Tag Archives: temper tantrums

Thank God it’s Monday


I think I must have said twice today “I’m turning into my mother.”

The first time I said it was when talking with a friend when I asked her for the names of two neighbors. I knew their children’s names, but for some reason, the mom’s names just escaped me. I felt horrible. I called my friend whose been on the block for almost 20 years for help. As I was apologizing for asking her, I said flippantly, “I must have early-onset. I’m turning into my mother.” (My mom has Alzheimer’s and fear creeps in at times I can’t recall names!)

The second time I said “I’m turning into my mother” was to myself as I tried to listen to my four-year-old talk during bath-time. I was listening to him—sort of—but my mind kept mulling over the events of the day, and how poorly I dealt with them. My little guy has been fighting yet another nasty cold and potential pink eye all weekend. We had gone to urgent care to get those pink eye drops just in case and I shouldn’t have expected that he’d be a perfectly behaved boy. But Friday night he woke up a lot and crawled into my bed coughing on my face so much I didn’t rest well with fitful dreams of catching something. I was already a bit of a zombie on Saturday, so I had no right to go to a friend’s house and to stay up late watching a movie. Boys were asleep, but I stayed up till after midnight watching a Clint Eastwood flick. (I’ve become a fan recently, go figure!) So when my youngest woke up at 6 a.m. Sunday, coughing and making a lot of noise, stomping on the stairs, jumping on me and then later fighting with his brother, I was instantly anxious and grouchy and started rounded up all items for a quick exit. I even talked to myself snappily (something about hating my life and bad decisions) as I stomped around and tried to get the boys sorted. I over-reacted and was in panic mode about kids waking up the household. But of course, I behaved badly by not staying calm and said things I didn’t mean.

It’s just silly. I mean, what was I thinking? Of course he’d get up at 6. Duh.

My day got a little nutty, which is to be expected with a sick kiddo. James had a temper tantrum in the Vet’s office where I was picking up meds for our cat. He sat on the floor between the halfway open front door, where he had jammed his rear-end, and screamed, “I’m SO tired. I just want to go back to the CAAAARRRRR!” Followed by a hick-up.

So,  I picked up my 40 pounder and carried him to car, now kicking and screaming that he now doesn’t want to go to the car. You know, the typical insane rant of a tired, not-feeling-well, four-year-old. I snap him in, without a word, straighten my back and blow out air. Thank God his older brother was on a play-date. I naively thought he’d go to sleep right away.

We go on a long drive out to Palos Verdes to rise above the clouds, get a vista, and let him sleep. He screamed for 10 minutes, which felt like an eternity. I couldn’t even understand what he was saying. My heart started racing. Seriously?! This again? I begin to feel sorry for myself a bit, and handed him a sandwich. (My kid has an amazing relationship with food, so snacks are key.) A few bites and he falls asleep with the ham sandwich still in his tight, little grip. It would be comical if I didn’t have cortisol surging through my veins. With silence enveloping the car like angel’s breath, I thought: How the Hell do moms of three or four kids do this?!

As James was relaxing and chatting NONSTOP in the tub tonight (now onto the topic of just how Lion King’s dad kept talking to him since he was dead), I zoned out and thought about that moment in Palos Verdes in the car when I wondered how other moms keep their sanity. And then it hit me: I’ve turned into my mother.

My mom was such a wonderful, stressed-out, loving, mess. Seriously, she’d gasp sharply whenever the phone rang and jump with fear of an impending emergency. (She was a child-protective services social worker who gave out her home number to clients, so we often had interesting calls.) Occasionally when all four of her children were driving her crazy, she’d snap, “Someday, I’m just going to run away!”

I used to laugh then, but I now know exactly what she meant! I’m sure she was just thinking out loud, not even aware that she said it, as her heart raced madly while four kids were either yelling, hitting, punching, torturing one of our many pets, or up to some other mischief. I’m frankly amazed that she wasn’t a drinker.

Kids are tough. No wonder my brain is mush by Sunday night. It’s a wonder that I can even write this column. I apologize if it’s under par. Maybe I should just quit writing on Sunday evenings due to kiddo brain drain.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love, love, LOVE my little guys. I’m the luckiest mom on Earth to have them.

But thank GOD tomorrow is Monday.

