Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Managing tantrums

My children Jake and Lily are well past the tantrum stage in their young lives. Hopefully I'll get there soon! All kidding aside, I remember the moment I transitioned from frantic Mom to calm Mom in terms of knowing I could successfully handle the emotional storms of my passionate children.

Lily was two and a half. We were at our weekly music class. I had just finished telling Margo, mother of a newly turned two year old, that Lily had finally stopped having tantrums (and had moved onto what I called "willful displays of power"). The teacher, Jill, asked the children to pretend to be babes in Toyland, when Lily threw herself down on the ground and refused to take another step until I played Ring-Around-The-Rosy with her. 
I thought we should stick with the program and not insert our own agenda. This was one of those moments when a mother isn’t sure whether to honor the creativity and whimsy of her child or insist on getting back in line. I didn’t want the other mothers to think Lily was spoiled or that she always gets her way. 

I tried to pick her up and join the circle again but she arched her back and burst into tears screaming. I wanted to cry, too. What do I do now? How embarrassing. I wanted to scream, Shut up! But suddenly I heard my inner voice whispering instructions as though a 9-1-1 operator was talking me through a medical emergency. Stay calm. Relax your mouth and forehead. Talk to Lily softly. Pick her up now and rock her to soothe her. Walk away from the group slowly. You are a wonderful mother. Cup the crown of Lily's head. Give her words to explain her feelings: I know you are frustrated, Lily.
By the time I made my way through the list, Lily had melted into my hug. She pointed at Jill who was passing out bells for the next song. We walked back into the circle. 

A few of the mothers gave me looks that seemed to say, Poor Andrea. But I did not need pity. I was not powerless. I congratulated myself for managing with grace one of the many emotional phases Lily will experience. My strong maternal voice and good instincts lead me through. 

Lily and I rang our bells and laughed.