Nugget has had two very bad and very public meltdowns in the last two days. Yesterday, in the airport on our way home from a visit to my mom, Nugget started to head into the men's room. "Be right back," he told me, holding up one finger. I reacted quickly, shouting no and grabbing him. Which caused him to shout "no!" back and start hitting me. He had a metal toy airplane in his hand, which he used to hit me in the face before throwing it across the broad and busy hall of the concourse. He continued screaming and hitting me in the face while someone kindly brought me the toy plane he'd thrown. All this took place right next to our gate, in full view of the planeful of people about to board the plane with us for a six-hour flight. In a nutshell, it sucked.
Today he lost it at Costco because I put the green beans in the cart myself instead of letting him do it. When the tantrum started, I told him we were going to have to leave the store, and when the tantrum didn't stop, I abandoned my cart and started to follow through on the threat, as the toddler manuals tell you to do. Then it occurred to me that this made no sense. We drove 15 miles to Costco, and I really needed to get my shopping done. Nugget couldn't care less whether we left or not--he was probably happier to go home. So why would I put myself out to punish him, when he didn't care? So I turned back--yes, I didn't follow through on my threat, bad mommy--and said good riddance to that little bit of parenting lore.
The rational parent in me isn't too concerned, and attributes these tantrums to yesterday's long day of travel and the transition from Eastern to Pacific time, aside from the usual mercurial willfulness of a toddler, with a genetically-fueled extra helping of stubbornness. But the human being in me was upset about being hit--in the face with a sharp-edged metal plane, no less--and yelled at by my son, in full view of many strangers. I was upset about it, and it was hard not to let that dictate my response to Nugget. It's hard to keep my focus on long-term parenting goals in the face of present discomfort, especially--as I wrote recently for Babble--when I can't be sure that the course I've mapped to those goals isn't completely misguided.
I don't put my faith in the old saw that if you love 'em, it'll sort itself out. There are plenty of parents who put their kids in therapy with only the best of loving intentions. Just look at Amy Chua. On the other hand, I seem to be blessed with a naturally good kid. As I tell him when I say good night, "you're the best." For now, he says it right back. "You the best too, mommy."