An interesting thing happened last Saturday. I was sitting in my office, contemplating what to topic to tackle for this week’s podcast, when I noticed my daughter’s head poking through a crack in the door:
“What are you doing, Mommy?”
“I am working, my love.”
“But I want you!” she proclaimed.
“I will be out soon to have lunch with you. So go play in the playroom, or ask Granny to get your crayons for you.”
She pushes the door further open and yells, “No, Mommy! I want you NOW!”
I put down my journal, stopped working, and gave her my full attention.
Her body was tensing up, her face was getting red, and her eyes were expressing a deep need.
I get it. She has a need she wants to express, she doesn’t yet have the capability to express that need and that’s pretty frustrating…even a 4 year-old knows that.
So I spoke: “Come here a minute and let’s have a snuggy.”
She looked at me, walked over to my exercise ball and gave it a good smack, which then caused it to roll over and hit my leg.
“No! I want you to help me with this ball!”
I wasn’t exactly sure what she was asking for but I knew it had nothing to do with the ball.
When I asked her to tell me more about what she wanted to do with the ball, she lost it. She started punching the ball and screaming, “I just want you to help me! I just want you to help me!!”
Tears started pouring from her eyes and she threw herself on the floor. She repeated the same 7 words over and over while kicking and punching the rug.
I sat back in my chair, took a deep, slow breath and scanned my own body for any tension.
I said softly and confidently, “I see you are upset right now and that it feels good for you to push the floor. Get all of those sads out and you will feel better. I am right here for you if you want me to hold you.”
I wasn’t trying to do anything.
I wasn’t trying to distract her.
I wasn’t trying to talk her out of it.
I wasn’t trying to dismiss her.
I was just there for her.
I sat taking deep breaths and putting my full attention on her. A couple of times, I put down a cushion where I thought she might hurt herself on a table leg and a shelf corner, but then sat back down.
“I see you sweetheart. I am right here,” I reassured her in a calm tone.
The tantrum lasted about 6 minutes.
When I saw that my daughter’s body had started to relax on the floor and her crying had shifted to a stuttering inhalation, I invited her softly to let me hold her. She climbed into my lap, wrapped her arms around my neck, and hid her face in my shirt.
“I love you so much,” I said, as I brushed back her hair from her face.
“I love you, Mommy,” she said as she squeezed me tighter.
I sat holding her for a few minutes and rubbed her back. I didn’t say anything. When she lifted her head to look at me. I kissed her cheeks and smiled.
“I want to go play with my babies now,” she said.
“Ok, my love. I will see you at lunch time.”
She jumped down, gave me a huge grin, and said: “Do your work, Mommy. See you at lunch!”