Friday, September 4, 2009

The Tantrum

Okay. So. We've been having some, uh, issues with our three-year-old. He is extremely perceptive and hasn't missed a moment of the stress we've been buried under for the last six months. He adores his brother and, at times, is almost desperate not to lose him. Each day we reassure him that Little Buddy isn't leaving today. Each day we tell The Rock Star that even if his brother has to leave, which is up to God and Jesus, he isn't going anywhere. Six months of wondering if his brother is permanent or temporary has really taken its tole on our three-year-old. Add to that the fact that most preschoolers enjoy attempting to assert their independence anyway and you have a recipe for humiliation and disaster.

Lately, his fear of being separated from us and his desire to get his own way have collided in a few unfortunate situations. There was the fact that after two swimming lessons, he refused to get back in because I wasn't with him. We continued going but no amount of bribery would get that kid back in the water. We sat on the deck and practiced everything on dry land. Later, I would return to the pool with him and he would complete every task, as long as I was his instructor. Then there was the day where he flipped out in Sunday school because I went in to change Matthew and he refused to let me leave the room without him. Believe me, I am not prone to letting my little man get his own way but when he has these meltdowns, something snaps in his brain and he gets a glazed look in his eyes that suggests there is no small amount of terror twisting around inside his body. I mentioned this to the doctor yesterday at his physical.

She said it was normal behavior and the situations were isolated and she wasn't really concerned. The Rock Star was happily interacting with her. He was asking for raisins. He was climbing on the exam table. He was being a totally normal snapshot of himself. "Okay. I'm going to check your eyes and ears now." The nurse practitioner explained. Suddenly and completely without warning, Garrett flung himself under the chair with lightening speed. She had to take Matthew so that I could pry his brother out from under his fort. The more I tried to yank him, the more his temper flared, the more his eyes glazed over, the more insane his behavior got. I'm not kidding when I say he looked like he needed a straight jacket and a sedative. We had to give Matthew to the nurse.

It took both of my hands and one of hers to hold him down as she attempted to examine him with her other hand. He screamed and writhed and threw the weight of his head into my sternum. (And that thing weighs a lot. He has an enormous noggin.) I used my chin to secure his head against my body. When he realized that his upper body was constrained, he began to kick furiously. The recipient of his blows was none other than the wonderfully nice and extremely patient NP. She finally got him calmed down by having him "blow out" her light. But, as soon as she attempted to use the light to look in his ears, he flipped his body over like a fish out of water and tore at my clothing. Apparently, he undid several buttons on my shirt without my knowledge because, several minutes later, when I glanced down, I realized that I was modeling my bra. "Oh great, Garrett, you undressed me. Perfect." I'd said.

And she'd laughed as if to say, "And a mighty fine bra it is."

At one point, when I was starting to think about homicide, she smiled and said, "Deep breath, mom." I apologized profusely for his behavior. She replied with some lie about how she'd seen much worse. I have no idea how it could have been worse. Worse would have been The Rock Star wielding a gun and taking the whole office hostage. When she finished her five minute exam that I swear took twenty, Garrett was sweaty and beet red. I was disheveled and only partly dressed. But, somehow, the NP looked just as she had when she came in the room. I have no idea how she did not become a causality of war. Then, just as quickly as it started, Garrett flipped the switch and he was all sweetness and light.

"Is this normal three-year-old behavior?" I implored.


"" She replied.

Then we had a long discussion about how often it was happening, how he is sleeping, how he is developing and how long we're going to let this go on. We are going to continue disciplining the actions and not letting him get his way. We are going to continue telling him how much we love him and how safe he is. But the bottom line is that he's stressed. He's completely terrified of losing his brother. His world is swaying. He's terrified of "strangers" touching him and making him do things he doesn't want to do. And he's smart. He knows that we know that he's stressed and, to a degree, he's playing on our sympathy. We're going back in a month anyway because Matthew isn't growing. He's eating and developing but he's only gained a pound and grown just under an inch in two months. She's not terribly concerned about him at the moment but she wants to recheck him in a month. So we'll talk about Garrett at the same time.

He apologized to her for being so terribly naughty and, as she examined Matthew, the two of them returned to their preexisting state of friendship. He was fine.

Needless to say, I left with literature on anxiety.


  1. Oh my heart broke reading this. For him but a lot for you. I have always thought that little kids understand more then people give them credit for. Sometimes it's great but at other time not so much. We will be praying for you guys and how God wants you guys to deal with this. BTW I think you do a fantastic job with your boys.

  2. Oh, that's so sad... :(
    But face the facts. Tantrums happen. Heck, even adults throw tantrums from time to time. Well, that is quite weird, but it does happen. I just hope you'll not lose it next time tantrums happen. :D