If you're one of our loyal readers -- I'm fairly sure there are at least two of you -- you'll remember more than a few posts about Kate and her temper tantrums. The stories would change, but they all shared a common general theme: Isn't it funny that Kate is so out of control?
Well, now it's time to tell the true story, as honestly as possible. If you're looking for sarcasm, you won't find it. If you've come seeking humor or pithy observations about fatherhood, move along. Today, all I got is the truth.
I don't know what to do about my daughter. She will be five years old in a month, but she shows no signs of leaving her tantrums behind. If there's one thing that fatherhood has taught me, and continues to teach me every day, it's that each child is different and has different needs. On the one hand, that's a blessing, but on the other it's a cruel trick. After you've had a child or two, you find yourself thinking that you're an expert. You wake up early one Saturday morning and smile smugly at the young couple who wanders into your garage sale to pay fifty cents a piece for a stack of parenting books you're certain you'll never need again. After all, you've raised two toddlers without incident; why should the third be different?
Now, to be fair, Kate is not a monster or a bad seed. Most of the time she is cute, intelligent, bubbly, and engaging. She is the little girl with the curl -- when she is good, she is very, very good, but when she is bad she is awful. Tonight was awful.
She cried when it was time to put the bikes away, she cried when I wouldn't replace her dinner with something better, she cried when it was time to get her pajamas, she cried when it was time to go to bed, and she cried when I turned out her light. When she is in a mood like she was tonight, there is simply no winning. She will scream at the top of her lungs until she either gets what she wants, forgets what she wants, or falls asleep while screaming for it.
Her tantrums are emotionally devastating to me because I feel like I'm handcuffed to her as she falls down that rabbit hole. I become an awful father as I raise my voice to compete with her screams, and sometimes I take my frustration out on the rest of the family. And the most maddening part is that she can turn off the drama as quickly as it starts. One moment her head's spinning around, and the next she's gently kissing me on the cheek. Sometimes I can steal these moments of sanity and have a quick conversation about how she makes me feel when she screams, but other times my heart is still beating too fast to talk to her. I'm sure that a child psychologist could explain what's going on in her head, but I just need it to stop.
And then there is a practical concern. When I turned her light out after putting her to bed tonight, she immediately started crying again and demanding that I keep her light on. When I walked down the hall, leaving her in the dark, she yelled after me, "Noooo! Noooooo! Nooooooo!"
I'm not sure what I would do if I were sitting at home on a Tuesday night and heard a young child screaming No! over and over again. Would I go knock on the door? Would I call the police? I don't know. I know that the neighbors hear her, but I don't know what they think.
After listening to her for a few minutes, Leslie went back to her room and told Kate that if she kept screaming like that, someone might call the police. She told her that if the police were to come, they might arrest me and take me to jail. She stopped screaming.
This is what it's come to. The only way to stop my daughter's tantrum is to threaten her with the arrest of her father.
When I tucked Alison into bed a bit later, she told me that she didn't like it when Kate cried like that. I agree with her, and promised her that one day her sister would stop. Alison's lip quivered a bit as she looked up at me and said, "Daddy, I don't want the police to come. I don't want you to go to jail..."
My heart broke just a little, and I answered her: "Don't worry, Alison. I'll always be right here."