My three-year old son curls himself into an anger ball and screams, “No like chili!” Tears fall on either side of his gaping mouth. He smashes his arm against the table, sending the spoon, chili-side first, into the white curtains. I feel sick. He wails for 30 minutes, a new record. His baby sister joins in the crying fest. And I contemplate dumping the entire bowl of chili, sour cream and all, on his head.

Instead, I swoop him up and place him on my lap with one arm and feed the baby with the other. I tell him that it will be OK while resting my head on his. Eventually, he calms down and even eats the entire bowl of cold chili. He goes on to have a wonderful evening. I, on the other hand, am ruined. I don’t want to feel this way, but anger still swirls around inside me.

I know that it is best to stay calm during these meltdowns. The experts say that tantrums are a normal part of a toddler’s development. Their brains are simply overloaded. Parents should model calming down techniques and blah blah blah.

What the experts fail to mention is what to do when your child’s tantrums make a monster emerge from the pit of your stomach—and what to do when that monster starts feeding off of your child’s anger.

This is what I hate about tantrums, not the thrashing limbs or the flying objects but my potential reaction to them. On a few rare occasions, I was overloaded and let the anger out. Like the time I yelled, “Fine just sit there and cry!” And my son repeated it for the rest of breakfast. I apologized, but I am still so ashamed of this and of a few other times where the monster hijacked my cool and I lost control.

Thankfully, 97 times out of 100, I stay calm. I hold my son in my arms, like a mommy bird with him under my protective wing. I absorb the I want another cookie or I can’t fit onto this three-inch swing inside the dollhouse meltdowns in stride. I hug, I wipe tears, and I wait. I talk about feelings and what to do next time. I never hold the tantrums against him. All the while holding my hungry monster at bay.

I must be doing something right because when my son’s emotional earthquakes are over, they are over. He goes back to being my vibrant, joyful little man who enjoys cooking imaginary chocolate pasta or arranging his toy cars by color. I have forgiven him and still love him, chili-stained curtains and all. His tantrums are even becoming fewer and fewer. This is a beautiful thing. It even shrinks the size of the monster a little, but I don’t want to have this monster inside of me at all.

I talk to my mom. Back in her day, the parenting advice was to ignore tantrums, which is impossible to do when chili is flying in front of your face. Plus, it creates a backlog of big emotions from you and your child that are never dealt with. The emotions are just left to balloon out of control.

It feels good to talk with my mother. Perhaps it releases some old, clung-to emotions for the both of us. I also realize I have focused my energy on processing my son’s emotions while ignoring my own. So I decide to put the monster on a diet.

I start to write about my son’s tantrums in my journal. I talk to my husband. I finally work up the courage to tell friends and family what’s really going on inside my head when my son rips off my glasses and throws his stuffed animal in the train. That the monster inside me tells me to have my son escorted off at the next stop in hand cuffs. But instead, I apologize profusely and take my son to calm down in the hallway next to the stinky onboard toilets. Most of the time, my friends and family tell me that they have been there, too.

I reduce caffeine and exercise more. I pray. I ask for forgiveness. Most importantly, I start to forgive myself. And little by little, the monster is deflating. When I sense a tantrum bubbling inside my son, I take deep breaths. I am in control, not the monster.

My son brings me two bowls of his imaginary chocolate pasta with delight in his eyes. I only take one bowl, letting my son have the other. I slowly exhale. The monster may still be here, but it’s not hungry anymore.

You may also like:

Mom Anger: Taming the Beast Inside

I Grew Up With An Angry Mom

I’m Tired of Being An Angry Mom

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Cherie Parenteau

Cherie Parenteau is a teacher currently taking time off for her three babies: one-year old daughter, three-year old son, and writing. She is still surprised at how much easier it is to control a room full of adolescents than two toddlers. Minnesota will always be home even though she has lived in France and now Germany. Read about her adventures at https://frozenocean.home.blog/

Once Upon a Time You Got All of Me

In: Marriage, Motherhood
Husband and wife on wedding day, color photo

First there was us, and now it’s them. We have four little hands that need us, and it’s so hard to get lost in parenthood and forget that at once upon a time it was me and you. I promise you, it won’t always be like this. It won’t always be this hard. I remember when we would go for leisurely walks and long Sunday brunches. Now it takes us an hour to leave the house for a 15-minute walk. I want so badly to spend hours lying in bed, talking like we used to, but now I’m so tired...

Keep Reading

I Was Raised by an Easter-Only Mom and I Want More for My Kids

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother and daughter read Bible

Motherhood is not for the faint-hearted, and women tend to look to their upbringing for guidance. We may not even realize we’re doing it! But being a godly mother is even more difficult when you weren’t raised by one. The questions are endless: How do I model forgiveness? How do I set the right priorities for my household? How do I explain baptism to my 6-year-old? Is it okay to have undiscipled friends around my children? Do we have to pray over every meal? Is the occasional swear word acceptable?  These questions may be less intimidating if you were fortunate enough...

