Tantrums: The Olympics of Parenting

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Watching the world's most incredible athletes do amazing feats on TV during the Olympics made me think of only one thing: I deserve a medal for just being awake right now. Taking care of my two daughters has been the most physically taxing thing I've ever done, yet no one on earth would spend their time watching me lug two strollers around town. While stroller derby might be a possible event, tantrums in public places are the real Olympics of parenting-no activity poses a bigger challenge than facing off against an irrational toddler with a seemingly unlimited lung capacity. On the bright side, it's a chance to showcase all your skills and training (the parenting classes you mostly skipped, speed reading Dr. Sears books). It's also an opportunity to fail in front of an audience. I've certainly choked. You've got to be in top shape-mentally and physically-to survive tantrums. The first tantrum my toddler had was, thankfully, at home. I was so inept that while she was screaming and stomping her feet in a frenzy, I Googled "tantrum" for help. I wanted to be sure she wasn't having some sort of weird allergic reaction. She'd never screamed like that before or fallen into a fit of rage over something so simple as choosing a book to read before bed. But a tantrum at home is softballing it-there's no one there to witness your rotten parenting and the threat of a stranger calling Social Services on you is what really puts the punch in public tantrums. Not long ago, my girl disintegrated in the shoe department when I asked her to take off the display sandals she'd been walking around in (two different flip flops, one red, one blue, both for the right foot). It went from her saying a simple "no" to a full-on screaming flop-fest on the carpet. She yelled and kicked and drooled all over the dirty floor, and I stood there like an idiot trying different tactics to get the shoes off and get the hell out of the store. I reasoned, I pleaded, I got stern, I bargained, I got mad. I thought, for a second, about pretending I didn't know her, especially when the salespeople started giving me the stink eye. Eventually, I picked my little ball of rage up (like all protestors, she has mastered the art of "dead weight") and removed the sandals. She let out an unholy noise, less a scream than some guttural yelp, and I knew everyone in the store was thinking the same thing: That woman is an awful mom. Later, I was talking to my friend Mel, who also has two kids, about tantrums and she smartly said, "The thing about tantrums that is so frustrating is that we wish we could have them." It's true. As my daughter was acting the fool on the floor of the shoe department, what I wanted most was not for her to stop, but to get right down beside her and scream, and cry, and maybe even kick for a little while and not care what anyone thought. It stinks to always have to be the adult and tame other people's medal-worthy tantrums. So instead of trying to stop my girls from losing it, I think I'm going to start letting myself melt down a little more often. Go for the gold, right? If you or your little one is in meltdown mode-or feel it coming-try these releases to cool things down:   

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