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Anatomy of a Toddler Tantrum

9:03 a.m.—We are already 13 minutes late to leave for the babysitter. Normally, she comes to us (twice a week, because clearly I did something very, very good in a past life to have this level of help). But she just took in a new foster child, so I thought it might be easier for us to go to her for a change. (Did I mention said babysitter is a saint?) The Toddler refuses to put his coat on, despite temperatures in the single digits.

I go put my coat on instead.

9:05 a.m.—I am working to extract Toddler from his brother's Legos, knowing that if he loses even a single piece of the almost, but not quite, finished Millennium Falcon, there will be hell to pay. HELL TO PAY, I TELL YOU.

9:06 a.m.—Toddler agrees to let me help him put the coat on, but he only wants to wear said coat backwards, making him look oddly like Frankenstein. Every time I move to put the proper arm in the proper sleeve, he does a quick Ninja-like move, resulting in the backwards coat dilemma.

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9:07 a.m.—We both finally have our coat situations figured out and are set to walk out the door, when Toddler asks for his blanket. Yes, blanket. Must not forget blanket on top of second breakfast, snack, lunch, slippers, gloves, diapers, wipes and extra set of clothing (just in case). This drop-off arrangement is more work than I realized.

9:08 a.m.—Toddler insists on holding special blanket while walking down the stairs to the car. Independently. Meaning no help from Mom. Alone. All by himself, despite this resulting in certain tripping. Down a flight of stairs. Onto concrete. He stamps his foot and throws his hat off on the porch. In single digit temperatures. Oy vey. Toddler quickly concedes, feeling the cold air on his ears.

He plants his feet in the middle of the sidewalk, refusing to budge, beloved blanket strewn on the ground beneath him.

9:13 a.m.—We are both finally in the car, locked and loaded, as I say, but only after Toddler insisted on climbing into his carseat himself. His seat is still rear-facing, but the boy always reverses his position, leaving his head where his feet should be. Encouraging him to move, while supporting his burgeoning independence would be a lot easier, were it May or June and not frigid January. This switching of position did not result in a tantrum, but only because I heaped on the big boy praise.

9:20 a.m.—We arrive at our destination. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. We exit the car without incident.

9:22 a.m.—Toddler insists on carrying his own blanket again. Sure, honey, that's fine. Oops. I spoke too soon. Toddler does not want to actually use his hands to carry the blanket, but he wants to hold it independently. Umm.

9:23 a.m.—I come up with the inspired idea to wrap the blanket around Toddler like a super hero cape. Genius, Mom. This tactic works for approximately five steps, as Toddler refuses to clasp the blanket around his neck, which would require, clearly, using his hands, which he has already refused to do.

9:24 a.m.—Toddler refuses to move. He does not want to carry his blanket. He does not want to hold the blanket to him to keep it from falling on the ground. He does not want me to hold the blanket. He plants his feet in the middle of the sidewalk, refusing to budge, beloved blanket strewn on the ground beneath him.

9:25 a.m.—Toddler tears commence.

9:26 a.m.—Toddler wails commence.

Strangely, Toddler is now fully cooperating. He is with the program. He is now a company man.

9:27 a.m.—Feeling colder than a popsicle in your parents' 1985 freezer chest, I demand we move. Now. Pick up the blanket and walk. Now. Or I will carry you. Now. Toddler calls my bluff and lies prostrate on the ground on top of his beloved blanket. We have entered full tantrum mode. Right there, middle of the sidewalk, single digit January morning.

9:27 a.m.—Letting no time pass, both Toddler and blanket are scooped so as to prevent having one of the many passing cars contact child protective services. Toddler miraculously capitulates (probably because of extreme temperatures).

Strangely, Toddler is now fully cooperating. He is with the program. He is now a company man.

9:35 a.m.—We have reached our destination at the top of three flights of stairs. (Did I mention that our babysitter lives in a three-story walk-up?) I am now sweating underneath my many layers of insulation. Toddler is all smiles. Attempts to explain delay ensue, but sitter interrupts saying, "I understand." Bless her.

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9:42 a.m.—I am alone, sitting behind the steering wheel of the car, breathing. I should go to the gym. Or the grocery store. Instead, I decide I have earned a doughnut.

Toddler tantrums are very bad for me.

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Photograph by: Sheila Quirke

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