Keep Reading

We’ll Get Through Daddy’s Deployment Together

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother, father, daughter selfie, color photo

“I didn’t think we did that anymore.” I wish I could attribute that to one person, but I’ve heard it from multiple people when I’ve mentioned that my pilot-soldier National Guard husband is deploying overseas. Yes, we still do that. Men and women still suit up every day to carry out various missions, both valuable and confusing, around the country and the world. And for the whole of 2023 that includes my husband. My partner, my co-adventurer. The one who will use our flight and hotel benefits from his day job to visit Hawaii for three days on a pre-deployment...

Keep Reading

Our College Visit Disaster: What You Should Learn from My Mistakes

In: Grown Children, Motherhood, Teen
Mom and teen daughter selfie, color photo

With a song in my heart, I got in the car to drive my daughter to our first college visit.  We drove two hours to a school nestled in the mountains. It was a state school, not too big, not too small.  She knew plenty of alumni from her high school who attended there, and I was convinced it was going to be the perfect fit. We pulled up to the student center, and I jumped out of the car. I glanced around for her and realized she was still sitting in the car.  “Mom, I’m not getting out. I ...

Keep Reading

I Was Never Good Enough for My Mother, So I’m Done Trying

In: Living, Motherhood
Woman walking away

I’m on a path in life that is so different from what I ever imagined growing up. It’s a path I’m not even sure I consciously choose. And it’s a path that exhausts me. I grew up with a narcissistic mother, and I was the scapegoat. No matter how I tried, I could never gain my mother’s love. It was love that was tainted with conditions and taken away at any time—and that was often. And thus, I tried harder. Best grades, best behavior, cleanest room. It never worked. I was too fat. My thighs were huge—make sure they were...

Keep Reading

Even When it Feels Like I Can’t, I Keep Going

In: Faith, Motherhood
Tired mom holding toddler

When I feel like I can’t do one more thing. When I am overwhelmed and touched out and lost in the logistics of it all. When my physical and mental energy are depleted. When the length of my to-do list needs more hours than I have. When I am so bone tired that I’m sure I just can’t go on. And there is still more to do. And the only choice is to keep going– I keep going. I dig a little deeper and find strength I didn’t know I had. RELATED: Check on Your “Strong” Friend, She’s Faking it...

Keep Reading

I Am an Immigrant Mom

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother and toddler in sunshine

I have many moments of What did I get myself into? during the day, especially when one of my kids is screaming at the top of his lungs and the other is having a make-believe experiment in the kitchen. We’ve heard countless times that raising kids is hard, but raising kids as a first-generation immigrant is harder. Obviously, there is no competition for who has more struggles or whose life is harder because child rearing is hard. Period. But this piece is specifically aimed at shedding some light on the unsung heroes, our so-called, first-gen immigrants raising kids in a...

Keep Reading

What Happens When She Wants Another Baby and He Does Not?

In: Faith, Marriage, Motherhood
Husband and wife, pregnancy photo, color photo

I am on my knees, folded over, with my head resting on the carpet. I am in my closet, which doesn’t see much of the vacuum, and it is the only place I can find to sob out of sight. I feel hollowed out and defeated as if I have run a marathon and was cut short at the finish line. I cry out in prayer, pleading with God to soften the heart of my husband. I desperately want another child, and he desperately does not. I take a deep breath and dry my eyes because my 4-year-old outside the...

Keep Reading

Everything I Know About Motherhood, I Learned from My Mom

In: Grown Children, Motherhood
Mother and daughter walking down snowy path, color photo

I lay in a hospital bed, and the doctor placed my brand-new son into my arms. As I held him close and stared in wonder at this tiny new life, the gravity of being totally responsible for another person settled in with an enormous weight. I could hear my mom’s voice in my mind, “Support the head, hold him close, let him feel you breathe.” Words from my youth when she taught me how to comfort my crying baby cousin. The first lesson I had in taking care of a baby. When I brought my son home from the hospital,...

Keep Reading

God Gave Him Bigger Feelings

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy on playground, color photo

He came home from school last week and asked, “Why do I get so angry but my friends never do? Why am I not the same?” And it broke me. Because he is passionate and intelligent and kind and intuitive and beautiful. He didn’t always seem different. We never paid attention to how he would line everything up in play. And we would laugh it off as a quirk when he would organize everything dependent upon shape, size, and color. He was stubborn, sure, but so am I. And then COVID happened, and we attributed the lack of social skills...

Keep Reading