Thursday, November 24, 2011

Snake in a Can

Do you remember that gag with the fake can of nuts and the cloth snake with a spring in it? "Hey, want a peanut? BOOIIINNGGG!"

That was a good one, huh?

And you know how it was really, really hard to get the stupid snake back into the container and close the lid because every time you'd have almost shoved the whole springy thing back in and maneuvered the lid into place it would shoot back out and the lid would fly off and you'd have to start over?

Because I am totally experiencing it again. Except instead of a fake can of nuts, it's a stroller, and instead of a springy snake, it's a screaming, flailing, totally freaking out two-year-old. "Hey, want a toddler? What? Why not?!"

Four times in the last week I've had to strap O into his stroller because he was having a fit. All of them have been the result of completely unreasonable reactions to mundane things like getting on a bus or dressing for school. I think it comes from his desire to control what he can (putting on pants, walking to the bus stop) and learning to be an independent being, and I understand all that. I also realize it's a phase that most kids go through, but wow, can it ever be unpleasant!

Sometimes I can head him off at the pass; when I know he's tired or if it's no big deal to let him do what he wants, then I'm happy to avoid a scene. But there are other times, like when he wants to eat lollipops at 7am or tries to throw himself into oncoming traffic, that I just can't give in. And when a little kid gets to the screaming, kicking, sobbing, shrieking stage, it's very, very difficult to do anything to stop it.

At home, you can let it pass. The kitchen floor will take a beating from stomping little feet, and I've learned to mentally block out the noise to a certain extent. But when you're out in public, things get more complicated. I've come up with a few steps to get through it:

What To Do When Your Small Child Freaks Out In Public

Step 1- Make calming noises and glance around to see who is looking (everyone.) Stroke child's hair soothingly but keep fingers away from biting mouth.

Step 2- Explain to the child why it is inappropriate to behave so badly for such a silly reason, ideally giving Back Story to all eavesdropping bystanders. "No, you can't take the 33 bus because we need the R68, and you are not allowed on your own because you are two. And it is unreasonable of you to demand that I repair your broken banana after you threw it on the floor because you didn't want it at first but now you do. Also, you are exhausted for having been up 4 times in the middle of the night, and I am trying to be patient but I too was up 4 times in the middle of night, and I still have to go home and cook dinner."

Step 3- Try to elicit sympathetic looks from those bystanders who haven't stuck their fingers in their ears from all the screaming.

Step 4- Apparently pretty much no one wants to listen to a screaming child, so you do what you can to remove yourself and the offending kid from the situation. As I've mentioned, the stroller is handy for quick getaway, but wow, do you ever look like a Terrible Parent when you are trying to strap down a screaming kid who is acting like the fabric on the seat is burning them and you are the devil who is making them sit in the evil, evil thing. Keep up the Sympathetic-Look-Eye-Contact, with an occasional So-Sorry-About-My-Crazy-Child-Smile.

Step 5- Run. (Yes, the child has to go with you.)

Step 6- Enlist significant other's help in opening bottle of wine.

OK, so it might not put me in the Parenting Hall of Fame, but it helps in a pinch. What do you do when your kid throws a tantrum?


  1. First off - thank you Caroline for making my day. I feel better knowing that you are suffering too ;o) I have recently been going through the same thoroughly enjoyable phase to the point of doubting my parental skills and my child's character... as my kid seems to be the only one in public in Paris acting this way. French children seem to be much more quiet and reserved – and peacefully stay in their strollers for long periods of time ??? (maybe I need to stop reading the American books on how to deal with toddlers and start researching the French method)

    So in response - I feel the stroller takes too much time and effort plus her legs are now long enough to stick out and prevent me from pushing. I've resorted to the "throw child over shoulder like a sack of potatoes". Luckily, I've got the advantage that most people don't understand what I'm actually saying to her in English ;o)

  2. Having no children, and guilty of being one of those unsympathetic people with their fingers in their ears, I cannot offer any advice. BUT, living at home now with 4 nieces and nephews of a sufficiently young age I have become surprisingly more sympathetic! who knew? ;-)
    The other night I just picked up the offending, hysterical, incomprehensible child and carried her to her parent's car and strapped her in. Her father and Nonna were about to cave in to 'letting her stay with Nonna' (despite Nonna being unwell and busy, and a school night and Mama saying 'no').
    I think I'm getting a feel for this already!!
    Well done Caroline. You're amazing and you have all our cyber-sympathy from Down Under xxxxxxx

  3. You are not alone! I posted about a similar struggle recently - Just hold onto the thought, it's just a phase! (And hope it's true...)

  4. That made me laugh! My very nearly three year old is currently having a meltdown in the kitchen and yelling at the fridge because I have dared to put his advent calendar away (I've given up explaining the "countdown" reason for not eating them all RIGHT NOW and have progressed to ignoring him!)Oh look, he's got over it and has come to find me as if nothing has happened!! Toddler tantrums eh! gotta love 'em!!
    mummi h

  5. Hi Caroline! Just found your blog and wondering if you are still blogging? I am an American in the UK too with two American-English little ones. Hope to hear back soon!