You feel it. You’re getting warm, and you begin to simmer. As the heat rises, you try to push it back. You take deep breaths, and you count to ten. You walk outside.
But, despite your best efforts to squash it, your blood boils over, and you just can’t take it anymore. You’ve rolled yourself into a full blown mommy tantrum, and there’s nothing you can do to tap the brakes.
So, you blow your stack!
You scream at your kids. They run for the hills as your swirling tornado of emotion overcomes their physical space.
The steam flies loose as you march around. Your heart races, you slam things and yell some more. Your eyes get crazy and you might even drop an F-bomb. And then you immediately regret the F-bomb.
Usually you work hard to maintain your composure, but mommy tantrums are real, and you are really experiencing one. You’re out of control. And all it took was one small thing to finally tip the cart.
Afterwards, you beat yourself up about it. Because you’re not supposed to get that mad. You’re supposed to maintain grace and stability at all times. When you’re a mommy, you are supposed to keep your cool.
You’re not allowed to explode like a volcano, but you will and you do. Hopefully, it’s seldom, but still, you will. And guess what? It’s normal. And I’m here to say that as long as there are no emotional or physical injuries involved, your tantrum will become the stuff of family folklore.
“Remember when mom went nuts that time you spilled your milkshake all over the couch?!” your adult children may someday lament with giggles, recalling the incident well, and thank God they think it’s funny now, because it wasn’t funny then. At least it wasn’t funny for you.
I’ll never forget the time my sweet mother had a complete conniption over a small Styrofoam cooler. When my brother, sister and I talk about it, we laugh uncontrollably. During the telling, my mom quietly closes her eyes, still visibly upset with herself over losing her composure. But, damn the story is funny.
We were getting ready to go to the beach, and my mother was packing up the car. We kids were running around in our tube socks and terry-cloth shorts being nuisances, not helping at all, and fighting (of course). She brought out a stack of towels and beach toys, and was getting the food ready. She had a new, small, Styrofoam cooler in the garage and went to look for it (it happened to be the third one she purchased that summer). In the corner, she found it with the lid broken in half (my bother), the red handle falling off (my sister) and a piece missing from the side (I bit into it just to see my tooth impression).
And then, she completely lost her shit.
“WHY CAN’T I HAVE ANYTHING?!!” her primal scream, with head tilted back, echoed down the street across several yards.
“GODDAMN IT YOU KIDS ARE DRIVING ME TO DRINK!!” she bellowed, moaning as if in physical pain. Then, she marched through the garage with a purpose I had never seen before. We kids scattered like mice.
She snatched up the cooler, stomped into the driveway, and threw it down. My brother, sister and I ran inside and watched in awe (and growing alarm) from the safety of a closed screened door. Mommy had never behaved this way before and we were frightened.
My mother then picked it up and with perfect form, punted it like a football. Next, she took a running leap to jump on it and smash it some more. She yelled, “CAN’T I EVER HAVE ANYTHING?! WHY CAN’T I HAVE ANYTHING?!”
Then, she huffed back into the garage, selecting a pitch fork (a pitch fork!) from the wall where all the tools were hanging. Our little eyes grew wide, and our heads shifted down into our necks. What was she going to do next?
She raised the pitch fork over her head like an ax and slammed in down flat on the cooler. Then, she wound it up like a golf club and teed off right in the middle of the driveway, sending larger parts of the cooler off into the grass. The lightness of the Styrofoam apparently fueled her anger even more! She ran and swung several times, down the length of the yard, sending bits and pieces of the cooler all over the place. Shards of Styrofoam flew like feathers across our front lawn.
“DO I HAVE TO BUY ANOTHER ONE!??!” she seethed, shaking her head. Shaking all over, actually.
With the cooler sufficiently destroyed, she stabbed the pitch fork into the ground, and her shoulders sank. She turned to look at us with tears in her eyes and what can only be described as a witch’s face, angry, crumpled, defeated, pained. We prudently ducked and scattered again.
With her rage subsiding, she ordered us to clean up the tiny pieces of Styrofoam while she chucked our lunches and snacks into a paper bag. Then, she calmly told us to get in the car. We carefully obliged. She never apologized, but we saw it in her eyes. Mommy guilt.
We rode in silence to the beach, where we proceeded to have a great day. It was fun, because my mom always made things fun for us. It wasn’t until we kids were well into our 20’s that the cooler “incident” was brought up in conversation with my mom present. We laughed until our bellies hurt that night (yes, a bit of drinking and embellishing was involved) but I could see that my mother still felt remorse over her loss of control. I reassured her that the cooler was there for a reason – it took a beating instead of us that day.
The mommy tantrum is real. And most of us have had one (or two, or three). Most of us have “lost it” at some point, and it’s really okay. And I bet you have a story about your own mother. I was talking to a friend the other day, and she relayed a time when her own mother got so mad she threw a vacuum cleaner out the front door down the steps.
As long as no one gets hurt, that anger, when we lose control, is the flip side of our loving mommy fierceness. Harnessing that passion and energy is what helps us protect our children. Sorry to say, the guilt never truly goes away when we lose our cool. But we must remember that we are human. And humans can only take so much.
In a real fight, I’d place my bet on any mom in the ring, because I bore witness to a “category 5 mommy tantrum” and lived to tell the story.