The Zen of a Toddler Temper Tantrum

Benjamin throws temper tantrumNothing can be more exasperating than a two-year-old’s meltdown – assuming you look at it like a parental crisis in slow motion.

My son Benjamin has a PhD in Temper Tantrums. He minored in Gender Studies, but that doesn’t come into play nearly as often. He’s a virtuoso at non-stop crying and thrashing his limbs about.

The trick is to take a Zen-like approach to his tantrum du jour. Easier said than done? Sure, but hardly impossible.

Last week I took the boys to Target, our home away from home these days. We shopped, goofed around a bit and headed to the checkout line to wrap matters up. Ben decided it was a perfect time for a meltdown. Frankly, I don’t remember the trigger. It’s rarely something significant.

Well, I tried to comfort him, listen to his cries and do what I could to short-circuit the tantrum. Nothing doing. It was on, and being the parent of a publicly melting down child is never a treat.

Only something clicked within me, a lever that reversed my usual reaction to Ben’s behavior. The more Ben raged, the more calm I became. His anger fed my sense of serenity, and even though we were creating a scene I didn’t care. My focus was Zen-like, a far cry from my usual personality. I’m from New York, if you need to do the math.

We managed to get through the checkout process, all the while Ben wailed nonstop and I did my best to put him at ease. Just before I handed over my credit card a fellow shopper caught my eye and applauded my moment of Zen in the face of Hurricane Ben.

“I give you a lot of credit. You’re a good dad,” he said, adding he remembered the days when he was trying to keep his cool in similar circumstances.

I shrugged away his compliment, telling him, “I don’t feel like Father of the Year.”

Honestly, I felt like Dad of the Week at the very least. Only I wasn’t sure if I could pull off a repeat performance. Days later, I realize my Zen state is a work in progress. Having successfully kept my blood pressure down during a very public meltdown gives me confidence I can do so again should Ben feel the need to thrown his doctorate in my face.

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