chloe and i took a trip to the zoo. it was a hot sunny day. the mid-morning sun beat down hard on our sunscreen slathered shoulders. we began our stroll, avoiding all the air-conditioned buildings which house the small reptiles and the birds - chloe doesn't care for them much (yet), and would rather hang out around the bears, rhinos, and ducks. so we strolled through the zoo, stopping for short amounts of time to check out what the various animals were up to. the rhino was trotting, which was uncharacteristic of him, based on our previous visits where he lied in the shade and stared at pesky zebras who taunted him. today he trotted around his "habitat" guarding it from those sneaky zebras who may try to overstep their bounds. 

the polar bears were both basking in the sun, lying on a large rock above the water. they couldn't be persuaded to entertain us with their graceful swimming. no, not even the yells and screams from fifty elementary school children could get them to budge. this didn't bother chloe, she sat at the viewing window checking out their toys and staring into the blue. running back and forth at the base of the platform. i let chloe run around... a lot. she is two, and full of energy - energy and curiosity. she loves to run, pick things up, smell things, taste things. she looks at things as well, but she uses all her senses. one of her favorite words is "touch". she will hold her hands up and bring her fingers together and say "touch, touch". she usually is saying "touch" in response to me instructing her not to touch something. "no, don't touch that", "touch? touch?" those wiggly fingers come together.

she has become a good listener, a good learner. she amazes me with all the new words and new things she is figuring out each day. i often stop myself and need to ask "where did she hear that?", "how does she know this?". before she could walk, crawl, or talk i could easily appease her by feeding her, rocking her, or playing with her. now, over the course of what only seems like days, she has developed a desire for more. she wants to do more things. she wants to see more stuff. she wants to taste everything.... and who can blame her? to her this is a strange new world to explore. she is into everything and with such a ferocity that i often feel as though i am wrestling a wild animal in my efforts to hold her back.

also there are now more emotions. she had the "happy" and "sad", in their simplest sense, down pretty early. but now there are new emotions, new feelings that she has... and it must be confusing. imagine feeling betrayal for the first time... i think the first time probably feels the most awful. and then there is the "magical thinking" that these little ones use to process the new world around them. they gather information from everything they see, like a sponge, and then use all the crazy things they hear and see to make sense of what is happening in their world.   the only example of this that i can recall is probably a memory from when i was in pre-school. i wasn't reading yet, but i could remember things. i didn't know what mouthwash was... and i thought it was a poison that grown-ups drank... i watched each day as the amount became less and less and wondered why my parents wanted to drink it. i feared they would die. crazy, right?  but it was scary to me. i was scared i would wake up to them sleeping in their beds, like sleeping beauty and we wouldn't be able to wake them up.

this world is scary, even if you are not new to it.
chloe is making a transition from babyhood to girlhood... and while this is a time of intense learning, fun, and enlightenment for her, it is an awkward time for me and christian. we don't want to say "no" too much, we don't want her to run too wild, we don't want her to be too monitored, we don't want to be those parents who hover. we just want her to be a kid and have fun and not get hurt too badly. i am sure we worry about this too much, just like all first time parents. i am sure she is doing fine. i am sure if you have a child you worry the same things i do. this world is a wild, amazing, and scary place, and sometimes it seems i have a child who is more wild than any of the animals in the zoo.

and yesterday when i told her she needed to leave the zoo she showed me her wildness. she threw the biggest tantrum i have ever encountered. i pulled out every trick i know. i saw with her, i talked to her calmly, acknowledging her feelings - "you are pretty angry that we must leave", and "you are crying. you seem sad that we must go home now. i will hug you once you calm down". then i ignored her. i allowed her to throw herself on the ground (while i carefully lowered her head so she didn't smack it hard). i tried to pick her up. i attempted to put her in her stroller. i gave up on wrestling her into her stroller. i contemplated throwing myself on the ground, but thought better of it. i tried to just keep a little smile on my face and not fall apart...

i looked down at my shoes and bit my lip, hoping it would all pass by quickly. until another mom, out of nowhere, came to my aid. she calmly walked over, took the sippy-cup out of the stroller and as i held chloe, she buckled her in. those two extra mom hands were needed for my very energetic, thrashing toddler who is only a little less than a third of my weight and more than half my height. she is not easy for me to just pick up and walk off with. this mom was a big muscular mom, she could have picked up me and put me in that stroller. i almost cried as i thanked her. i exclaimed "she just turned two... and she is a little too big and energetic for me to strap her in by myself. thank you so much"  she smiled and said "i have twins... it only gets worse" as she walked back to her group of fellow moms... looking like such a bad-ass.

