If this blog is supposed to be about adventures in parenting (among other topics) I should try to write about dad stuff once in a while. The delightful trouble is that things are pretty even keel right now. Other than flapping my arms and crowing proudly about the little dude’s massive brainpower (starting to honest-to-goodness read!), we’ve been just keepin’ on.
There was one noticeable exception, though. A few weeks ago, during a particularly rough bedtime, my exhausted son threw a tantrum. That’s the standard term for his behaviour – I’d say it would be more accurate to say that he lost his ever-loving mind. Not just pouty, or weepy or angry, but a full-blown loss of all restraint. Shrieking at the top of his lungs and hammering on my chest with his tiny fists.
This wasn’t the first tantrum that he’s had – I took the brunt of what I think was his first one months ago, when he woke up a half-hour after bedtime and freaked the f*$k out. And with his history of occasional night terrors as an infant, that first tantrum was somewhat understandable. It still pushed me all the way past calm and controlled,though I managed to somehow resolve the situation. I actually pried his eyelids open during the tantrum, and that calmed him down. I think he was still kind of asleep. Sleep rage, I guess? Even after he was back asleep, I was left with immense guilt and shame for having lost my own composure and for getting angry at him for shrieking at me.
This time, he was fully awake when he launched into his tirade. I am glad to say that I had learned from the first time, and I found a place of serene compassion and calm that I hunkered down in. I was ready to gently talk to him and hug him until his cognitive process regained control of his body. My dear wife actually came in and interceded, because she didn’t want him treating me that way. It was a kind of strange dynamic, and I admit that his angry, spiteful words were pretty hurtful. But under the calm but stern guidance of my dear wife, we came together as a family and calmed down to resolve the situation.
Afterwards, it was a strange sight to see his pride fighting with his remorse as he struggled to apologize to me. He was embarrassed by his actions and he really didn’t have the ego to spare for a hearty apology. A mumbled “sorry” without making eye contact was the best he could manage. But, when I came downstairs the next morning, he made a point of looking over at me and saying “I’m sorry dad”. And that was probably one of the best apologies I’ve ever received, because it was entirely unprompted and heartfelt. He had thought about what had happened, and he felt bad.
Staring into that unthinking and defiant tantrum reminded me of the angry beast inside every one of us. It’s not that we lose the urge to throw all the rules aside and assert or will upon the things around us with violence and spite: we just learn to control it. I know that there are times that I just want to punch walls, kick over tables, and scream at the world for not obeying my commands, and I think that’s common to all of us. We live in a universe that doesn’t really care about fulfilling our desires, and that is immensely frustrating to a species that is so self-important. So, in staring down the lad’s tantrum and finding a peaceful way to deal with it, I’m also re-enforcing my own coping mechanisms, putting new chains on the rage beast.