I was recently having lunch with my husband and daughter at one of my favorite restaurants.
My little girl was eating a piece of bread when she suddenly bit off a piece too large—and I went to take the bread from her hands so she wouldn’t swallow the big chunk.
But as soon as I did, my daughter lost it.
Arching her back, hitting her head against of the high chair, stretching her arms and legs and swinging her hand hands out of my husband’s grasp, she started crying desperately. And there it was.
A. Full. Blown. Tantrum.
Her first one in public, might I add. I couldn’t believe she was doing this to me. How could she ever defy my authority? I felt all eyes on me. My first reaction was to be upset that she could ever embarrass me in public. After all, I was going to be the mom who would never let anything like this happen in public.
Then my husband calmly gave her another piece of bread, and asked her, “Can I have it?” She looked at him and continued eating her piece of bread, then he again gently grabbed the bread from her hands, and tantrum. He gave it back to her, and asked again, “Can I have it?” Then he gently grabbed the piece of bread again... and tantrum. He repeated this about 10 times. About the tenth time, she actually gave him the piece of bread, and there was no tantrum, no crying, There was actually a smile and a giggle.
He continued doing this with her and she continued taking it and giving it back to him.
And we all went on eating our lunch like nothing had happened.
I’m telling you this story not to say that my husband is the perfect parent.
Instead, I’m sharing this because of what I learned about my response to my daughter’s tantrum.
My first instinct was to think that this tantrum was somehow directed at me. That she was trying my patience. That she had been rude to me.
I now understand that our little girl just couldn’t see the big picture. All she had seen was, “Mommy took my piece of bread!” She doesn’t have the words to explain to us how she felt or what was her point of view—as a child, she just reacted.
Before I became a parent, I used to think that a child throwing a tantrum in public was the parent’s fault.
That they didn’t teach the child better, and that’s why their little one was reacting that way. And of course, there are many reasons why a child can throw a tantrum. But let’s be honest here—everyone looks at the parent, especially the mother.
So I want to talk to you, mama. You, who have read book after book after book on parenting. The mom who Googles and reads and asks for advice. The tantrum is not an attack on your parenting. It’s just a tantrum. Your little one is just learning how to communicate. She is just dealing with her own emotions. Your baby, remember, is just a child.
Understanding this has helped me take a breath, stay calm and move on. Yes, I have to be completely honest, sometimes I do feel like my child doesn’t like me, because I’m always the person “killing the fun.” The one always saying, “don’t do that, don’t touch that, don’t don’t don’t.” I don’t always want to be the parent, but then I have to remind myself I’m responsible for my little girl. I’m making these tough decisions for her—and somehow, someday, she will get over it.
Every day I am teaching, learning and making sure we all make it through the day—alive. Just kidding.
But no, really.
More than ever, I understand why I’m the parent and not the friend. Because saying no or correcting doesn’t make you their biggest fan—in that moment—but deep inside we know our little ones need it. And after the emotions have cooled off, baby will again love us, smile back and want no one else beside them but mama and daddy.
It’s so easy to take things personally.
But in many ways, the tough moments in parenthood aren’t personal. They’re not even about you. They’re about a natural process of growth and development.
We are making the difficult decisions for them, we are “killing the fun” for a reason—because we love our babies to pieces. We want the best, and only the best, for them.
So remember, next tantrum, take a deep breath and know it’s not against you.
Sometimes, taking the bread—even if it means causing a tantrum—is what’s best for baby.