Unfortunately, the “ability to reason” stage comes after the “ability to tantrum” stage … a pretty big oversight by God if you ask me. Abraham has found the almighty tantrum and, although he never get what he wants as the result of a tantrum, he still tries. A lot.
I’m reading Dr. Brazleton’s Touchpoints throughout Abe’s toddlerhood and getting a lot of good information about his developmental path and my completely unreasonable and worthless reactions to his behavior. I read a section regarding tantrums and how they’re more about validation than about the so-called focus of the tantrum. I read the importance of letting Abe know I understand his disappointment or frustration by empathizing. Sound stupid? Yes. Did I try it? Hell yes.
While folding laundry in the bedroom, Abe found the computer plug coming from the wall. He followed it all the way to the outlet and began tugging on the plug. I took a deep breath. I got down next to him and said, “Abraham, danger! That’s dangerous!” and I pulled his hands away from it. He sat, bewildered. “Mom, why would you pull me away from the one thing I want to play with?” He didn’t cry. Just stared at me. Then he went right back for the plug.
“Abraham, no sir. That’s dangerous. You may not touch that.” I pulled his hands away again. This time he got the idea I wasn’t giving up, and he got pissed. He began to scream and cry and throw his little body onto the floor repeatedly from many different positions. Ordinarily I would walk away from him, but this time I got down as low as I could and started talking to him. I was super glad no one was around to hear me saying this in a serious tone:
“I know you want that plug, Abe. And if I were you, I’d want to touch it, too. It’s such an interesting looking thing and would probably make a great toy. But that plug has electricity and that’s dangerous for babies. It could flow through your body and cause all of your body systems to short circuit and you’d die. So you can’t touch it even though I know it means more to you than anything else today because mommy doesn’t want you to die.”
He still cried for another few minutes. But eventually, he came to and just stared longingly at the plug. The rest of the day I found Abraham sitting in front of the computer plug, but he never touched it again. It was as if he understood. Like it was an old flame who had moved on and gotten married. Maybe even had kids. The love was still there but he knew there was nothing he could do about it now.
He still visits that plug today. When he’s passing by he stops to look and take a moment remembering the day he was able to touch that plug. But he’s moved on. He knows it’s best for both of them. And I’m proud of him for making the right choice.