I'm a mom of a spirited toddler

Being a mom to a spirited child can take so much out of you. When you add the terrible twos to that, it becomes an emotional roller coaster. Every day is different with its challenges and triumphs. If you have a spirited one of your own, you’re not alone. Be strong. It does get better!

Carrying my screaming toddler out of the store

I wanted a denim jacket for my daughter, and I decided to check at Cotton On. She was about eighteen months old at the time and already showing signs of being a handful. After searching for a while, the shop assistant brought us a size two to three years. The jacket was a size too big, but I decided to let her try it to get an idea of how it would look on her. 

Huge mistake! She had a grip on the jacket and refused to let me take it off her. I tried several times to remove the denim jacket, with no success. At some point, I whispered to her how it was far too big for her. And that we had to leave it at the store.  

When I finally managed to take it entirely off her, she threw herself on the floor. Then she started screaming, rolling her body all over the place while banging her head and attracting a great deal of attention. 

The store became dead silent, or should I say my screaming child became the only sound I could hear. Now the thing about having a child throw an episode in public is that people stare at you as the parent with the “do something look.” I am already embarrassed and anxious; give me a break! 

Breathe, relax, and count to ten, then try to handle the situation. I kept repeating these words to myself. With my husband looking at me for answers as though I knew what an eighteen month old was thinking. The whole store seemed to be pleading for me to make it stop. All this pressure to calm the baby down fell on me. 

I picked up my screaming child and carried her out of the store while she kicked me mercilessly. With minimal options, I held my head up high as I left the store. My heart beating so fast I could hear it over her screams. And my ears burning from all the stares. My legs did the unimaginable; they complied and carried me out of the store. 

I am a mom of a spirited, strong-willed girl, and some days are better than others. 

“Now the thing about having a child throw an episode in public is that
people stare at you as the parent with the “do something look.” I am already
embarrassed and anxious; give me a break!” 

What I’ve learned from my daughter’s public meltdown

It always feels like the meltdowns are a reflection of my parenting skills. Or maybe my daughter’s way of rebelling against me. And my personal favorite, my little girl, is just out to get me by embarrassing me to no end! 

I had to remove myself from the situation and try to see things from my little girl’s perspective. She might have felt frustrated by me taking something she had deemed “hers.” My act of taking the jacket must have angered her. And because she couldn’t communicate, she felt her only way to express herself was through a meltdown. It makes sense to me now that I have had time to reflect on that day’s events. Although I must say, when you’re carrying a screaming child with everyone starring at you, all logic escapes you.

Are there triggers to my child’s meltdowns? 

It took a long time for me to realize that there are triggers to her meltdowns. Many times I can give her exactly what she needs to calm her down. I will admit that most times, I am not so lucky. Knowing the triggers means understanding what my child needs and when. 

Is she tired or hungry? Does she want my attention? 

She is just a tiny human that cannot express herself, and I can imagine how frustrating that can be. She could be upset for any number of reasons, whether she wants playtime with her mom or that she wanted attention. It could be anything! My only option is to try my best at reading the triggers whenever she has a meltdown or maybe before she does. 

My toddler’s fun moments sometimes end in a tantrum.

We took her to a play park. And the moment we got there, she immediately fell into place. Running, climbing the jungle gym, and imitating the older kids. She was in her element. She is a very active child, so the outing was just what she needed. 

A voice at the back of my head whispered, “leaving will be a nightmare,” but I quickly silenced it. 

Three hours later, I called out for her so we could leave. She climbed further into the jungle gym, knowing Mommy can never reach her there. She is so calculating, and she must have figured there was no way I could fit in there, so she went further up. 

I started by screaming slightly, aware of the other parents, then it quickly turned to me, begging her to come down. “please, nana, please Lili, come baby.” I used all her pet names, and the rascal kept laughing and smiling. When I finally managed to grab her, I snuck her under my arm like a rugby ball. And carried her kicking and screaming out of that play area. I kept asking myself if her hours of bliss were worth the theatrical episode she was giving. Will things get better?

There is a reason behind my toddlers tantrums.

Leaving the play area was difficult for my child. In her mind playing and having fun should never come to an end. And when it does, she gets frustrated because she doesn’t understand why she had to leave. Her meltdown had nothing to do with me, well, not directly, that is. She was expressing her displeasure with having to leave. The only way she knew how.

“The most important first step is to understand that there is a reason for the meltdown, and then to determine what that reason is. This involves spending time with the child and communicating as effectively as possible”, says Dr. Greg Pienaar, who’s an Educational Psychologist. 

I have learned to stand my ground with my toddler. She has minimal speech, and her tantrums are not a declaration of war towards me. It’s just a frustrated little girl trying to be heard. Although I may admit, it’s easy to slip into an emotional frenzy. As her first role model, she learns how to deal with her feelings and emotions by watching how I deal with mine. However, I will admit that her tantrums leave me emotionally and mentally exhausted. I always feel like I am doing an exorcism with each episode she has.

There is a beautiful side to my spirited toddler.

I have found ways to create a connection with my spirited daughter. I try to give her my attention as my way of strengthening our “mom-daughter” bond. She loves being part of everything I do. When I sweep the floor, she wants to do it as well. So I give her a mop; the whole idea of her being part of what Mommy is doing means everything to her. 

When I make her breakfast, she wants to take the lead in doing the whole process. There is usually cereal and milk all over the place. But it’s the satisfied grin on her face that makes it all worth it. My trick is to drain her by keeping her busy – it works sometimes, but she has so much energy I can’t keep up. 

The truth is the 10-minute tantrum – yes, the one where you have to dive for the head to protect her from injuring herself. It will happen. For me, it’s the number of episodes a day that gets me all wound up. Breathe, relax, count to ten, try to handle the situation; this has become my mantra. It gets better with time; I am holding on to those words for dear life.

“Although I will admit that her tantrums leave me emotionally and mentally exhausted. I always feel like I am doing an exorcism with each episode she has.”

I am a mom to a spirited toddler, and I am strong.

My day mostly consists of saying no, yelling, and giving hugs to calm my daughter down. My day escalates downwards very quickly because my baby girl is strong-willed and determined to get her way at all costs. And I usually end off with a thankful prayer and an exhausted body.

When I’m finally in that space of quietness and calm. I feel like a superhero. I guess the power lies in how I conquered the events of the day. I have come to realize that my threshold is higher than I imagined it to be. I have become such a patient person it even shocks me at times. Being a mom to a toddler will give you all those super qualities. 

Although I look forward to the day, I will look back to the meltdowns and all those intense tantrums as badges of honour. In the meantime, let’s give ourselves a pat on the back, moms. We are strong, and we will make it!

With all my love...

ArisMomie ♥