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Tantrums and Grandparent Woes


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.

  1. February 14, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Oh, have you struck a chord with this one. When I was a baby, I wanted nobody but my mom. I remember the fear of abandonment that you describe so well. What I don’t remember is when my sister was in the hospital, and my mom had to spend long days there with her, leaving me with my grandparents to care for me. All four of them. And I would have nothing to do with any of them. As the story is told, one of those days I refused to let them lift me out of my crib. I never even had a diaper change that entire day. When my mom finally got home (exhausted!), I wanted her full attention. She said that was the first and only time she can ever recall having to discipline me in a way that “hurt her more than it hurt me.” Apparently, I learned my lesson. 😉

    Our own little grandbaby exhibits fear of abandonment. At times, she has meltdowns. It’s absolutely heart breaking. It’s strange though. On the days that I care for her, she simply waves byebye to her mommy. The occasional meltdowns come when her mommy and daddy come back together to pick her up after a sleepover or extra long day with us. It’s as though the poor little thing has been fearful of never seeing them again the entire time she was with us, and it all comes gushing out at the sight of their return. As I said, absolutely heart breaking.

    • claudsy
      February 14, 2012 at 10:20 am

      I have so few memories from early childhood, and the ones I do have are usually more related to emotionally traumatic events than anything else. Still, I could have many fewer. Perhaps that’s why things stand out when I do have them.

      Thanks for the story, Marie. It should help grandparents and parents cope to know their little ones are no different than they were when they were that age.


  2. claudsy
    March 3, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    Glad you felt compelled to pingback. Thanks.

  3. claudsy
    March 3, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    A pingback! Thank you. Glad you could enjoy it.

  1. February 15, 2012 at 1:50 am
  2. February 16, 2012 at 1:12 am

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