The other day, I experienced my first phantom tantrum, whereas, out of absolutely no where, Ellison explodes in a fit of rage and anger. I stood there like I had just witnessed a dog get hit by a car. Dumbfounded. Confused. I must’ve stood there for ten or fifteen seconds before I went into action. Ellison’s tantrum, that day, was marked by “silent cry” (where the exhale seems to last close to a minute then huge inhale and ferocious exhale), tightness of the limbs and redness of the face. Of course, tears. Long flowing rivers of tears streaming down her cheek. Now, this being my first real run-in with a tantrum, there were a few things of note. Firstly, unlike the colicky outburst where it’s not something you did and you can’t blame yourself, the tantrum is most likely something you did. In my case, I snagged my car keys from her.
The outside stimulus of me taking the keys was met with an unequal and completely unnecessary reaction, but try telling Ellison that. The baby can’t speak or articulate her frustration. The highlight of her day is a bath, finger foods, a book with mommy, playing with her friends and chewing on dad’s car keys. And now, I stand accused of taking one of her simple pleasures away from her.
The only tantrums I had dealt with up this point were those of my brother when he was a young boy. He, 22 months older than me, was set off by my mere existence. The fact that I was alive and healthy was the outside stimulus that created his tantrums. And Todd would put up a fight like no other. And he’d probably not oppose to me publicly saying so. Todd was a warrior with his tantrums. Every tooth, nail, hair and limb on his body turned into a weapon of mass destruction. Kid was volatile.
Luckily, Ellison is nowhere on that scale. Of course, she’s not as mobile yet. Her vocabulary is extremely limited. She can “bah” like a sheep or sing “lala” or call for “mama.” Her tantrums are where she sits on her buttocks and screams.
Especially frustrating for a parent because you’re left with no recourse except to apologize to her, console her, play along for a second and then move on. More on that later. Last night, Ellison exploded when mommy was playing with her helping her push the big stroller around the house. Girl came unhinged and mommy’s standing there and says, “I’m sorry. I just thought…you’d…want…to push the stroller. Sorry,” like Tom Cruise in Rain Man when Raymond comes unglued in the penthouse suite after a tender moment dancing in soft embrace. Cruise is just standing there like, “I’m sorry, Raymond,” like he just desperately wanted to love on his brother, but he quickly realizes how delicate his brother’s emotional and mental situation is and, in a fleeting moment, recognizes that he might not ever have the relationship that he wants with Raymond.
The tantrum will come out of nowhere. It’s, guaranteed, however that you definitely had something to do with it. It might seem like a totally irrational and unnecessary reaction, but nothing is fair in the world of tantrums. We’ll talk coping skills later as we develop our own. Right now, coping includes just standing there for a second, panicking and returning with, “Well, excuse me for living, Ellison” and storming off into the other room to chug back a room-temperature Budweiser.
That was a joke. Don’t do that. That’s actually a incredibly negligent and terrible reaction to a baby’s tantrum.
Hang in there, parentals. We’ll get this thing figured out eventually.