My daughter had a tantrum today. That’s nothing new. But what was new was what happened afterwards.
After having a tantrum about not being able to swim in a puddle and run amok in a busy car park, my two year old stopped. She stood very still. She waited until I picked her up. And then she hit me in the face.
It wasn’t an arms flailing, screaming, accidental, wrong-place-wrong-time hit. It was calculated. She thought about what she was going to do. And then she did it. A belting thwack! right across the cheek.
Stung, I wrestled her into her car seat, while she silently bit me, pulled my hair, slapped me across the other cheek and pulled a thread from my brand new coat.
This was not a tantrum.
There was no screaming (or, at least, not while she was unleashing the full force of her two year old strength on me). She looked at me quietly before she dealt each blow. She listened to me say, “No” and then she did it anyway.
She’s never done that before.
I’ve been hit, of course. By passing flying objects thrown in the heat of a temper storm. I’ve been in the way of flailing limbs as my daughter’s fury over forbidden chocolate or toys or impending bedtime have surfaced. But she’s never hurt me in such a calculated manner before.
Today, she was completely aware of what she was doing. There was thought behind each slap, pinch, scratch and hair pull.
Being in a public place, I wasn’t sure what to do. I was hot, angry – OH so angry – frustrated and (as ever) without the magic answer.
So I told her, “No” again, got in the driver’s seat and ignored her rising demands for her (bloody awful) CD to be put on.
I could have put the music on. It would have been better than listening to her angry shouts. But I didn’t want to reward the hitting behaviour. I was really cross.
Five minutes later, I had to pull into a garage on a busy main road. My irrate daughter had, by this time, managed to manoeuvre her way out of the straps on her car seat (her hypermobility means she’s oddly flexible, which is often a problem) and was leaning forward attempting to pull my hair again.
While she shouted “Like you Mummy! Like you Mummy!” (this means DON’T like you, obviously) I tried to shut my ears and get on with the task of strapping her into the car seat.
For the rest of the journey home the shouts turned into tears, which turned into a tantrum, which eventually subsided into a quiet, “Sorry Mummy” as we pulled up at our house.
I didn’t speak for the entire journey. I didn’t put her CD on. I didn’t shout at her or try to placate her or chide her for pulling my hair. I shut my ears and I concentrated on driving safely while my anger levels rose to a high pitched scream inside my head.
Once home I got her inside the house and I sat down calmly beside her. I told her she’d made me sad, that hitting was wrong and that she should never do it again.
I’m not sure how much she understood, but I know she was very quiet. Quieter than I’ve seen her for a long time. It looked like she was taking it in. I think she was aware that she pushed the boundary as far as it would go and then jumped right across a line she had only just found.
I think that’s the case, but I don’t know.
What would you have done?