My Son.

My 3 year-old son has these moments.

He wants something.

A toy that his sister is playing with or some fragile item he sees in a store or maybe to ride his tricycle around the block when he suddenly wakes up at three o’clock in the morning.

And we have to say, “no”.

That’s when the meltdown hits…

He falls on the ground, feet pointing to the sky, and starts to scream at the top of his lungs or he’ll just repeat the phrase “I want it” over and over again.

If we try to pick him up he goes utterly limp, his body becoming about a hundred pounds of dead weight. This can go on for five minutes or ten, maybe even a half our.

We call this “The Rage”.

After the rage there is “The Calm” which often results in some of the most glorious gifts that come to parenthood.

He’ll sprawl across my lap (or more often his mother’s) and reach up and grab the fat of my earlobe and he’ll twist and turn it. Both of my children did this, actually. Our earlobe became their object of comfort, which is REALLY convenient because… unless one of us goes all Vincent Van Gough… we know we’ll always have an ear when they need it.

But between “The Rage” and “The Calm” is a short window which has often overwhelmed Truman and myself and my wife.

In this thirty seconds Truman will alternate back and forth between asking for something and then rejecting that same something.

“I want a bottle!”

Then I hand him the bottle and… he throws it on the floor. “I don’t want a bottle.”

A moment goes by and then… “I dropped my bottle!”

So, I reach down and grab the bottle and give it back and…

“I don’t want the bottle!” and across the floor it goes.

This can go on for as long as we choose to participate in the madness.

Give the way blogs works I’m sure within ten comments a real life child psychologist will give this emotional boomerang its proper name and explain its function, but until then… I refer to it as “The Terror”. And not “The Terror” meaning he’s being a terror, but he FEELS terror… abject terror because there’s something in the world that he wants very, very badly and yet… someone is saying NO to him. He’s a small kid… he believes the sun and stars and wind all exist for him and yet… there’s something he can’t have… and so, really, he is powerless to manifest his every need.

He is literally terrified and so he bounces between the honest wanting and the false rejection or the imagined emotional safety that might come from a lack of wanting.

But there is no safety… the want is real… and no amount of faux rejection can mask that.

In the end, he realizes that there is no way to pretend the need away and so he ultimately chooses the bottle and the hug and to accept our comfort.

On days when it looks like the political world is not going to grant my wishes its easy to revert to a primal form and I find myself in the terror… both wanting to clutch to the thing I hope for and to throw it across the room.

Then again… I’ve got an earlobe if anyone needs it.


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  1. falling to the ground and screaming, give it a try. This works best when there aren’t a lot of people around.

    How old is your other child?

    • RiaD on April 29, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    we called it ‘berserker tantrums’

    we tried coddling & explaining & everything under the sun(advice from our mothers). finally in desperation I called my Gram. Leave her right there. Explain that this is NOT acceptable behaviour & when she is ready to act like a human you will discuss it with her. Step over her and continue your buisness.

    It was like majik! well, i guess it actually took two or three times, but the berserker tantrums ended.

    and when the socks thing started in kindergarten we used the same logic. (my socks won’t go on right…the seam hurts my toes..Waaaaah!)

  2. Thank god I don’t have kids!

  3. the ego unmasked.

    They have been cared for and pampered their whole existence, now they are experiencing for the first time both the power and the pangs of being separate.

    They want to be separate and independent and assert their ego, their selves. But, they also still want mommy and daddy to care for them in every way, as a symbol of love and togetherness, a rejection of the scariness of being separate. They are also fully realizing for the first time there power over mommy and daddy, and experimenting with ….limits(the most important word in child raising)

    Iow, they want the best of all worlds, power, the freedom of independence….but also someone to cater to their every need as well.

    All while they are having to experiment with how to express themselves.


    • Temmoku on April 29, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    your Parents have cursed you so that you get to experience the joys of parenthood like they did!

    Actually, I think the midnight tantrum is more of an expression of a need for security that a small child is unable to express satisfactorily. The tantrum produced the wanted results before…total attention from the parent…so it is repeated…soon the orginal reason for the tantrum is lost as new reasons supplant it.

    If this becomes frequent or nightly, you may have practice some tough love….I sympathize with your efforts. Good Luck!

  4. dangle these shiny bobbles of ‘a better life’ for you and yours, a new vision which is really nothing new but the same old. The thing is they can’t and won’t deliver so in reality all you get to choose from is the least abusive of the choices. The common good is lost in the fray of what’s in it for me, even if in reality it’s going to bite you. I go for the ones who tells me its up to us the grown up citizen part, the ‘ask not what your country can do for you but…… types. The ones who promise me ‘security’ and stuff then  feel my pain send me running.    

    • RUKind on April 29, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    At that age we found it was usually being over-tired. A hug and a hush-a-bye snuggle worked best. At first you’ll get rejection but kids can be conditioned as well as Pavlov’s dogs. Hell, we all are conditioned. Except these days it’s been by our education system, semi-fictional history books and Rupert-media.

    Some of us are waking up from that nap, though.

    • Turkana on April 30, 2008 at 11:15 am

    england’s henry ii, even as an adult, was known to have such fits of fury that he’d fall on the floor, screaming, kicking his legs, and waving his arms. the plantagenets were almost all known for juvenile temper tantrums. perhaps your son was born to rule.

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