This post was originally published at Masalamommas
She screamed. It was an ear piercing shriek. She grabbed the toys already strewn on the floor and in a stubborn fit threw them everywhere followed by a resounding “NO! I WILL NOT CLEAN IT!” It was definitely a full blown tantrum of epic proportion. Except this time, the tantrum was thrown by me. I glanced at my two and a half year old daughter who was looking up at me stunned, her eyes filled with fear. Then she started to cry. In that instance all my frustration and rage melted away and I immediately took my sweet child in my arms, hugged and kissed her and whispered “It’s alright Meri Jaan (my heart), Mama was just angry. I’m so sorry. Everything is fine.”
In between heaving sobs my daughter trying to console me says “Mama don’t be angry, be happy.” The guilt I felt then was like a knife through my heart. I wiped her tears and mine and gave that little girl the best mama smile I could muster. It seemed to be good enough because she gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and skipped back to her play area, the ugliness of a few minutes before all forgotten.
What was the matter with me? What had caused me to unleash all of that pent up rage on my innocent child? It certainly didn’t make me feel any better. Instead I revealed the ‘Monster’ inside me and I couldn’t ever take that back. I slumped to the floor, exhausted. This was the problem. I was tired all the time and I had nothing to show for it but piles of mess. There were always toys and books everywhere, no matter how many times I put them away they appeared again just as they were. It was like an episode of The Twilight Zone. There were little piles of those colourful Ikea bowls in every corner of the apartment filled with mostly untouched cut up fruits or some meal that refused to be eaten or wound up as a regurgitated mess on the kitchen table and floor. There were always yogurt streaks on her face and hair (or mine) or wiped on the chair cushions.
Physical labour aside it’s the mental exhaustion that tips the scale towards ‘psycho mama’. By that I mean the toddler tantrums. It is not just terrible, it torments you and it tortures you. It wakens you as you’ve just fallen into a deep dream state sleep only to startle you out of it to a shrieking child who decides to display obsessive compulsive tendencies by ordering you to shut the door and open the door and walk over here no walk over there till you want to scream yourself. 4 am dark thoughts cannot help but enter your sleep deprived mind and it takes all of you, I mean every ounce of whatever energy is left to remind yourself this is a little baby, an innocent tot that is very confused right now and needs you. No matter how much my husband does his best to distract her and stay up all night with her (which he does A LOT, God bless you darling) during the tantrums the only person my daughter wants is her mama. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde could not personify my daughter more perfectly, as the day following the ugly night is always cheery with her curiosity filled chitter chatter creating a happy atmosphere. Mr. Hyde oft likes to return during leisurely strolls at the shopping mall when suddenly the outburst is upon you and there is nothing you can do but ride it out. I have learned from experience that saying or doing anything at that point only aggravates her aggression; best to ignore and take her to a location with less to no people. I was doing just that when another mother pushing a stroller passed by looked at us and uttered a disdain filled “oh my gosh” whilst rolling her eyes. It took me a second to register her tone. I ended up having an angry conversation in my head of what I should have said to her. Imagine a finger waving “Sister, you did not just roll your eyes at me. Don’t tell me your kid has never had a tantrum in a public place before- bleep!!” This would have been followed by a cat fight gone viral on YouTube titled “Mothers Rumble in the Jungle”. What adult rolls their eyes at anyone? It is immature and beyond rude. Luckily there were plenty other passersby who gave me reassuring looks which was much appreciated. It is embarrassing enough when your child makes a scene, we shouldn’t be made to feel incompetent on top of that.
Speaking of embarrassing, I don’t know how it is for the non-desi parents out there, but growing up in a South Asian community makes it even harder to manage much less accept public toddler tantrums. It seems to be engrained in our psyche that any ‘jungli’ (wild) behaviour from our children is a humiliation to the ‘Family Name’ and reflects poorly on our parenting skills. I remember as a young child whenever we were out especially with our father we dare not scream “or else!” It was expected that the mother should ‘handle’ the situation and quickly because misbehaviour no matter what the age or comprehension level of the child would absolutely not be tolerated. It’s ironic because I find I have inherited the ‘old school’ parent gene as my first instinct is to worry about what people will think and then try to ‘control’ the situation. (Secretly I am much like Maggie Smith’s character from Downton Abbey) But alas, times are a changing. I can see it now when the frustration starts to rise on my parent’s faces; their granddaughter’s diabolical diva about to be released. But then after seeing their daughter go through the madness of dealing with it they have finally understood and learned to let me calm her down without the urge to step in and ‘solve’ the problem.
Tantrums are emotionally draining both for the child and the parent. This stage is probably the most difficult part of parenting (I’m sure it gets worse). In hindsight labour pains were easy in comparison and I went the ‘au natural’ route sans epidural, which was… well a story for another day! Each phase since has been much more trying and challenging. But as is the miracle of parenting, nature helps you forget the painful memories of each experience as you move on to the next. So momma’s and papa’s next time you are stuck in a moment of crisis with your temper about to explode and cannot trust what you will do or say? Simply remove yourself from the situation, just for a minute take a deep breath and say ‘this too shall pass’. You will then be able to rationally deal with the situation at hand, most of the time anyway. The trick is to just let it go. If your child is refusing to eat despite all of your efforts, then you know what? Forget about it. Your kids will not starve. As long as they are healthy and active, no need to worry. I know we tend to get controlling for the sake of discipline and routine and want to make sure all the parenting steps are done correctly and checked off e.g. the ‘right’ bed time, meal time, bath time, TV or tablet time. But really children are not robots and they are going to have their unpredictable days, testing the boundaries. So let them have it. There is only so much you can do and the rest is futile, may as well ride the wave with less stress, maintaining your sanity. Make sense?
I know it’s a taboo to be talking about the dark side of parenting, especially the rage that lives within us. We are supposed to say all children are sweet angels. Well I personally would like to hear more about the ugly truth of parenting so I can feel less guilty about the fact that I am not the only ‘evil’ mother who wants to lock her kid up most days or worse hide in the closet like the cowardly lion away from her ‘won’t stop crying’ child because I just couldn’t take it anymore (my closet is my haven-sometimes I sneak in snacks).
So I am writing this to tell you dear readers this is not a taboo. I am writing this for my closest friends who recently opened up about their concerns dealing with their toddlers. Their situations varied but ultimately they all felt like bad mothers and the guilt led them to go in a corner and cry. Hands up if you have been there. That is what I thought – WE ALL HAVE. These mamas are scattered across the globe from Canada to Australia, the Middle East and Pakistan and they are all going through the same thing regardless of what culture or environment they are raising their children in. It was only after one of them ‘confessed’ did the flood gates open from the rest on their parenting frustrations. Each felt they were all alone on a boat to being a social outcast. Fearing their friends, families and even strangers will think or worse SAY they are a bad parent which is the most hurtful, confidence breaking, emotionally shattering thing to even imply to an actual parent! We are all trying to do our best in whatever capacity to raise our children well, facing the same parenting challenges. We need to acknowledge the good with the bad. Put the competitiveness aside for a moment and let us not gloat about our child’s accomplishes ALL the time. I know it’s a great feeling to be proud but how about we balance it by sharing some of the tougher episodes to connect with that other parent and learn from each other’s experiences.
This post is dedicated to my friends, those that are parents and those about to become parents. Let us support each other through the tough times especially. Remember, there is no such thing as a bad parent.
Ever felt it was a taboo to talk about parenting frustrations? Have a challenging parenting experience to share? What is the best advice another parent has ever given you?