Epic tantrum

For the first time in a long time, M had such an epic tantrum that we didn’t really manage to practice.

After dinner, as it was time to get started on our lesson, M was garden-variety uncooperative — not picking up her guitar when told to, dawdling by saying she wanted to go get animals as an audience, but doing this all pretty calmly. I sat and read with the stopwatch going and let her know that I was waiting for her to be ready.

It fell apart when she came in with her audience (a stuffed kangaroo and Fluffles the lamb) while wearing sparkly antennae. I told her she couldn’t wear the antennae, and I took them off and put them on the kangaroo.

M melted down, and it just got worse. After about a half an hour of her crying and saying that I was awful for taking the antennae, I told her that if she couldn’t calm down, we were going to have to do two lessons the next day.

The meltdown escalated. I stayed outwardly pretty calm, but I was quietly getting pretty mad. Still, I repeatedly offered to try to help her calm down and asked if a hug would help. My offers were refused, and at some point (30 or 45 minutes in), M tried to hit me.

I don’t react well to being hit by a child. I have never hit M, but when she tries to hit me, I do react physically, by picking her up and carrying her into another room. Which of course occasions more attempts to hit me and, today, a bonus: she tried to bite me!

M’s mom came home while we were about an hour into this. I told M she needed to calm down before she could see her mommy, and I offered to help her calm down, but she couldn’t. So then I carried M up to her room, where she raged on for another 15 minutes or so. I told her she had to stay calm for at least 5 minutes before she could go downstairs. When she had been calm for a while, I asked her if it would help if I read her something, and finally she agreed to accept my help. I asked if she wanted to sit with me while I read or stay in her bed by herself, and she chose to sit with me, which was nice. I read her a page, then we went downstairs.

A little while later, as she was putting away a tumbling mat (which she had thrown at me earlier) on the bookshelf next to where I keep the music-instruction books, she said, “I have an idea of — if it’s okay — I have an idea of how to make up to you,” and she started pulling sight-reading book off the shelf. It was such a sweet gesture, and we did a few minutes of rhythm sightreading together before it was time for her to get ready for bed. I also explained again, once she was calm, that we were going to do two lessons the next day, one before breakfast and one after dinner, and that if the morning lesson didn’t go well I was going to cancel her afternoon playdate so we could do our makeup lesson in the afternoon. She accepted this.

She hasn’t been this out of control in a long time. I wish I could head it off better and handle it better when it happens. It’s tough for me to both watch my out-of-control kid suffer (because it’s obviously no fun for her) and deal with the anger I can’t help feel when I’m called the worst father in the world, etc. But she’ll grow out of it; she has to!

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