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Sep 6, 2009

An impressive tantrum experience

A few days ago I experienced an interesting tantrum from Daniel, our 19-month old son. Although the term "tantrum" has a lot of negative connotations, both for parents of toddlers and for people that might witness them from afar, I actually saw this one in a positive light. As I discovered, the tantrum highlighted Daniel's strong memory and sense of association, and I was really impressed when I realized how this had come together.

We were driving back from daycare, and Daniel was in a very good mood. He was describing what he was seeing on the street (bikes, trucks, trees, etc...) and singing. That is, until we reached the last big intersection before arriving home. My happy Daniel turned into a crying, agitated baby who didn't seem to respond to any comforting action.
At that intersection, we need to drive straight to go to our house. The road to the left leads to a shopping center with a Safeway, a Starbucks, a bakery and a couple of restaurants (which we don't frequent often). As I made my way across the intersection, Daniel started pointing to the left, yelling "miam, miam" and crying.

I first thought that he was starting to be hungry and expressed that we might need to go shopping at Safeway to buy food. I quickly tried to reassure him that we had plenty of food at home, and that he could get a snack as soon as we arrive. This didn't seem to help. Once we arrived at home, I encouraged him to get out of the car, so that we could quickly get into the house and get food. But he hung into his car seat, still crying, and pointing to the direction we were coming from. I had to carry him into the house, my only resort to get him out of the car that night. Once at home, I offered a couple of food items, but he didn't take any of them... He was holding the door, still crying and expressing that he wanted to get out. Nothing seemed to calm him down, even the pacifier that I ended up offering him (although he isn't supposed to take a pacifier during the day).

I could probably have waited until he calmed down by himself... This is, after all, what experts recommend. But I was intrigued by what Daniel was after. I knew he liked shopping (Safeway has these carts with plastic cars attached to them, which Daniel enjoys a lot), but I had never seen him be proactive to ask to go shopping. It was even more surprising because I hadn't said anything to bring up the topic. In the car, we had mostly chatted about trucks! How could he so suddenly remember the shopping center and want to go there so badly? I wanted to know if Daniel was really looking for a specific food from Safeway - and how he would find it if we were there- or if we just wanted to drive the cars in the shopping carts (but then, why say "miam, miam"?)

I knew I risked starting bad habits, but I was too intrigued. So I took Daniel back into the car and drove to the shopping center. To my surprise, when we arrived, Daniel didn't seem to care about Safeway nor the shopping carts. He had calmed down a bit when he saw where we were driving, but started to be agitated again once I passed the few couples of restaurants to park right in front of Safeway. This time, I didn't have any problem getting Daniel to jump out of the car. He ran past the Safeway and, determined, ran to the door of a Mexican restaurant at the corner of the shopping center. Yes, he wanted to have dinner in that Mexican restaurant, a place we hadn't gone to in 3-4 months!
I couldn't believe Daniel was remembering this restaurant from so long ago, and that he was so determined to eat there as to ignore all other things I had tried previously to calm him down. What a memory and a focus!

I should probably be concerned whether this is going to become a pattern for future tantrums: Daniel remembering past experiences and asking to repeat them, seemingly at random. That wouldn't be too fun, wouldn't it? But for now, I was just impressed at the memory and the determination. Yes, Daniel is growing fast and I can't help but being in awe with the new learnings every day.

To finish the story, Daniel thankfully didn't seem to mind whether we stayed a the restaurant for 2 minutes or a complete dinner. I ordered a bag of chips to go and we went back home right away. Daniel only ate 2-3 chips and he was happy, so really he wasn't that hungry. He just wanted to see the restaurant. Kids!
Since then, Daniel has been in a very good mood (even doing great for an entire afternoon with a new baby sitter while we were at a wedding). He continues to impress me with his learning every day. I still hope that tantrums will be infrequent episodes for now. Crossing my fingers!

Have you experienced similar situations?

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