10 minutes before I needed to leave for a doctor’s appointment, the tantrum began. It escalated by the minute, exacerbated by the fact that I was preparing to leave. My 4-year-old daughter chased me around the house, voice shrill with anger and desperation, her babysitter standing helplessly behind her. Not that I blamed the sitter, it’s taken us years to figure out how to calm her down. But I just didn’t have enough time.
As much as it tore at my heartstrings to leave before she was resolved, I felt comfortable that my husband could handle her. I steeled myself against her screaming “You aren’t allowed to leave!” and “You’re not listening to me!”
I walked out the door, got in the car, and barely made it to my appointment.
Of course, I was worried most of the time I was gone but I tried to put it out of my mind.
As it turns out, I had no reason to be worried at all. When I arrived home, the kids were already at the playground with the sitter. My husband gave me the full run down.
He had sat with her and patiently worked through each issue that she was upset about. He rubbed her back while she vented that I wasn’t listening to her. He explained that if I was late for my appointment, the doctor wouldn’t be able to see me. She told him that I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere by myself – EVER. He asked her why. She told him that she didn’t want to share me with anyone, especially her brother. (This actually gave us huge insight into how she has been feeling and acting towards her brother recently.) He told her that it was okay to feel that way and that we all share each other as part of being a family. He reminded her about how he goes away for business trips and we miss him but he comes back. He explained that I would be gone for such a short time, just the length of two Sponge Bob episodes. She finally calmed down and got dressed to go to the playground.
Hearing all of this overwhelmed me with gratitude. It is so easy to get frustrated with our partners when we are in the trenches, but when my husband takes the opportunity to patiently work our little girl through her real feelings, all my frustrations feel so insignificant. I am so appreciative for the man that he is. Strong and kind, emotionally intelligent and loving.
I am grateful that he took the time when he was supposed to be working to talk about the hard stuff with her. To really find out what was brewing beneath the surface that caused her to explode. Children cannot do this for themselves. They need us as their parents and caregivers to help them identify the thoughts and feelings that are causing them discomfort.
When he was done filling me in, I brought up plans for my birthday dinner later than evening and a wash of embarrassment covered his face. He came over to me, took me in his arms and wished me a happy birthday. He’d wanted to catch me the night before, but we had gone to bed before midnight. And our crazy morning had thrown everything off.
I squeezed him gently, put my head on his shoulder, and whispered as tears filled my eyes, “What you did for our daughter means more to me than my birthday.”
Because it’s true. Just knowing that I could leave the house in the middle of a tantrum is the best gift in the world. Knowing that my husband could expertly handle our daughter at her roughest is a mother’s dream come true.