The last few weeks have been tough. Dubz, who is two months shy of his fourth birthday, has been more of a handful than ever. In January, he began being afraid of sleeping alone and started sneaking to his sister's bed throughout the night and waking up early. He had always slept through the night, until about 7.30am. So waking up at 6am began taking a toll on him. In the past few weeks, he has started waking up at 5am. He cannot handle the lack of sleep, physically and mentally. He has been falling asleep in the afternoons, on the sofa or in the car. He wakes up angry and cranky. But if he doesn't sleep, he is much worse.
One incident a couple of weeks ago was particularly bad. I picked Dubz up from pre-school and he wanted to take a project home. We couldn't find his, and two of the teachers/carers told him that he didn't have one. He went ballistic. He started growling and shouting and crying. He threw himself on the floor, trying to bite at my legs and arms. I tried cuddling him (which normally works), but instead he slapped me across the head against my ear. The smacking sound was loud, and everyone looked horrified. I bit my lip and willed myself not to cry in front of anyone. Dubz's keyworker came and confirmed that Dubz did have a project he had made and brought it over. I got him outside and in the car as quickly as I could, while he continued to cry.
In the car, I could no longer keep my resolve. First I sniffed and sniffed, and then the tears came. I wept during the entire seven-minute car ride. At home, Dubz was calm again. He went to play in the living room as if nothing had happened, and I went to my bed and sobbed. My ego was bruised and my ear was throbbing. After about 10 minutes, I calmed down and started to feel better. Dubz even came into my room to say sorry. Afterwards I wondered if other parents ever felt like this. I decided to write a post, so I took a photo of my sad, make-up free face (top photo). It has taken me a couple of weeks to digest the situation and write about it.
I understand that being three years old can be tough. I understand that it can be difficult getting a hold of your emotions. And I understand how frustrating it must have been for Dubz to be told that he hadn't done something when he knew he had. But even with knowing all this, I still took it personally. Since Dubz is almost four, I expect the tantrums to be lessening not getting worse. I know the lack of sleep makes it harder for him to handle tough situations.
I wish I could be more easy going about public tantrums. When we're at home, it is easier to be relaxed about them. But when people stare at you as your child acts like a demon, it is hard not to feel embarrassment and humiliation. But what I want to say, to anyone who has ever felt like this, is that it's okay. A child's tantrum does not reflect on you as a parent. Small children get angry about trivial things, and their brains are not mature enough to be reasoned with. If you had a 20-year old who threw a loud hysterical tantrum while you were out, then that would signal a problem with your parenting.
It's also okay to cry. Even if we know that the children going through 'terrible twos' and 'threenage' are difficult, we can still feel bad about ourselves. We can have moments of self-doubt and feel sorry for ourselves. Have a cry, but don't dwell on it. Kids move on quickly, and that is one characteristic we should try to emulate. Don't waste time thinking that you are a terrible parent or that you could have somehow prevented the tantrum. We all have tough days. And whether we need to shout or cry, or sneak some chocolate, do it and then move on.