umm... thanks again.

i have read a great deal about tantrums. one of my favorite articles it this one. according to the experts, chloe's pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for her learning language, is still underdeveloped. this allows her to learn language more rapidly than us adults who have a developed pre-frontal cortex... however, this mushy brain of hers is easily irritated and processing so much information. she had mood swings and can go from being completely devastated to content and playful within minutes. she will hit me, sit in time out, and then two minutes later be hugging me and playing as though her angry outburst never took place.

one thing i can say that has helped is just putting her in time out... we don't really use it as a punishment around here as much as just some time to relax. if she hits christian or i (yes, hits! neither of us have ever hit her or each other, but apparently this is not a learned behavior - it is just a natural reaction). we don't say anything other than  that we do not hit one another, and calmly put her in bed. we tell her she needs some time to relax and let her relax... we don't use this for anything other than hitting... and i don't want it to become a punishment... it is more of just her taking some time to calm down because she is letting her crazy mushy-brained toddler emotions get the best of her.

and then there are the times, like today, when i need her to do something that she doesn't want to do.... like leaving the zoo. it is not easy for me to physically remove her from a setting. she is strong, and can throw her limbs in such ways that we are left looking like a two headed spider doing the second half of the harlem shake (the crazy wiggly part... don't pretend you don't know!). the act of physically relocating chloe has become a no-go, unless i have an extra set of hands.. and since i usually don't, what we do is this: i hold her the best i can, without walking... she eventually becomes frustrated, and i get tired. i let her down. she will sit on the ground in protest. i will wait and then offer for her to walk with me. she refuses and tries to run. i once again hold her... then i let her down once she gets too wiggly. she often will lie herself on the ground, and when she does this i make sure she doesn't hit her head and i stand there and wait... and sometimes i will take a photo. 

i take photos of these tantrums because they are kind of funny. she is upset because she didn't get a lolly, or because she doesn't feel that 30 minutes of running around a water fountain is enough, or she wants to walk on that patch of grass over there, or there is a piece of pretzel on the ground that i won't let her eat... and suddenly her wold is crashing in. she cannot take it anymore. she doesn't know what she will do without that pretzel. so she throws herself on the ground. sometimes she does this silently. those are my favorite tantrums. i don't need to do anything, just stand there. eventually she stands up and everything is okay again. it's funny, and honestly, sometimes i wish that dealing with disappointment were that easily. that i could just lie on the ground, kick it out, and then be over it... doesn't sound like a bad idea. but anyway.. this is about toddler tantrums, about chloe's tantrums... and so after i take a photo...

i continue to ignore her thrashing on the ground. when she stops thrashing and screaming i will count to three in my head and then say "i am sorry that you are so upset. you look really angry... let's go do...." but when she is freaking out, that is no time to talk. that is the silent, wait it out time... i just stand there and kind of half-smile at all the people starring.... and think "dang those mushy toddler brains". i also try to remind myself that this will not last forever, and someday she will have a huge vocabulary, and speak a second or third language, and have better coping skills, and that just because you try to do all the right things doesn't mean your child isn't going to freak out and throw tantrums. 




  1. i wanna meet this bad-ass mom! my sister has two babies, 6 months apart though (one was adopted) and they act like crazy people together! when they were 3 and 4 i lived with them and boy are they such a blessing to my life but they can be the biggest hand full ever. i like to call them my "free" birth control. btw the polar bears... what jerks


  2. Well done!
    You are such a brave parent to write openly about this. Because what are we really uncomfortable about with our kid's tantrums? It's those other "better " parents giving us the sneer that says , you stupid dipshit,haven't you figured out how to prevent this"?
    We all expect a kid to freak, they're kids! But it's that pressure as a parent to keep it contained and make it stop.
    I used to just move the child to a place where they wouldn't disturb anyone, then let them freak. Rule was, go ahead and have your freak, but nobody has to experience it with you.
    (Next comment tongue in cheek). Maybe parents should carry a little pop up tent. Kid throws themselves on the ground and you just plop the blaze orange tent over them. Maybe it even has a warning on it, "caution: tantrum in progress !"
    I think that parentt was helpful to you at the zoo. But maybe a couple parents to just come over while it was happening to a say that it happens to everyone and we all try our best may have helped a lot too.


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