I Did Not Deal with Tonight’s Temper Tantrum at All Well.by Ellie Thompson
In fact, I pretty much responded with one of my own temper tantrums. I had to go into the bathroom and scream.
Let’s quickly set the scene while my adrenaline is still running.
It’s bedtime. My four-year-old is in her room quietly organising her doll’s house. I calmly give her a ten-minute warning; she remains silent and ignores me even after I tell her the time is up. I let her have another five minutes as I busy myself cleaning the bathroom. Time is now really up. I go in her bedroom, and tell her, “Come on darling, it’s now way past your bedtime, it’s time for me to turn the lights off.”
The lights go out – but it’s not dark in her room. She still has a string of Cable and Cotton lights that run across her ceiling, and the landing light is still on, but it’s too dark to see what she’s doing in the house.
“I HAAAAAAAAATE THIS GUY!!” She screams at the top of her voice, slamming her doll into the house with an almighty crash. Cue the temper tantrum. Oh hello, my old friend.
I turn swiftly on my heel, turn the main lights back on, and tell her to get herself into bed and turn the light off when she’s finished.
I go downstairs, say goodbye to Jamie who’s conveniently always on the way out of the house to rugby training when the shit hits the fan (why is it always when it’s just me?!) and I hang up some washing in the kitchen.
I start to feel bad. Yes, it's a temper tantrum, but no, she’s not angry at me, she’s frustrated with her dolls. Five minutes later I walk back up the stairs and she’s calm. She’s done a really great job organising her dolls’ house. She finishes up as promised, and gets into bed, and we share a cuddle and I give her a goodnight kiss on her cheek.
The end is in sight! Temper tantrum over! I can go downstairs and watch an Eastenders.
But it’s then the trouble really starts.
Her nightlight next to her bed is now all of a sudden broken, and she’s suddenly petrified of the dark.
She turns full metal jacket on me.
I try to reason with her – she has lots of light in her room, it’s fine. But nothing resonates or comforts her because she’s escalated this totally out of her own control now. My calm and collected demeanour starts to quickly wane as I run out of sympathy.
“I don’t know what I can do! I can’t magic up another nightlight, Maddie!” I despair, frantically trying to find the dimmer switch on her string of lights to whack the brightness up a bit. An easy fix, I thought, until I realised the switch is stuck on the floor behind a chest of drawers that are fixed to the wall.
“GET THAT TEDDY BEAR PAINTING OUT OF MY BEDROOOOOOOOOOM! IT’S GOT CREEPY EYES AND IT’S LOOKING AT MEEEEEEEEE!” she starts to wail in one of the worst tantrums I've seen in AGES. This temper is backed by some incredible decibel force the whole neighbourhood can hear (despite it being February with all the windows shut).
I kind of agree about the eyes though, so I quickly remove the beloved bear painting that’s sat on her chest of drawers since she was born like a trusty old friend looking over her. “That’s all the thanks you get, Teddy.” I mutter under my breath.
“I’M SO SCARED!!!! I DON’T LIKE THE DARK! I CAAAAAN’T GO TO SLEEP!!”
Along with top-of-the-voice “wahhhhs”, and “arghhhhs” and... – you get the picture. A temper tantrum on the ridiculous end of the richer scale. Meanwhile, I’m trying to fix the light, but she’s still screaming. I’m walking around the upstairs trying to find something else to use. She’s still screaming.
“MADDIE!!” I shout. I’ve lost it now. “PLEASE. JUST. STOP. WHINGING!!!”
This is the bit where I had to leave the room, go into the bathroom and, well… wail.
I come back in the room at a loss as to what to do.
“You’ll have to sleep with the main lights on.” I say, thinking that will fix it – they’re on a dimmer after all, and she can have them down low. Sorted, right? This is a kid that obviously likes the light.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOO! BECAUSE THAT’S TOO BRIIIIIIIIGHT!!!” She howls, writhing around in her bed.
I’m starting to fume.
“There’s nothing I can do about it now; I can’t MAGIC up a nightlight at this hour!”
Although that’s precisely what I did. My brain started scanning all the rooms in the house and THANK GOD! I identified a possible appropriate solution in the office room… I went downstairs to get it. On my way past Billy’s room (he’s 2) I noticed he’d quietly (and sensibly) shut his door to block out her screaming. Fair, Billy. Fair.
She clocked that I was heading down the stairs. That was met with much disapproval, as she thought I was walking away. Cue more horrendously loud, disturbing screaming.
Yet she’s not been left in the dark, she has three light sources on in her room, dimly light, yes, but perfect for sleeping. She’s not in darkness by a long shot.
Downstairs, I faff about unplugging a yellow lamp and I take it back upstairs. She quietens in interest as she sees me come back into the room. I say a prayer, plug it in, and rest it on her chest of drawers. It was a gamble, as her chest of drawers are not situated near her bed, so I expected her to take further umbrage to this newfound light source being so far away (in her opinion, anyway, we live in a fairly small house!). I flick the switch and silently thank Thomas Edison and all of humanity as light burst across the room.
Very bright. This could go either way.
Never mind then, I thought, I’ll turn it off later.
“Okay greeaaat!” I sigh, exasperated, and still really pissed off, looking over at her. She seemed pleased. I decided to get back downstairs while the going was good.
“Goodnight Maddie!" I say briskly.
And now, of course, I’m downstairs and I’m really sad at the way I just handled that situation.
I think I’ll go back upstairs and give her a cuddle before she goes to sleep.
Edit: I’m too late. She’s asleep. I’ll have a little cry instead. Parenting is HARD.