The Art of Temper Tantrums
My parents claim “The Threes” were worse than “The Terrible Twos.”
I think anything with “The” as part of the title makes whatever follows it seem more important, more significant.
By age three, Mom says, kiddos know more clearly what they want. They can’t be so easily distracted. They can’t be persuaded as quickly with a different shiny toy or promise of something better to come. No longer are they simply trying out the word “NO” to feel its impact on the world around them… No, by age three, Mom believes kids know exactly what they want and because of that clarity, the “NO” has more power.
Stronger will. Clearer wants. More intense frustration when it doesn’t go your way.
When you can’t fix it. Or control it all. Or get what you really want, right then.
This afternoon, I envisioned (with great detail) how it might feel to throw an epic-heave-yourself-down-on-the-sticky-floors-of-the-produce-aisle-temper-tantrum. A-make-others-gasp-as-you-beat-your-arms-on-the-tile-floor-till-you-are-done–kind-of-melt-down. A real pout. A fierce temper. Arms dramatically crossed, folded across your chest. Audible whining (the really high pitched horrible kind). Followed by the wild-rumpus-roar of crazies being set free. A-stamp-your-feet-NO-NO-NO-NO-kind-of-moment. Just because. Just because it might feel good.
The problem is, 24 year olds don’t really get to throw temper-tantrums.
We are meant to grow out of that by age something-something, certainly by grade-school. We are taught more “constructive coping mechanisms” to “handle” our “frustrations” or “bad mood.”
Instead of really melting down in the middle of the grocery store while others run for cover…
I talk myself out of making such a scene. I journal. I consider running. I put on a new temporary tattoo. I call the parents that live in the red farmhouse in North Carolina. I call friends. I write to my patient husband overseas (who totally supports the temper tantrum idea, by the way). And we laugh about mood swings, not-so-easy-transitions-after-break and deployment-count-downs and feeling tired and being patient with myself. Instead of being super dramatic, I snuggle in bed on a Sunday afternoon to re-read old favorite underlined books and drink calming tea. I meditate and make plans to climb on rocks. I drink more water. I eat a snack. I examine and measure just how much of my favorite bath salt still remains and contemplate taking a bath in the middle of the afternoon. (A bath at 3pm seems just as silly as a temper tantrum in the produce aisle). I turn on favorite folk and bluegrass tunes and look through silly pictures of my siblings. And Henry-dog. And after missing Henry-dog, I flip (again) through the photos on the humane-society website before returning to the argument that “I don’t have time for a puppy right now.” But (just for the record) there are a few great ones in need of a “forever home”…
As I write, the dream of throwing a wildly epic temper tantrum starts to fade away. It starts to lose its brilliance and detail. Starts to feel less necessary and more “silly of me”…
Think of the way I’d block the traffic in the store. And I’d have to be sure to not knock anything over, because I’d hate to make anyone else’s job more difficult. I don’t reeaally want to make a biiiggg mess. And I don’t like bringing lots of attention to myself, anyway. What would actually happen after the temper-tantrum… Wouldn’t I still have to go check out and stand in line with my cart? Do you think anyone over the age of 10 has thrown a temper tantrum (to the scale that I’m imagining) without being in serious trouble?
I try to sort through the thoughts behind the temper-tantrum-fantasy.
I conclude, that at the end of it all, I think I would just like to control more.
For starters, I’d like another Spring Break. Less work. To speed up deployment. To flash forward to Galen opening that door downstairs. To bust up this gray-cloudy-weather and get back to blue skies. To have laundry that folds itself. And groceries that magically arrive and cook themselves and taste great and cost no money. I’d love to not start again tomorrow. To prevent the dive back into the fast-paced-grind in the morning. I wish I’d not pick fights with younger sisters just to prove I’m the oldest, again. I’d love to be more cohesive. With longer hair. Hair that I promise not to cut if it would just grow back out.
And I realize that all this whining or temper-tantrum-stunt-pulling doesn’t really even sound like me.
Not the me I really like, anyway. (And most of the time, I like lots of me).
So I pack my bags and get ready to head down to Nashville. I’ll lock the doors to this Clarksville quiet home the with silly plants who like it better with more light and less water. And the dust that settles no matter what I do. I’ll grab an extra favorite book from our shelf on the way out and return to grab my favorite bracelet and turn down the heat.
I’ll finalize my grocery list before venturing to the store this afternoon.
And while I’m there, I might, just might– while I’m looking for freshest kale and apples and bananas, I might just look around that produce section and stake out the best locations for throwing a really really great temper tantrum…. for next time… for someone else, maybe.