“Caterpittars” and Temper Tantrums

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I’m a parent of a just-turned three-year-old. Some days you shake your head at your children and wonder what is really running through their little noggins. 

My three-year-old has just recently discovered temper tantrums. It’s almost comical, because after having gone through this all once before with my older daughter, I’m remembering the enthusiasm they can show for their emotions.  Maybe temper tantrum isn’t quite the right word for it. The right word might be something along the lines of “Absolute Hysterical Crying at the Top Of My Lungs” or “Sudden Heartbreaking Sadness of Extreme Proportions”. 

The discovery of emotions is a pretty amazing thing to watch, when you can separate yourself enough that is. She has no peer pressure yet, no situational awareness, no tact or social niceties.  It’s just genuine feelings running through her, and she just expresses them as they come.

The discovery of a “caterpittar” in the driveway is joyous and amazing — she holds these little bugs with such care and gentleness. She’s become fluent with “loving” everything.  (“I love caterpittars forever and never.”) Her care and concern for their wellbeing shows how she’s learning the basic needs of life, warmth (tucking them into a papertowel) and sustenance (handful of grass from outside). 

But then the ball drops, literally, something as simple as her hard bouncy ball falling down the staircase to set her off on a catastrophic campaign of tears and yelling and heart-wrenching sobs “it’s gone forever.” Trying to console her in this situation is a lesson in futility. The only solution is the permanent resolution of the immediate problem — getting the silly ball back. No logic works, no reasoning, no negotiations.  Three-year-old emotions far outweigh any adult's feeble attempt at teaching a life lesson about actions/consequences.

Watching children absorb these new emotions and try to cope with them can be frustrating at the best of times, but I've learned my own coping tactics. My most successful so far, albeit with my oldest daughter, not this one, has been to throw a temper tantrum along with her. She quickly learned the adult emotion of embarrassment, and the tantrums stopped immediately.

So, as a much wiser person than me once said, "...  be patient with your troubles ..." so I will wait this out and watch her emotions develop into something deeper and more adult. Down the road when she becomes a teen and all the emotions resurface in new ways, I hope I look back at this and laugh.


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