Parenting a 3-Year-Old: Emotional Whiplash

I felt instant recognition when reading the poem “Duality” today by the blogger Ineffable Mr. Jones. (Here is a link to his beautiful poem.) I realized as I finished reading it, that it described today (and almost every Saturday for the past year) perfectly. I adore my three-year-old, but the tantrums and the screaming when I ask him to do or not do something, put me in a tailspin.

One minute I’m breathless and shaking. He’s thrown something again. He’s hit me. I’m struggling to pick him up, while he kicks, and put this 40 lb bruiser into his time out chair that I literally have to strap him into. I’m trying to stay positive, but typically fail. I wonder why I was chosen to deal with this all alone.  And then, maybe 10 minutes later, when he calms down, all I can think is how grateful I am he is here with me. I learned a few weeks ago that my rough and tumble three-year-old isn’t creating antibodies. Yup. It’s like he’s never been vaccinated. He has no antibodies to Tetnus, for instance, or Pneumococcal. That’s why he’s sick so much. That’s why he’s a cranky bugs most days. That’s why his adenoids are so swollen ALL the time and he can’t sleep well. That’s why he’s had pneumonia so often and is vulnerable to getting it again. After 20 days straight on antibiotics last month, I found a specialist and had his blood drawn. Thank God. We’re going to solve this. He’s going to be okay.  My heart swells with unconditional love and fear just thinking about it.

But…WHY he has to scream, throw things, kick and hit when he doesn’t get his way—to the extreme that he does—is driving me to the edge. It’s like emotional whiplash on a weekly basis. Today, I went from being madly in love with my little guy while playing sweetly with him—to choking down dark anger and frustration when he threw books off his bookshelf and screamed full tilt because I dared to ask him to put on his shoes a few minutes earlier. It’s the emotional equivalent of one minute cruising sweetly down a dirt road through the countryside on a gorgeous summer afternoon—to banging your head and neck on the back of the seat as you are jolted into Mach 5 speed—thrusting you madly into outer space. And this happened over and over again today, as it does on our weekends. I want so badly to stay in pasture thoughts and soul snowing love as Mr. Jones so eloquently put it. But my weekends with my little guy propel me like an emotional pendulum back and forth, again and again. I can’t let him get away with his tantrums and bad behavior. I have to be firm and put him in time out every time. I do. But it’s hilariously exhausting as I carry him up the stairs, still limping in my boot from my injury, to put him in his time out chair. But it’s what I have to do right now.

For those of you who may think I’m missing the forest through the trees, know this: Of course I’m madly in love with my little boy. Of course I’m meant to lasso this challenge and grow spiritually because of it. Of course he will grow out of this or I’ll find a specialist to help me if necessary. He has to get better physically and emotionally. I CAN do this. I HAVE to. So even though it’s been one month without a weekend off and I’ve got two more months to go, I’m going to mentally strap myself into this pendulum and remind myself to try to enjoy this maddening ride. Single parents out there, can you relate?
Here are Mr. Jones’ simple words. See if they resonate with your world:


by: Ineffable Mr. Jones


an ocean mind..

spiritual avalanche…

bleeding….             bleeding…


* * *


Pasture thoughts.

soul snowing.

breathing …. breathing



A Mother’s Legacy: Staying On The Brink

Mom and William, one week old, November 2001

“I want PIE!” Jamesy yells at me this morning. He has already climbed onto the second shelf of the pantry, which he knows he isn’t allowed to do.

“Well, I didn’t make the pie, and besides, that’s not a breakfast food, is it? Lets get down from there,” I reply calmly, trying to mask the tension that is rising like bile in my throat. I look at my angelic, chubby three-year-old with star-lit, midnight blue eyes and tousled blond hair. I know what is coming next—what has been happening in our house for months now.

‘NOOOO!!!!” he wails like a super sonic boom and then hurls a kitchen timer against the wall.

I take a deep breath and  pick up his squirming body. “Ok, time out buddy.”

His legs kick my calf. Hard. A zinger of pain flashes up to my kneecap and down to my swollen achilles’ heel. Why did I forget to put that damn boot back on? I think as I grimace with pain. Almost three weeks ago I tore a tendon in my left calf, so chasing after my three-year-old has now become an Olympic endeavor. I manage to strap him into his time-out chair—which is my second car seat. As I walk to pick up the now broken kitchen timer, he kicks his seat over, landing with a thud. His head is now on the floor, his feet raised above him in a sitting position. The crazy guy laughs, looks at me victoriously, and then starts screaming again.

