My first memory of my anger is playing Monopoly with my mom during summer break. She beat me so badly that I threw the game board and her 17 hotels across the room. I stormed off and my recollections pretty much end there. I don’t remember if she got mad at me or figured it was her penance for putting a hotel on every other plot of land successfully scaring me away from a career in real estate.
Suffice it to say, I don’t play Monopoly anymore.
My parents occasionally remind me, though I don’t need the cues, that I used to explode and enigmatically break things. I would work myself up into a blind rage and only the shattering of tangible items would give the sweet release of endorphins and freedom. Freedom that was quickly followed by a consequence. I’ve been so angry that I knocked a kid out with a lunch room tray in middle school and punched a hole through double-paned glass.
I was not a bad kid, at least in hindsight, but my trail of tantrums was far and wide. Many of which I keep secret until I can fully remember which ones I’ve told my parents about and which ones I haven’t. To my future children reading this, this is why you don’t tell lies because eventually they run together.
I read about terrible twos and the often-described-as-worse terrible threes. But I assumed it was rebellion in the form of “no’s” and unwillingness to listen. I thought it was touching everything on the way out of the sporting goods store and not being able to leave the grocery until a “special snack” was purchased, opened and consumed.
When Kaeden threw his first fit, his first real “run-out-of-breath-because-you-are-screaming-so loud, fists-against-any-object-within-five-feet, flying-cup-flying-food-flying-spit, snot-running-out-of-both-nostrils” fit, I knew exactly what was happening. They say an addict can spot other addicts, right?
The more he screamed and kicked, the more I got it. His tears of rage were me years ago. The inability to process frustration, no matter how normal, was something I wanted mightily for him to avoid.
He throws fits when he wants to wear his socks on his hands, not on his feet. Or when he wants to wear the shirt he wore yesterday again today. When the radio is too quiet. Or too loud. When I tell him his shirt is red but he thinks it’s orange. Or if he wants to eat a pancake, not the one on his plate, but the one on mine. Because three minutes is too long to wait for macaroni and cheese to heat in the microwave. Or because there is no basketball on television at 5:45 in the morning. Because he doesn’t want to roll his sleeves up when he washes his hands. And then when his sleeves are wet after washing his hands. And all too often because the morning is not an appropriate time for ice cream. Or a lollipop.
When I started writing this, I only wanted to record for our future selves the many things that make Kaeden go full-moon crazy. For the record, he only throws fits about once a week. The rest are solved with a kiss, a fist bump or a lollipop. But it turned into more than that; it reminded me why I care so much when he does.
Everybody sees a two-year-old throwing typical tantrums. I see a vision of my younger self slamming a door so hard that frames shatter falling off the wall. For as long as this phase lasts, we’ve been forced to learn more about our son, his cues, his tipping points and to get creative in the resolutions. We’ve learned that there’s a science behind fits, toddler’s inability to self-regulate their emotions and how parents should lovingly guide them through.
And unlike Monopoly or any other board game, we can’t compare stacks of love units and cash them in for a quick end to this unnecessary temper tantrum.
Parenthood comes with a very special kind of guilt. The kind of guilt that makes us, as adults, feel responsible for every action and inaction by our children. As another blog so matter-of-factly put it, “a guilt that terrifies you into thinking you are not only making a mess of your life, but a brand-new person’s as well.”
I’m sure like most things I do as a parent, I’m overanalyzing his temper tantrums. Most of the time, it’s simply an effect of subcortical brain activity, terrible twos and the impending terrible threes. Here’s to hoping the fours are fantastic and not like the movie series that starred Jessica Alba and still put me to sleep.
But on the slimmest chance that these outbursts are caused by a DNA mutation that I passed along, I refuse to attach a label to it and will say I know the feeling and love him all the more.