I was going to write about my dad tonight.
I had it all planned. I was going to write about how emotion is in the genes; we’re born with our tendencies to cry, laugh or brood. It’s written in our DNA.
I was going to use my father as a perfect example of the genetics of emotion. I was going to say that he’s emotional to the point of hilarity. The words were going to flow onto the blank page, describing how his tears will fall freely at something tiny – a birthday card, a story on the news, a kiss from his granddaughter.
I was going to share this picture of my wedding day almost a year ago, pointing you to look at my dad’s face as he revels in the emotion of the day…
I was going to tell you that I’m just like him. And then I was going to write something beautiful and meaningful and slightly funny, about my toddler and her own father, making comparisons between us, before coming back to my own dad at the end of the post.
That’s what I was going to do.
But then this afternoon happened.
A tantrum at supper time is always going to end in tears. An exhausted two year old – who’s been up in the night vomiting and crying – is not a recipe for a contented evening meal. I get that.
But I wasn’t prepared for what we experienced this evening. It was a tantrum off the richter scale of tantrums. It was tears and shouts and a little ball of frustrated anger and screaming – the likes of which I’ve never witnessed before.
As I attempt to ignore the impending tidal wave of emotion about to crash across the table, I can feel my heart rate beginning to speed up. I start to sweat, as I become keenly aware that the piercing angry screams and shouts of “NO WAY NO WAY NO WAY NO WAY” are going to explode into something much worse.
Instinct tells me to keep calm and try and distract my husband from our raging toddler, all the while continuing some form of quiet talking. Instinct tells me not to lose my cool.
But the cool is quickly evaporating. Frog’s dad snaps. Swiftly lifting her from her highchair he shouts, “BE QUIET NOW!” before saying he has to leave the room.
As my toddler weeps in the corner and the food goes cold on our plates my shoulders slump. I know this is just the beginning.
And so it is. The crying and tears and angry shouts continue right through bathtime. Frog hits her dad, screaming, “HIT DADDY HIT DADDY HIT DADDY” before he once more has to leave the room in anger.
As I try to get our two year old dressed and calm her with her “magic blanket” I’m met with a flurry of bites, kicks, hitting, screams and “STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT”.
It’s now two hours since the emotional tidal wave first surfaced. I’m yet to shout. But every feeling inside of me is desperate to get out and find release, ease the pressure inside the kettle about to start whistling on my metaphorical hob.
I’m angry, exhausted, upset, stressed, confused and… and… rapidly searching my stockpile of tried and tested tantrum techniques for the best way to deal with this, before a full blown argument breaks out between my husband and I.
The final blow comes when I lean to kiss Frog goodnight, placing her in her bed as she thrashes and kicks, utterly exhausted but still consumed with that unreasonable toddler rage that appears to physically hurt her. As she enters a more calm state I take my chances and lean down to brush her hair from her face and tell her I love her.
And she scratches me. Not just a little scratch but a big, tearing, nail-out-in-a-talon-like scratch. She draws blood and I gasp. Never before has she properly hurt me, physically, like this. My own tears are now flowing freely.
The NLM tells me to leave the room, he sternly tells her she’s ruined her chances of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star tonight. And then he closes her door and warns me not to go in her room, saying it will only prolong the tantrum and she won’t learn that her actions have consequences.
But I can’t. I can’t leave her sobbing like that. I can’t let her fall to sleep with the last words between us cross ones. I can’t get up at 3.30am and drive to work before she’s even woken, knowing that I won’t see her until tomorrow afternoon, with no goodnight kiss. I can’t do that.
So, inevitably, there are cross words between my husband and I, as we both disagree on the right course of action. In the end, I do go into Frog’s room. I kiss her and she cries when I leave, but is quiet within seconds of me closing the door.
And I sit and meditate on the last two hours, wondering how we could have dealt with that tantrum differently. Wondering what to do next time.
Wondering if my dad ever felt like this when I was tiny.
It goes full circle. Emotions are in the genes.
This post was written for this week’s Gallery, where the theme is Emotion. Head over to Sticky Fingers to see the rest.