“I HATE TIME OUT!!!” he screams.

William and I just shrug and sit down to eat our breakfast. We have gone through this scenario many times since we took the advice of Jamesy’s teacher who recommended that I place a car seat in my kitchen and strap him into it for a time out each time he throws things, yells, hits, climbs the pantry walls, bites, etc. Ignoring him, threatening with a consequence, taking away toys, and dare I admit, even a spanking, all don’t work on my little guy. Putting him in time out didn’t work before because he just refused to stay seated. Strapping him into time out is helping, believe it or not. It’s just taking an extraordinarily long time. I have a very stubborn three-year-old who hates to hear the word No or not be able to do what he wants to do. Like most I guess, but his older brother was never this ballsy or stubborn. Eventually, he stopped these shenanigans.  Plus, I didn’t have William and Jamesy close together in age. William is 10, James 3. I can’t imagine surviving life as a single mom with an insanely stubborn James and a brother only one or two years older. Seriously, with an ex in Europe and no family help, I might have ended up in Betty Ford or some mental facility.

Today, when I was taking James to school, I thought about my mom. You may be wondering what my son’s behavior, and how the scene I just described to you, has anything to do with a Mother’s Legacy. Well, a lot actually. My mother had four children and a husband who would work three-day shifts at the hospital. Back then, three-day-shifts were not frowned upon like they are today. She was virtually a single mom in Boston with my brother 3 and two sisters ages 2 and 1. They were all still in diapers!!

“Well, I just didn’t know any better,” my mom said to me 10 years ago when she visited me after I gave birth to William. “I mean, back then, you didn’t expect your husband to help you. You didn’t complain either. And I just thought it was fun,” she laughed. I clearly didn’t believe her last statement.

When she said this to me, I was in the throws of repeated sitz baths for a class 4 tear, (men reading this, DON’T ASK), sore nipples, engorged breasts verging on infection since I couldn’t get the milk to come in properly, and hormones raging to the point where at certain moments I literally wanted to die. Exhaustion, hormones, whatever it was, I realized that what I was feeling was akin to what clinical depression must feel like. Having three kids one right after another, and than four years later her oops child, (which I am), my mom must have always been on the brink of despair. But I don’t remember seeing her succumb to it, not over raising children anyway. Maybe she was just too busy.

Mom and William, three months.

Over the next two years after William’s birth, she graced me with her stories. But her stories about raising three babies were what inspired me most. She didn’t know why I was in shock, but clearly, she loves babies and has a higher threshold for stress, than I do. Her stories gave me strength, however. Luckily for me, once my breast milk came in with earnest and I could breast feed around the clock, my cloud of depression lifted. I listened to her stories and began to think I can do this.

“Every Sunday I called my mom and we’d talk about politics. I loved our Sunday calls,” my mom told me 10 years ago.  “Well, this one Sunday, I’ll never forget it. Your father was at the hospital and I looked around as I spoke with NiNi (her mother) and I saw your sister (and with her next description, I knew exactly which sister it was) climbing up the curtain rod! I started to go for her, but then I heard something and looked out back and your other sister was pushing down your brother from his bicycle. Well, I’m still on the phone, but as I go to your brother, I turn around and look back and I see your sister now putting a screw in her mouth!” Amazingly, the whole time she’s telling me this story, she is smiling. What lesson did she learn? Not to decorate, or put up curtains partially, and then take a phone call when you have three children. I, on the other hand, was completely horrified. I had my one and only baby suckling at my breast and began to think I will never, ever, have another child.

“Well, I laughed and laughed about that. Of course, I had to get the screw out of her mouth first!” my mom said. Over the years as her Alzheimer’s began to take hold, she repeated that story to me over and over again.

Mom and William, 2 years.

It was as if she knew that I’d need to remember it too. That I would need to pull it out of a file in the back of my mind to remind myself that this craziness is what it’s all about. We’re all pushed to the brink when raising children. But it’s how we handle it and carry through that matters.

Three years ago I was visiting my mother. She was still at home then, although we had assistants to help her. It was evening, and she had fallen asleep with her TV on. I went in to shut it off. She raised up and pointed to the hall light.

