The other day I was taking the kids to a park with our babysitter. My two-year-old son (“H”) had a monumental tantrum on the way there–barely out of our apartment–that went on for what seemed like a week. He wanted to be carried. I insisted that H walk or ride somewhere in or on our monster stroller. I walked; he clung to my leg screaming for a very. long. time. Our sitter took the girls on to the park while I tried to restrain a clearly out-of-control toddler, declaring to him and downtown Manhattan that he is not a baby and he should be able to walk to the park without a fit: “I shouldn’t have to carry you all the time!” I had those irrational extreme mommy thoughts like I wish you’d grow up and not bother me all the time! and Why can’t you behave for just once when we are out? Those feelings are (always) temporary and (usually) kept to myself, but when the frustration builds, I question why my children act like babies! Note: For any mental health professional, child development expert or grandparent of my children reading this, I do know that it is my response that is immature, and I don’t actually believe my young children should act like anything but unpredictable, maniacal children.
Here’s how this played out: We were frozen in one spot for a while. I debated taking him home and skipping the park. I sweated. H threw himself backwards, sideways and diagonal. Many people stared and I am pretty sure dogs barked at us. We eventually made our way to a school yard where some older boys were practicing lacrosse. Soon, H calmed down, enjoyed the birds, the busses going by, the kids smashing balls and themselves into the chain link fence dividing us. With H sitting next to me on a bench, I watched these boys as well. They were maybe junior high age. They seemed confident and anxious at the same time, screaming insults to each other one minute and outbursts of support the next. The boys were completely oblivious to us and everyone else around them.
It became clear to me that I do not indeed wish for my son to grow up one minute faster than necessary. This was an uncomfortable scene for me. Where were the adults chanting “Good job, good job!” to their sons as they do on the playground? How could these boys be here all alone? I pictured their mothers at home adjusted to not controlling where their sons are every moment. Could this be H one day trying to impress other preteen boys with curse words? No, dear universe, please, as long as is possible (and developmentally normal), let H be a clingy little boy who screams “MOMMY!” as I try to sneak out of the apartment on occasion or into the bathroom. I was panicked–then suddenly comforted as my son slid off the bench to chase a squirrel; I had a feeling that we were ok for the moment. H had some water, laughed at the squirrels and pointed out an airplane above us. Then I carried him the rest of the way to the park.