Do you remember throwing a temper tantrum as a child? If so, where were you and who calmed you down? Do you remember the reason for the tantrum?
I have one memory of such an event and there’s very little to it. I was at my father’s parents’ house. I stood facing my grandpa, who was trying in vain to placate me. My young five/six year old self was having nothing to do with placation.
My parents had promised to be home soon and they hadn’t come yet. Were they dead and no one had told me? Where were they and why weren’t they here?
Neither Grandpa nor Granny could calm me down. I was furious, terrified that I’d never see my parents again, and I was headed for a complete meltdown. The end of my memory was where I kicked Grandpa in the shin as hard as I could and demanded he produce my parents “right now!”
My mother, many years later, told me that she and Dad had remained in town to visit other relatives while my little brother and I went back to my grandparents’ home. She said that they’d been delayed for a couple of hours because of friends and other relatives taking up their time.
It seems like a simple enough explanation, and one that probably would have worked on an older child who wasn’t terrified that her parents were lying dead somewhere along the road. I never bought it, she said. Their excuse was never accepted by me. I believed, though I didn’t want to, that they’d lied to me when they said they’d be home shortly.
Looking back on it now, from so many years into my own future, I can understand my fears and accusations. I quail to think of my striking out at that most gentle of men, my grandpa, even as I can fathom the depth of my feelings. I can’t remember if I ever apologized for my actions that evening.
There are some fears that take precedence over logic. Fear of abandonment is a child’s worst nightmare. Does a child ever outgrow that tendency to hang on so that the caregiver can’t disappear? Does that fear develop from a toddler’s misperception that a person/thing disappears when no longer in view?
I’m sure I don’t know the answer to that question. I doubt the experts do either. I do know that when I invest my trust and love in a person, I expect them to honor it and not throw me curve balls. I’ve always had that response in relationships, whether within the family or those outside of it.
Perhaps Grandpa’s mistake in dealing with me and my fears was actually two-fold. He tried to speak to me in a reasonable tone and manner, and he didn’t know where my parents were and admitted it to me. Grandpa’s are, after all, supposed to be all-knowing, all seeing, and above all else, always right!
If I ever threw another tantrum, I don’t recall it. Thank God! The recollection of this one has haunted me for enough years already.
4 Comments on Tantrums and Grandparent Woes, last added: 2/15/2012