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?
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.