Today, for the first time (but undoubtably not the last) I was the mother of that child – the one who has a full on tantrum in a public place and leaves his poor mother utterly bewildered by the force of his will. It began during Cam’s swimming lesson. We’d been having a lovely time. And then eight minutes before the end of the lesson he spotted the jelly bean jar. Whining and pointing quickly escalated to full-scale screaming, while I tried valiantly to distract my son by continuing with the exercises. Humpy Dumpty, Willie Wallie and Ring-a-ring-a Rosies were all ignored by my inconsolable child. We tried hiding the jar, but it only made things worse (apparently my new strategy of hiding sweets at home has left Cam with deep seated fears that he’s never going to get any ever again). After rushing through the last bit of the lesson, during which the other two babies in the class also started crying (because clearly something awful was happening), Cam was finally given his sweets. Instantly the crying stopped. My child, who ten seconds previously, had been screaming bloody murder, was all smiles as I slunk past the parents waiting for the next class. A mortified mother? Yip, that was me.
We are no strangers to tantrums (moms of little ones – tantrums begin way before the second birthday so brace yourselves), but this was the first one I have had to deal with in public. To be honest, I just didn’t know what to do. I have a few coping strategies for tantrums. Sometimes distraction works. But despite the fact that Cam never focuses during swimming lessons because there is so much to see, after spotting those jelly beans he was suddenly utterly devoted to keeping them in sight. Time-outs are my next weapon if choice, but I couldn’t very well leave him alone in the corner of the pool. And reasoning with a seventeen-month old is an utter waste of breath. In hindsight I should have left the pool and cut the lesson short but it didn’t occur to me at the time so I just rode it out, apologized meekly at the end and got out of there as fast as I could.
Since Cam turned one, we’ve been seeing more and more evidence of what a strong-willed child he is. I am also learning that I need different strategies to Col for dealing with him. For example, if Col raises his voice Cameron listens; if I raise my voice Cameron laughs at me. So a few weeks ago I decided that instead of raising my voice or lowering my tone, I’d grab Cam’s hands, make eye-contact with him and firmly say ‘No’. My first few attempts at this were hugely successful and I was encouraged. But then that sneaky Rip caught on. Now when I grab his hands, Cameron immediately starts looking at the ceiling, bending over backwards and twisting left and right – all in a desperate attempt to avoid making eye-contact! If he doesn’t look at me, I can’t say ‘No’. (It probably didn’t help that the first time he pulled this move I started laughing. It was just so cool to see how his brain works – even if it’s working hard at disobeying me.)
I think it was Stephen Hawking who said that intelligence is the ability to adapt. So now the question is, who can adapt fastest – mother or child?