Ah the unjust experiences of toddlerhood

I’ve been increasingly touched by the daily notes given to us by L’s daycare teacher. Each day he shares with me with so many unique things about the sensitive and lovely gem with whom I’ve been blessed. The other day my little L shared in circle time about  how I read to him. A few weeks ago my son got upset when he thought his teacher was falling down and rushed to protect him. And yesterday as we were reading a book in the middle of the living room he sidled up to me and said out of the blue, “I love you.” These magic moments each come to me as if he is saying “I love you” for the first time.

So with these lovely experiences it never fails to confuse me and worry me when my son throws a tantrum. I know, this is the age, but there is something so unique about one’s own child throwing a tantrum in front of his mother. It becomes intensely personal. Ignoring the behavior is so difficult when it’s your own child who is upset, but I do try to ignore it and I try to redirect him and I try to attend to his needs without feeding the tantrum behavior. But sometimes I think I’m way too hard on myself and on my son in this endeavor.

Yesterday evening after a rather calm return from school my son ran into the house and showed me a book that he had taken home from school. He was so excited to have this book, which was nearly identical to another book which he had received from one of his classmates for Valentine’s Day. I knew it wasn’t part of his collection and told him that we’d have to return the book to school tomorrow and give it to one of the other children. Clearly he must have mistakenly been given the book on his way home.  He’s come home with other children’s toys before – I didn’t want to deprive one of the other kids of their belongings!  He seemed to be okay when I told him this and all was well.

All of a sudden, my son was upset, crying, screaming to the point that he threw up (which he does when he is stressed) and he was crying and crying for milk, which I gave him without much success. I couldn’ t really figure out what was the matter and I called my husband T for a long conversation regarding tantrums and meltdowns and what to do about it. L’s tears were flowing freely for around 40 minutes and I could not get the kid to calm down. suddenly after he had a BM he felt better. Could that have been the culprit?  Anyway, finishing up with that seemed to pacify him, but every time he grabbed his new book and I reminded him that it wasn’t his, well, he got upset.

This morning as we were reading before school, he kept asking for his new “bear book” and I brought it. But I also reminded him that it was not his book and we had to bring it back to school. Suddenly he broke into the biggest tantrum I had seen in a few days; he was thrashing his arms, wiggling this way and that, screaming about “my book my book!” and when I let him hold it he was better again. I placed the book in a bag along with his milk for school and we headed on our way to the elevator.

Then we drove to school and I gave him the similar book which was already his.  But halfway through the car ride he began whimpering for his book . . . crying, pleading for the book I had taken away.

I finally got into the daycare, at which for the first time my son was thrashing and screaming and honestly upset to be entering the building – something I was not used to at all.  I rushed into his classroom and explained to his teacher that L had come home with another student’s book and that he was upset at having to return it.

His gentle-eyed teacher l0oked at me. He told me that he had indeed given L the book, and then proceeded to tell me more wonderful things about my son – that he can be upset but the minute you redirect him toward something else he is just fine.

But for me, all I could hear was that it was indeed L’s book. I should have known better than to question the behaviors of my little boy, who only seems to want to do the right thing and is always understanding when I explain that something belongs to somebody else. Oh the injustice I caused him from such a tiny mistake; I could not help but to hug L tight and apologize.

I’m sorry, L. I love you.

He thanked his teacher for the book and I thanked him too, and then I gave him a big kiss before I went to work.  My kind and calm son sat happily at the table for his breakfast and exclaimed how he would get to eat a muffin that morning. Sigh.