time.

The poor kid just could not pull it together for long at all.  He finally was feeling more upbeat, and then having to put his pants on to go to the park just made him come totally unglued.  I wrestled his new diaper on him, and that was weird.  I don’t have to ever physically hold him down to do that.  I should add here that we were blessed with a kid with a fairly sunny disposition.  I won’t say he doesn’t have his bad moments, but he recovers quickly.  We haven’t ever seen this kind of cumulative tantrum behavior before, so we were blindsided.  Getting the pants on?  Absolutely a no go.  Just not happening.  So I just kept saying that as soon as we got them on, we could go to the park.  Natural consequences, right?  Well, the natural consequence of that exchange was that Zack went into our upstairs hallway and yelled his head off.

At that point, I pulled out the AAP guide and quickly looked up tantrums in the index.  The AAP’s advice?

1.  Ignore.

2.  Ignore.

3.  Ignore.

Conveniently enough, by reading while Z carried on, I happened to be ignoring him.  I’d accidentally stumbled onto the way outta this mess.  He finally ran back into his room, still pants free, curled up beside me, and conked out in four seconds.  Clearly, his mood was the product of exhaustion.

We weren’t upset that our sugar plum vision of Z’s third Xmas didn’t run according to schedule.  If you have a toddler, you get pretty used to surprises like that.  But we were exhausted and humbled by the experience.

This has been a fun year for me, and recently I’ve gotten to be a regular host on the Parenting Within Reason Podcast related to our little blog here.  We’re always saying on the podcast and on this blog that we’re not scientists or doctors, just parents who are interested in science and reason.

Days like today remind me that I’m really just barely a parent.  I’m glad I got the tantrum thing right on about the tenth try today.  Hell, I’m glad I didn’t lose it and throw a tantrum myself.

I’m not really sure where to go with this post, so I’ll just end it here and say, if you are a parent reading this, Happy Holidays to you.  Give yourself a pat on the back, drink some eggnog, and try to relax today.  Cause this shit ain’t easy.

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9 Responses to Merry Xmas Tantrums

  1. jay says:

    My son (now 12) was/is very routine oriented! If something – even something I thought would be wonderful like Christmas – changed the routine, he would be a basket case. The day after Christmas when things got back to normal AND he had new toys – that was a good day!

  2. John says:

    Thanks. This really helped me today.

    Tired kids (2 and 5). Normal routine, gone. And me with a touch of a stomach bug.

    Still, a good day. But no, not easy at all.


  3. Julia says:

    That sounds exactly how my daughter used to act when she was tired or if she was coming down with a cold or something. It does get easier as they get older as far as tantrums go, but it gets harder in a different way. Our daughter is about to turn 7 and the new hard thing is wondering “Is what I just said/did going to turn around and bite me in the butt in ten years???” Now more than ever I feel like I need that jar where I put a dollar in for my child’s future therapy every time I’m in doubt of what I just did/said.

  4. Laurie T says:

    Poor little guy, poor Mommy. Hope you both hang in there.

  5. PaulD says:

    Thanks for the reassuring reminder that know that I am not alone is dealing with Xmas temper tantrums. I try to ignore little M during his hissy fits, but when he starts throwing things, taking swings at both parents, the “ignore” advice goes out the window. He’s 3.25 years now, I hope we can enjoy Christmas next year with him.

  6. Chris says:

    We had the same issues with a temperamental sixteen year old daughter. We did not get her the figurines she requested that would just clutter her room which looks like the aftermath of a tornado, but upgrades to her computer. She felt better when grandma came with the requested wig (which we had ordered), and cash.

    Her father kept trying to talk to her, but I told him to ignore her. She came around later in the evening and I was able to explain that the computer upgrades were to cure things she has been complaining about. The ignore system still works.

    My favorite memory of the toddler tantrums was with younger son. He would throw himself to the ground and scream, so I went into another room. Then he would get up, walk to where I was and throw himself down again and scream. I couldn’t help but giggle a bit.

  7. Lynn Wilhelm says:

    My 7 year old daughter had a meltdown Xmas eve. I let her open one gift (one that contained a new robe and pjs–nice for Xmas morning).

    She was hoping for Breyer horses and got really upset that I got her things that were not on her wish list. This is the first time she’s been so unappreciative about gifts. I was afraid the whole holiday would be like this.

    We had a talk after she calmed down–she got a good night’s sleep and was back to her sweet self in the morning. Didn’t even jump out of bed to beg me to open presents.

    She did get several of the things on her list and was happy with her gifts. Even likes the pjs and the robe.

    I’m sure an erratic schedule with school out and a recent lack of sleep led to the meltdown. I do try to stick to a regular bedtime because she rarely sleeps in. It’s just so hard to stick to that 8 pm lights out!

  8. Chris says:

    Post Christmas conversation with sixteen year old daughter, a couple hours after dinner:

    Daughter: I’m hungry, what is there to eat?

    Me: Check the fridge, it is full of leftovers.

    Daughter: Hey! Dad made pancakes today, why didn’t you tell me?

    Me: You were asleep.

    Daughter: Why didn’t you tell me when I woke up.

    Me: I was making dinner.

    Then she broke down into giggles and laughed. Well, there is always hope. Though she wants to go to Target today, but she is still asleep at almost 1pm!

  9. Lexi says:

    Ha, my kid (almost 2) had kind of a fit on Christmas day too. My in-laws scheduled Christmas dinner right in the middle of his nap time. He was fine for the first hour, but then every one gathered around to pray. I think he got freaked out by the large group of strangers chanting odd words, and just lost it. He came sobbing to me, so we snuggled until he was OK, then I put him down for a nap. He slept through the whole thing and didn’t get to open any presents.

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