“I finally put a cover on it. Like it?” she asked me. I turned to look at the hall light and noticed a new sconce. “Oh. Wow. Yes, we finally have one.”

“I know, I never replaced the old one because I was so ashamed,” she said to me, clear as day.

When I asked her what she was talking about, she replied, “Well, one day, when you four were up to something. I can’t recall really, but one of your sisters was yelling and your brother was doing something, I don’t remember what, but I got so mad, I actually threw my shoe up the stairs and it hit the hall light. I never did replace it (the sconce) because I wanted to look at that ugly bulb to remember how stupid I was. I didn’t want to lose my temper like that ever again.”

I swallowed hard and held her hand. “It’s ok mom.”

“Oh, it’s silly. I should have known better. Don’t do that kind of thing, ok?”

The next morning, when I told her I enjoyed our talk she replied, “Oh? What talk? Didn’t you just get here?”

Well, call it Divine intervention, but I know we did have a talk and I’m so grateful—that even though she didn’t remember it—I always will. And I thought about her advice today after Jamesy threw his smoothie across the car and it landed with a SPLAT across the entire backseat. Sigh. I’m clearly on the brink too. But I’m going to be brave and stand on the edge and take a deep breath. I may have to dig in my heels and brace myself or a long stay. But my little guy will grow up eventually, right? And if I make it through with my sanity in check, just think about the stories I’ll be able to embarrass him with!

Missed Helicopter and Soccer Goals

Ok, so much for letting go of all anger and bitterness towards my ex (see last post). Seriously, it’s such a hard process. I’m learning to let go, and I think I have for the most part. I feel no hatred or anger against him personally and I’ve been doing this solo momma thing for two years now, so I’m quite used to it. But days like today crop up and remind me how alone I am and how this job requires more than one person to be done well.

I knew the day would be challenging because the night before I dared to go to a girl’s night out hosted by one of the moms at my older son’s school. I had to hire a new babysitter (who still demanded $20/hour!) and when I came home at 10:30, both kiddos were still up. Seriously? This older woman, who had stellar references, just couldn’t say no. But I still have to wake up with the baby at 6:30 a.m. Welcome to my Saturday at warp speed.

It started off badly. The ex called for the first time in a week. William was excited and  put on American college football, something they used to watch, even in London, together. The ex barely took notice. He’s changing. The two-year-old was demanding all the attention, as two-year-olds do. I try not to get involved when they skype anymore as it gives me 5 – 10 minutes to get dishes done, wash my face, use the bathroom in peace. (If you have a two-year-old, you know how challenging any of that can be!) So, the ex is trying to calm the two-year-old down, but he has little patience. William is getting madder and madder as he can’t get a word in. When he does, he asks William if he won his first soccer match last Saturday. William says yes. Dad replies, “that’s smashing.” Then, the baby demands all the attention, William drifts off into the background watching a football game and finally, the ex says he needs to go to get some food. They hang up. All hell breaks loose. William screams at his baby brother:

“It’s all YOUR fault! YOU ruin EVERYTHING!”

“First my daddy leaves because of you and now I can’t even talk to him because of YOU!”

He stomps down the stairs. Jamesy runs into the kitchen crying something and saying “Daddy, daddy. MY daddy TOO!”

And, he’s right. So how do I make William understand that just because his daddy checked out when James was eight months old, doesn’t mean that it’s the baby’s fault. It’s a reflection on the father. But a nine-year-old sees it differently. Baby’s take work—a lot of work—and William, at seven, helped raise his little brother who had maddening colic for three months and still has sleep issues. William is resentful and he’s convinced that everything wrong is Jamesy’s fault. If Jamesy wasn’t born, he’d still be watching Tennessee football with his dad on Saturdays and his dad would go to his soccer matches. Now, he lives in London and visits once every two to three months and will likely miss his birthday (and Jamesy’s) this year. None of it is his or James’ fault. Sure, if I hadn’t become pregnant, we’d likely still be living in London. But, I wouldn’t be incredibly happy. My ex is a bit of a workaholic and play-when-related-to-work-aholic. So, that means, he works long hours and then attends work events or drinks with his network after hours—when he’s not away traveling for work during the week. When William and I lived in London, I worked full time remotely as the parenting editor for DivineCaroline.com (a wonderful job!) and also ran our household. (I don’t know how I did it looking back, but it sure trained me for being a single mom to a baby and a seven-year-old later.) I went back and forth to William’s school, I managed his playdates and his extra-curricular activities: violin lessons, tutoring, soccer, dinners, shopping, walking/running the dog, etc. Needless to say, William and I were on our own in London too, except that he saw his dad almost every weekend and as a family we had fabulous holidays (love the UK five week off benefit) that lulled me into a false sense of security about the status of our marriage.

