Our little bundle of joy is two. And sometimes he has fits of temper. This does not happen particularly often, actually. Some weeks more than others. But these temper tantrums are such a hot button for us humans. Perhaps it was that which got me considering them and the lesson that they hold for me. Regardless of the impetus, I believe that I may have figured a little something out for myself.
Generally as parent, I place myself in the position of the learner. This gives me the opportunity to approach what happens with a sense of curiosity and openness rather than one of certainty and definitiveness. Above all, it feels right to me. In the case of temper tantrums, I’m seeing them as opportunities to learn about the flow of emotions. Which for me is a very good thing.
In my life, I have not tended to be one to go with the flow of emotion. I have been more the type to try my best to control emotion until it completely overtakes me like a tsunami. While rippling waves can be soothing and sea waves can be transforming, rogue waves are downright destructive. I’ve come to learn that it is in my best interest to cultivate rippling waves with the occasional sea waves when it comes to emotions, and leave tsunamis to the natural world.
Enter temper tantrums. They are rather mystifying, these extreme fits. In the case of my son, I have come to recognize these fits as particular to when he expresses upset about something that seems rather small and insignificant to me and he is inconsolable. I take this sort of situation as my cue to sit quietly with him and give him as much comfort as he will accept. If his upset doesn’t abate within a few minutes, I take him someplace else and offer him alternatives until he begins to calm down. Above all, I try to give him time and space for the flow of emotion. I try not to get in its way. And in doing so I remind myself of the fluidity of emotions and how love is the best medicine.
The fluidity of emotions helps to explain another rather common characteristic of temper tantrums. If emotions are like water then they build up against any sort of blockage. And if any split in that blockage occurs, they break through with an awful lot of built up pressure. This is why I feel most comfortable sitting with him as he cries rather than putting a lot of effort into getting him to stop crying. Because I cannot necessarily know nor mend the source of the upset, but I can see clearly in the moment that it is flowing outward.
Recently I lost something that was special to me. Even though what I lost was special, the level of upset that I experienced was out of proportion to what had happened. In talking it over with my MFT, I came to realize that I was not only mourning the loss of of this special thing, but what it symbolized for me. I had attached a lot of meaning to that special item and also to losing it. In letting myself sit with the emotions that came up as a result of of those attachments, I was able to heal many wounds within myself. I came to be grateful for the loss, for what it taught me about myself, and for the opportunity that it gave me to heal.
Which brings me back to my two year old. He is such a good teacher for me. He shows me that upset happens. That it flows through us like a wave if we let it. I may never know what exactly my comfort means to him, but I know now what it means to me: an opportunity to learn more than I already know about emotions and living in the present moment. Thank you baby!