Putting tantrums in perspective-waterfalls

I jinxed myself. Just when I thought life with our toddler was starting to get easy, he threw a tantrum. It was “opposite day”: when it was time to leave our house, he wanted to stay home. I offered to show him some pictures from the computer and he threw a fit when the slide show ended. He asked to see the waterfalls around the block, but wanted to go home once we arrived (and of course whined to stay once we made our way back home). He kept climbing out of the bath, but after getting him out, he clamored to stay inside. Even tucked in bed, where he is normally so calm, he cried until I closed the door behind me.

I seriously needed a beer, and I don’t even like beer (does Smirnoff Ice count?). My husband wasn’t home yet and I was in no mood for chores, so I hopped on my computer intending to do some blogging. Instead I logged on to Facebook and read a message from a friend that changed my perspective:

“My mom’s breast cancer spread to her bones.”

I immediately thought about my toddler’s tantrums—every single taxing moment—and realized how fortunate I was that that is what accounted for my bad day. Because here’s the wonderful thing about tantrums: they pass. Yes, kids make life difficult when they throw a tantrum, and if they’re like my kid, they make sure you get an episode a few times a week. They’re exhausting, draining, and make you wonder if you’re even fit for this parenting thing. If you’re lucky to experience one in public, they’re potentially embarrassing and require you to act like you know what you’re doing when really you can’t wait to strap that kid in the car seat and drive home. Tantrums are terrible.

But they’re fleeting. In a few months’ time, they’ll decrease in frequency, until several years later, they’re grown kids and eventually adults. I thought about how fortunate I am that my toddler is healthy, especially considering the news I had just heard. Not to cast anyone as a martyr, but I’m pretty sure a person with a dire diagnosis would gladly exchange the worst tantrum my toddler could throw for a chance to erase his or her predicament.

I also realized that the best cure for the aftermath of a tantrum is to consider how fortunate I am in other circumstances. I started thinking about all that we have going for us, and that even if things were to go awry, we always have something to be grateful for. And considering that, in general, our little family has much to be thankful for, a tantrum seemed so insignificant.

This isn’t to say that venting about a frustrating episode is wrong—it’s unhealthy to put on a happy face and deny our true feelings. But when I start feeling like my life is so terrible, and wouldn’t it be so much better if we had XY and Z, I try to put things in perspective and realize that yes, this feels grueling, but maybe it isn’t the end of the world. And while this frustration is real right now, it too will pass.

That was the first time my toddler had thrown a tantrum in several months. He acted up again during the next few days, but I was able to maintain my calm and perspective. I thought about all that I was thankful for: big things like our health, our jobs… and little things like a computer, a bathtub, and living near waterfalls. And I was most thankful that this tantrum—this tiring, makes-you-wish-for-bedtime-already tantrum—is what constitutes a bad day for me.

How do you cope when you have a bad day? Have you put things in perspective when your day isn’t going too well?

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