Evolution of a Temper Tantrum, In Scraps of Paper

Scene: A family with three children enters a busy restaurant, where they are meeting their cousins for dinner. It is 5:15 pm. The six-year-old is tired and grumpy after a long but awesome day at the Adler Planetarium.

Child, starting to scream: “I hate this restaurant. I’m not going to eat here.”

Mother: “I’m sorry you don’t like this restaurant. You may not scream or we will take you outside.”

Father: “We can help you find something to order that you like. But if you scream, we will simply leave you with a sitter the next time we go out for a family dinner.”

Child, screaming: “I hate everything at this restaurant. I don’t want to eat here. I hate this place. It’s terrible.”

Father: “The group has decided to eat at this restaurant. I’m sorry you don’t like it, but sometimes we have to go along with the group. We aren’t leaving.”

Child: “I’m leaving! I’m leaving!”

Mother to Father: “Why don’t you order a glass of wine?”

Father: “I don’t want a glass of wine. I want her to stop screaming.”

Mother rummages through her purse and pulls out drawing paper and markers. She hands them across the table to the six-year-old. The child stops screaming and slides dramatically under the table, where she remains. Mother slides paper and markers under the table to the mercifully quiet but still sulking child.

Child will not be won over and methodically rips the drawing paper into tiny scraps. Waitress comes to take the order. Her eyes flicker to the child under the table and she smiles.  A quiet child under the table is a hell of a lot better than a screaming child in the chair.

Mother to Child: “Why don’t you draw a picture and get your feelings out? Then you will probably feel better. Eating will help, too. You have low blood sugar, which is making you cranky.”

Child: "I will NOT feel better. You don't know how I will feel. Don't tell me how I will feel. You aren't me."

Mother: "You are right; I'm not you. But I SUSPECT you will feel better if you draw."

A few minutes later, the child pushes a scrap of paper up to the mother.
“i hate you.”

Mother shows it to Father, and they both shake with silent laughter. Mother grabs a scrap of paper, writes something, and pushes the note down to the child.
“I love you. Always.”

Child scowls. This was not the reply she expected. She works on another piece of paper. She presses it into Mother’s lap.note-3
“You are the worst mom ever!”

Mother shows Father, and they snort. This is getting fun. Mother writes a new note for Child.
“You are wonderful.”

Child's eyes glint with slight amusement. She tries again and sends up the next note.
“You are afol (translation: awful)! I hate you!”

Mother will not break. She keeps a straight face and sends down her response. She will triumph. Love conquers hate.

“Even when you are angry, I adore you.”

There is a long pause. The next scrap of paper appears. There are signs of hope.
“I love you and hate you!”

Mother takes a long drink of iced tea and sends down her next note. The Resistance is breaking.
“I will never stop loving you. Ever. Until the end of time.”

Child mulls this over. She sends up her next scrap of paper.
“fane I onley love you! (translation: fine! I only love you!)

A moment later, the waitress appears with a tray of food. The six-year-old quietly climbs into her chair, thanks the waitress, and begins eating her dinner. Five minutes into the meal, she looks at her mother and says, “I love you, Mommy. You are the best mom ever.”

The Mother smiles. The Father squeezes the Mother's hand.

The End

Carrie Goldman is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie's blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter.

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