I just received an email from my son’s kindergarten teacher. Apparently he had a tantrum at school. He couldn’t sit next to the person he wanted to sit next to at lunch so he threw a fit. Teachers tried to comfort him. Parents volunteering tried to dissuade him. He continued for 20 minutes.
Children can be such assholes when they are hungry.
I am mortified at receiving this email. I know that children do this shit. That it’s normal. I know that my son is usually a nice, kind, well behaved boy. That someone probably needed to shove a protein laced sandwich down his throat but I am mortified. I am mortified that my child created a scene. I’m not sure which is worse; that I wasn’t there or if I had been there.
When I was a child my father loved to create scenes. Once in bumper to bumper traffic my father got pissed off at another driver who wouldn’t let him merge. So the next time the car was parallel with his, he rolled down his window, reached over to grab a very warm bottle of lotion that was sitting on the sunny dashboard of his truck, leaned out the window and squeezed. The lotion made a stream of white goo across the other car’s front windshield. I gasped and watched the owner of that car as well as all the others around us gasp at the display. The owner, not knowing what to do, turned on his windshield wipers only to spread the cream onto the glass, making it worse. My father cackled and screamed obscenities while I sank as low as I could in my seat on the passenger side.
My mother was no less comforting as she could have a panic attack in any location for any reason without warning. I don’t remember what triggered the attack but I do remember her crying and shaking uncontrollably at the post office once as she slid her body down the wall behind her so she could cry on the floor. It was just like a scene in a high school hallway in a John Hughes movie but we were in a public place and I was the one in high school, and couldn’t not drive, so I couldn’t get us the fuck out of there. People came in to buy stamps, mail packages and tried not to notice the 35-year-old woman sobbing in the walk way.
So when my kid throws a tantrum, I’m right there. I’m 15 and everyone knows my business. Everyone knows I have an abusive father and a crazy mother. I freeze. I look away. I try to pretend I am not with the screaming 5-year-old who has some very complicated feelings about not being able to sit next to his best friend in the whole world at lunch. I need to grab him, put my arms around him and tell him I understand.
I didn’t get to be the kid who had feelings. I had to be the kid who kept things as low key as possible. The kid who had to be as small as possible. The kid who could not be myself.
The time to have a tantrum is when you are five. I need to sit with him in it. Let him know he’s not alone with his feelings. We can’t be a jerk to people but we can be sad if we are sad. I am here for him. Otherwise, he’ll be throwing tantrums when he’s 35.
About the Author
Shemaiah Gonzalez is a freelance writer who thrives on moments where storytelling, art and faith collide. She is obsessed with being well rounded as she jumps from Victorian Lit to Kendrick Lamar from the Homeless Shelter to the Cocktail Party. A Los Angeles native, she now lives in Seattle with her husband and their two sons. You can follow her at shemaiahgonzalez.com or on Twitter.