what my toddler's tantrum taught me

life lessons from toddlers motherhood advice Many Sparrows blog Kayla Craig

“Mommy, I NEED chocolate milk! Right now!”

I placed the baby in her swing and made my way to the kitchen.

“Can you ask nicely, buddy?”

“Chocolate milk, pleeeeeease?”

He asked as he ran to the fridge, swinging open the doors and standing on his tip-toes to reach the chocolate syrup bottle.

“I get it, Mommy!” My two-year-old declared as I reached inside, grabbing the milk.

I snagged a small plastic cup from the cupboard (why do we go through 100 every day?) and placed it on the table as my impatient toddler worked intently on opening the syrupy goodness.

I poured the milk (“A BIG glass, Mommy! BIIIIG!”) and took the syrup from his hands, squirting the liquid gold into the milk, a bit spilling over the side of the lime green IKEA cup. And that’s when it happened.

Threat level midnight. Meltdown of epic purportions. Sobbing and screaming that didn’t stop.

I sighed of exhaustion and prayed for an ounce of patience. “Bud, I’m making you chocolate milk. That’s what you asked for.”

“Nooooo! You’re not doing it right! Nooooo!”

Cue more sobs and me rescuing the brimming cup from flailing limbs. My attempts to mix syrup into soy milk were increasingly unsuccessful. The full-fledged tantrum was escalating quickly. It was only a matter of minutes before the baby — who had finally fallen asleep — would be awoken by her tornadoing brother.

I inhaled deeply, wearily eying my messy kitchen. Nothing I was doing was pacifying the eye of the hurricane, so I grabbed a dishcloth and started wiping the counters, stepping away to let the storm run its course. I tried tuning out the angry screams and flailing limbs.

After a few minutes that seemed like eternity, I felt two arms pulling my legs, a little head ramming into my shins.

“Buddy, WHY are you crying? WHAT do you want?”

I kneeled down and tried to pull out the ounce of patience I had left. Big brown eyes with tears around the rims looked up at me.

“I want you to hug me.”

That was it.

Cut to the heart, I scooped him up and held him close. He wiped his runny nose on my shoulder and his cries turned into soft sobs as he snuggled in. He twirled his fingers through my hair. I rubbed his back. His heart rate slowed to a calmer cadence.

I sat with my growing boy on the crumb-laden kitchen floor, rocking back and forth. I wondered how many times desiring to be seen, heard, and loved manifests itself in screaming, anger and ugliness from us grown-ups. How often does hurt show up as anger, loneliness as pushing people away?

How many times have I been the screaming toddler?

How many times have I glossed over others lashing out in pain, not seeing the hurt hidden in their hearts?

I don’t think my son even knew the needs tucked away in his little soul. He recently had to relinquish baby status to his little sister, and he’s aware another baby is on the way.

I kissed his forehead as the tears subsided, and we headed back to the table, together.

Sometimes it’s hard not to cry over almost-spilt milk.

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