Clearly, I was headed for divorce long before baby James arrived. You just can’t live separate lives like that and not be filled with resentment. Jamesy, however, is an angel. He is love incarnate and NONE of this is his fault.

So how do I get that through to big brother William? At today’s soccer game, since James hadn’t  napped, I could barely pay attention. James was up and down and even threw a soccer ball onto the field twice. He poured half of William’s water bottle onto the ground before I could stop him. At the last second of the game, William scored a goal, only to find out that it didn’t count, that it was off-sides. I was trying to give William support—but had a wiggly boy who was on the verge of another temper tantrum on my hands. William starts to cry.

“Why can’t I ever score a goal?” he says through clenched teeth and watery eyes.

“This is my third season and I’ve only scored one!” I realize that he’s very upset.

Jamesy is now in full-tilt scream over not getting a cupcake that was meant for the soccer team players. William looks at him, hands him a piece of his cupcake and says, “Shut up already.”

I can hardly blame him. I walk over to the coach and ask him if he can give William a pep talk during practice next week. “You know, something like this is a game and you can’t make every goal, but we’ve got to keep trying and not to get too upset, when we don’t make it,  something along those lines would be great.”

I realize that I’ve stepped over the bounds and cough and say, “Sorry, these type of talks never go over so well, coming from the mom, you know?”

He smiles and says, “I know.” Walks over, gives William a knuckle pound and tells him how great the game was, even though they didn’t win.

On the way home the baby falls asleep, finally, and William and I must drive around for an hour. We’ve done this so many times over the past two years. It’s always a relief when the screaming stops and he falls asleep, but then we start to wonder where we should go. Malibu? Palos Verdes? I always try to give us a pretty drive. When we get home, more screaming ensues as the baby wakes up and William doesn’t want to shower, etc. Just mundane life on weekends for me. I put on a TV show for the baby to watch and march William downstairs for his shower. He sits in his rocking chair in his room and looks up at me with an expression I’m all too familiar with: pure exhaustion.

“Daddy isn’t going to make my birthday this year is he?”

“I don’t know.”

“He should buy me a present when he’s here next.”


“Why hasn’t he ever replaced my helicopter?”

This is a sore subject. His dad bought him a remote-controlled helicopter back in March during a visit. Jamesy flew it up high and it landed on the roof of the corporate apartment where their dad stays when here for work. William was furious, to the point of crying the whole drive back from Santa Monica. His dad promised to replace it. But in the visits since then, he hasn’t bought one.

“Why can’t he remember?” William asks.

“I don’t know. Have you reminded him?”

“Yes. In fact, before he left last time (which was in July), I asked him to get me one and he laughed like it was no big deal and said he would. Jamesy just ruins everything.”

I don’t reply. I mean, it’s not Jamesy’s fault that his dad didn’t buy another one when he promised, or that he likely won’t make his birthday when he said he’d “try”. But then again, if I say it’s not Jamesy’s fault, I’m saying it’s his dad’s fault. I really can’t win. But I decide that my nine-year-old is very smart and will figure it out eventually.

Later that evening when I”m preparing dinner and the boys are watching a documentary about wolves, Jamesy starts driving William crazy again. He picks up William’s newest cards and runs around the room. They are William’s latest infatuation and he screams, “Leave me alone! Get your hands off my stuff!”

I intervene and say, “Let him play with some of your Bakugan cards. You don’t like those anymore.”

William grunts and then gets some of them out and hands them to his baby brother.

Jamesy jumps into his arms, hugging William. In his squeeky two-year-old voice he says: “You’re so sweet to me Yilliam! You’re the sweetest brother. I uv you.”

William looks up at me with Jamesy in his arms and smiles radiantly. I sigh and begin to hope.

Maybe he’s going to get it after all.