Napoleon used to throw his shoes and stomp on his hat when things didn’t go his way. He was short and in charge, much like my toddler.
Well, she’s not officially in charge. But that’s how tyrants work their magic. They let someone else think he’s in charge and then attempt to overthrow the existing powers that be.
Napoleon decided that he would try to take over most of Europe. Baby decided she wanted to play with the clicker torch thing—the device I use to light candles. Being safely ensconced in the role of Queen Mother, I felt completely righteous in saying a firm, “No, that’s for Mommy.”
Here’s where it gets interesting. Baby expresses her disdain and disapproval of my response as utter devastation. She arches her back in fury, then falls to the ground in apoplectic rage. “Down,” she yells, emphasizing that I have brought her low with my cruel and oppressive rule. Her hitching breaths belie somatic torment brought on by my blind denial.
Though I never give in to these tantrums, I can’t say I am unaffected. I crouch near her and speak to her calmly as her kicking subsides (Baby enjoys a classic scream-and-kick-the-floor tantrum), and then the storm is over. However, it is more than likely that the next item she requests is a knife, or a bottle of medicine, as if she senses poison and lethal sharpness in some special toddler-specific brain part. The “totler tantrumic cortex,” perhaps.
So then there’s another. And another. Napoleon invades Russia. Then Leipzig. The going gets tough.
After the third or fourth flail, I feel myself lose that calm equilibrium and I’m suddenly wondering “Who’s the boss?” and not in an 80s sitcom way. The tantrum tirade takes over. There is no washing dishes, doing laundry, or engaging in meaningful play with my glorious daughter as she has been taken over by a need to do and have every single thing she cannot do and have. Distract? Oh, yes, I try. Remove from circumstance? Um, yeah. But you parents know what I’m talking about here. Sometimes a tyrant is hell-bent on a bender and there ain’t no escape for either of you.
Yes, I am sure that Napoleon looked just about as funny as Baby as he worked his diminutive self into a snit, but there is also the exasperating, heartbreaking plop of fat tears, and the increasingly exhausted wails. She wants what she can’t have, just like Napoleon, and who likes that? She’s only been here 17 months after all, so the concept of the clicky fire-starting thing is a little beyond her (as it is, clearly, for me).
During these years of emotional turbulence that give way into…more emotional years of turbulence, just with more vocabulary, I intend to hold the hard line when necessary and compromise when I can. I intend to be a benevolent Queen Mother who recognizes the plight of her people and knows a coup before it comes. I intend that even the longest string of tyrant tantrums will not—for Baby or me-- be our Waterloo.