An Unexpected Milestone

The other day, I dragged my daughter into a dress shop with me while I helped my best friend pick her wedding dress. 

I’m not going to lie, when it dawned on me that I would have no choice but to bring my 3 year old child with me, I was expecting the worst. I figured she would be pulling dresses off the racks, messing with displays, climbing on anything she could (including people!), and being an all-around pain in the ass. I expected tantrums and screaming and tears…from both of us. I assumed it would end with everyone irritated with her heathen ways, because that important of an event is certainly the time any child would pick to be an unreasonable little so and so. 

With this in mind, I did all the things one would expect. I made sure she had her tummy full, prayed for a nap in the car, and brought along some toys and candy to keep her occupied. I talked up the errand, telling her how fun it would be to watch her aunt try on all the pretty dresses. I did my best to keep my anxiety about the day ahead carefully hidden, lest she pick up on it and confirm my fears.

Miraculously, this seemed to work. Aside from a brief moment of climbing around the couch as we watched my sister-from-another-mister try on gowns, she behaved marvelously well. She was a little let down that she wasn’t the one trying on dresses, but since I was setting up an appointment in the same shop for my own wedding, I was able to promise her that she could try things on next time. 

In the end, my bestie found an amazing dress and I didn’t have to look like that mom in public. It was a total win.

That is, until we went shoe shopping afterward. Now, all in all, that went pretty well. Sure, The Princess wanted to run up and down the aisles, hide behind displays, and be a goofy 3 year old, but since we were the only patrons in the store it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. She even got a brand-new pair of much needed sneakers, after some pleading for her to choose between the three pairs in our price range. 

On the way out, I asked her if I should call Grandma to see if we could go visit for a bit before we drove the half-hour back home. Naturally, she was excited. Unfortunately, my mom wasn’t feeling well and in the interest of not picking up a bug, a visit was a no-go. At first, my daughter was okay with this. Understanding even. 

I was relieved. Overjoyed. Elated. Our trip had been a success and now we were heading home without a fuss. We were going to go home and have a wonderful evening together. Since she’d forgone her afternoon nap, I was certain that an early bedtime lied ahead. With a smile on my lips and visions of some blissful “me time” in my head, I started the car and headed home. 

About 5 miles in, the crying screaming began. “I want my grandma!” she sobbed. 

I reminded her that Grandma was sick and that we would have to come back to town another day. She responded by tearing up some papers from preschool that were lying on the seat beside her.  She yelled. She screamed. She cried. She begged for her Grandma and her uncle. I did my best to remain calm. And then came a phrase I wasn’t prepared for…

“I don’t like you, Mommy! I hate you!”

Such harsh words from such a tiny girl. Words that were meant to make me feel as bad as she felt in that moment. 

I laughed.

And so it begins, I thought, knowing that although this was the first, it certainly wouldn’t be the last time I heard those words. 

“I’m sorry you don’t like me, honey. I’ll always love you.” 

Did I really just say that? Good god, I sound like my mother!
I laughed again. 

The tantrum continued for another 20 minutes or so after we got home. Crying, kicking and screaming on the floor, yelling, “I’m not happy with you!” Telling me she doesn’t like me. Restating her demands in various ways. 

Eventually she settled down. She climbed on my lap and told me she loved me. I kissed the top of her head and assured her that I loved her, too. I told her I was sorry that she was upset and reminded her that we can’t always get what we want. I offered to play a game or two and have some fun at home. 

I’d like to tell you that that was the only tantrum of the day. It wasn’t. She didn’t like dinner, she didn’t want to brush her teeth, she didn’t want to go to bed, the dog was on her blanket. All the normal three year old stuff. 

In the end, however, all was well. We snuggled in the bed, watched her Monster High DVD for the thousandth time, and went to sleep.

The thing is, the tantrums, the arguments, the not-so-fun times are part of life. They are going to happen. Eventually, she’ll outgrow the massive meltdown stage (probably when she’s 30). The only thing I can do is ride them out and use those moments to teach her that I am always here for her and love her no matter what…even when she’s being an unreasonable brat. I can use those moments to model a calm response to emotional outbursts and talk about it with her afterwards. 

Those moments may be tough, but when the storm passes, the rainbow appears and the contrast makes it all the more beautiful.