‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An Epic Tantrum & What Great Friends We Have

Before the dentist yesterday, I made the big-big-big, 'oh-no-you-didn't' mistake of telling the girls I would buy them something if they weathered the dentist visit well (i.e, no tantrums or meltdowns from either of them). Why did I do this? Why do we parents succumbed to bribery so often? Oh yes...because it works.

Well, this time it backfired. I know better. I know, from years of experience, that bringing a post-institutionalized, just-home child into a toy store (or any store for that matter) is never, ever, EVER a good idea. 

And yet I did it.

After the dentist we headed to Toys R Us  (sadly not a typo) to pick up a present for the two girls who did so well having metal instruments in their mouths for an hour. I was careful to explain - very carefully - that this was one gift each, nothing else, no matter what amazing toys called to them from the shelves. One toy.

The first 15 minutes in the store were great....ooohs and ahhs over all the toys, excitement in the barbie section, squeals of delight in the 'princess stuff' section, complete awe in the 'pretend play' aisle. Both girls were very careful about choosing their gift. Dasha was torn between a little stroller for her baby dolls and a doctor kit. She mulled over it for an eternity. She eventually settled on the stroller, because, as she put it , 'My babies need this.' Nastia went right to the game section and picked out a wii game she had been asking for for months. We proceeded to the checkout, and all was going well.


Dasha spied fake press-on nails in the checkout aisle.

She had to have them. I explained that we had agreed on one gift for each of them. I explained that we cannot buy everything we see. I explained and explained and, as I was explaining, this little girl was getting redder and redder. I  turned momentarily so I could pay the now impatient cashier. And that's when it happened. 

A roar emitted from D that can only be described as mammoth. Legendary, possibly. I've never heard anything like it before. 

Suddenly, she was kicking and screaming like no other little girl I have ever seen. In the checkout aisle. All eyes watching. no escape route. This was the tantrum to end all tantrums.

I thought of my friend Diana in this moment, and her recent post of her tantrum experience. I knew all eyes were on me, and I hated it. I wanted to get us out of the store ASAP. Nastia took our bags and my purse, while I tried to collect D. Elbow in my eye, hair pulled, arm scratched. She was giving it all she had.

I managed to get her out to the car with help from nearby sympathetic parents. 'She's probably really hungry.' Suggested one. 'Does she have sensory issues?' asked a Dad holding the door for us, 'Sensory issues can cause meltdowns like this', he offered.  As we headed to the car, with D trying to scramble over my shoulder, while biting me - hard-  an old man in a red mini-van full of grandkids yelled over her screams, asking if I needed any help. 'I've got chloroform in the back..." he laughed and laughed, leaning against his car door.

Not funny.

I climbed in the back of my car with D, as Nastia sat with her fingers in her ears in the front. I knew I just had to weather this. No explaining, just sitting, keeping her safe, and being with her. She raged for a good fifteen minutes in the car. She kicked the seats, hit the window with her fist, tried to pull my hair, spit at me.

Nastia begged me to 'just go buy the stupid nails, ma.' I explained to her how dangerous that was. D needs limits, honey, just like you did. I know its hard, but we just have to wait till she calms down. 

As fate would have it, my  blood sugar dropped suddenly , so my hands began shaking noticeably.  Nastia freaked out. 'Mom! Your hands! Are you gonna die?' No, honey, I'm not going to die, I just need to get a drink of OJ or a piece of candy. I just need to eat. Now Nastia is crying and D is finally quieting. I tell D I I need her to say she is sorry for biting me and put on her buckle. She digs in her heels and I just wait. And wait. Nastia is crying, and I'm about ready to give up, when.... 

'Iz viniche, Mama..' 

There, she said it.Buckle her up and drive quick!

So, we head Friendly's nearby for some food, and then have an uneventful, almost peaceful drive back home. Once D is in a regulated state, I explain to her why we couldn't buy the nails. She seems very contrite, almost ashamed of her behavior. 'Iz viniche, Mama.'  She says again, and she means it. Just then we pull up to the house, and what do we see?

A gift bag. A barbie gift bag.

Someone is very happy again.

In it, is a vet doctor's kit, two large containers of sidewalk chalk, and two cases of chocolate pudding! Nastia squeals 'Mom!  He remembered!'

My friends Brian and Pam had had us over for a playdate the day before. Dasha had fallen in love with the pet doctor set that Greta had, and they had all drawn on her chalk wall in her room...and Nastia had lambasted Brian for not having chocolate pudding in their house. 

He had driven all the way over to drop this gift bag off for the girls. 


  1. Soul sisters! I knew it! I also have failed to learn certain clear truths from years of experience. As in, "Why do I think that overnights are OK all of a sudden?" "Why do think that Anastasia can suddenly receive gifts with calm gratitude?" "Why do I think that a birthday party will be FUN?"

    You really have gone overboard though...Toys R Us! Wow! You got pretty overexcited there!

  2. Anonymous9:29 AM

    When my Sasha was little, it took me a while to understand that at the point when she is pitching the fit and completely dysregulated, it really is no longer about the thing she thinks she wants, and giving her the press-on nails or whatever the item is won't actually stop the fit at that point anyway. When she'd get to that full-out tantrum situation, she really had lost control of herself and she needed me to do exactly what you did with Dasha - be there, keep her safe, help her get it over with, reassure her you love her when she's able to hear you again.

    It makes me feel good when I read your posts and realize how far my Sasha has come. You're a great mom, Keri, and I'm glad Dasha has this time with you now.

    Rosemary Clark

  3. Yeah for public rages...NOT! They are the WORST!! So sorry you had to deal with that. I must say, however, you are much more happy about the barbie gift than I would have been. :-) Glad it all worked out in the end, though.

  4. You are such a GOOD MOMMA! Go you!
    It's so hard in that moment... that rage crazy moment to keep your cool. Dude, if someone offered me choloroform it would have been SO TEMPTING to take him up on the offer and use it on myself!
    We had a near rage ourselves in Target today. I managed to keep the limits clear and diverted my five year old's attention away. Then we made a quick exit through the shortest line which also happened to be Grandma's line. (She works at Target.) He calmed right down when he saw her loved filled face!

  5. Great story. You are an example to parents out there. Too many take that wrong fork in the road and buy the press on nails or whatever to avoid a scene. Mom, stay strong. You set a wonderful example to Dasha, Nastia, and THE WORLD! Peace & Love!

  6. Anonymous7:05 PM

    Yes its loving not to give in to the pressure and give the quick fix or the punishment / threat just to keep the public happy. stay with the feelings together you will make a good team!! - i enjoy people's freaked out ness sometimes when a tantrum happens in a supermarket and i just say yes i know you're upset keep him safe and find a way to keep going instead of trying to shush him up. Some old hurt might surface and i do try not to give him the object as a dummy. Some older people are really upset and offended that i let him express himself safely and i kind of have to enjoy the serenity of daring to defy what i know is mass disapproval for me and 3 year old bc i know its right for him. Shock sister. . you know you're worth it !!

  7. Anonymous7:45 AM

    My son once has a huge tantrum in K-mart because I wouldn't buy him a package of those little plastic capped cigars!
    Keri - you are a great writer - and photographer


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