Ty likes to go to bed–always has. He also is usually very clear about this one thing. Besides the typical cues like yawning and eye rubbing, when it’s time for bed there are always a few telltale signs: fingers in the mouth; short little screams of frustration about everything; and lots of stumbling and falling. So the other night he is doing his little teeter-totter walk, falling a little too often and one of his balancing arms is now out of service since he has his fingers stuck in his mouth. So we daddies were ready for him to go down, having had one exhausting week ourselves. I picked him up, told him we were going night-night and put him on the changing table to put his pajamas on. But when I put him down he began what turned out to be his very first tantrum.
I think we were both a little surprised at first, not really aware of what was actually about to take place. There he was beginning the whole back-arching thing, accompanied by short screaming bursts that were not particularly endearing at that moment. Then he started wailing like he was being tortured. He would not sit, so when I laid him down he would flop to his side and then try to flip over–something we are not allowed to do on the changing table–EVER. When I tried to keep him from turning over it seemed to anger him more. His face was red and he was screaming and writhing. Finally, I looked at Darrow and said, “what should I do?” I did not want to make him think that what he was doing was okay, but I also wasn’t sure how to proceed. It was such a strange reaction from him, so over-the-top. I was afraid that he would flip off the changing table. Darrow said to put him on the carpet and let him thrash. So I did, and he did. He tried to roll over and get up but just flipped himself on his back in his continuing rage. He reached for Darrow who was on the floor but his back arched again and he fell with his arms and legs flailing. He couldn’t even get any of his words out. It was amazing–a real live temper tantrum.
It was so obvious what was happening. We daddies calmly just watched it all unfold. I didn’t reach out to him or try to comfort or console him–that just seemed like a bad message to send. I think it was a good five minutes before he finally began to calm himself. When he did, I began to talk to him in a soothing voice, encouraging him for being able to compose himself. I stroked his head and put him in my lap. I slowly changed him out of his clothes, which were now soaked since he had been crying and sweating while he tantrumed. I gave him his favorite teddy bear and he hugged him and then his eyes closed like he was going to fall asleep in my arms. I lifted him from the floor, we both kissed him good-night and patted him on the head just like we do every night. As we were leaving he stood up in the crib and began to wail again. For a moment I wasn’t sure if he needed a little more comforting before being put down, but we decided instead to leave the room. We weren’t even half way down the stairs before the crying stopped. When I checked on him a minute later, he had fallen down and instantly went to sleep.
We have had many smaller temper flares but nothing quite like that first one. It is amazing to watch this small creature develop and see his little temper begin to emerge. I feel like we passed another milestone. And it wasn’t scary or hard to deal with. In fact I felt so close to him afterwards, like we helped him deal for the very first time with his temper. I know there will be many more opportunities to help him learn and grow and develop emotionally. I think that is what I appreciate the most about being a Dad–how interesting and amazing it is to be a part of all of this.