The Epic Tantrum that Changed my Perspective

Three years ago today was both one of the worst and one of the best days of my parenting. In fact, because this toy store tantrum went so horribly wrong, I learned so much.



Three years ago today was both one of the worst and one of the best days of my parenting. In fact, because this toy store tantrum went so horribly wrong, I learned so much.

My daughter and I had been in a small car accident. We were rear-ended, and I needed to replace her car seat.

Rather than sit in the small service waiting area, the dealership offered me a loaner until it was finished.

Thinking I was being smart, I decided to buy her new car seat while waiting for my van, that way we could make the 45 minute drive home without further stops.

My daughter was three. The van was supposed to be done by lunchtime.

Lunchtime came and went.

Realizing she would get hungry, I had brought snacks, but she was still hungry after my purse stash was gone.

Being a cautious mommy, I was putting her in each display seat, checking out the straps, headrests, safety features, seeing which were easy to buckle, but not easy enough for her to unbuckle, checking cup holders, etc.

I had finally made my decision . . . around an hour past lunch and well into nap-time, but my van was still not ready.

My best worst parenting day, I learned real compassion for an EPIC tantrum. Click To Tweet

I should have known better.

Kids do not deal well with being tired or hungry. Three and hangry ain’t pretty.

In order to purchase a car seat at Babies R Us, we had to walk through about 50% of Toys R Us to use their open register.

What do you get with a tired preschooler and shelves of beautiful Christmas and Halloween displays?

Three years ago today was both one of the worst and one of the best days of my parenting. In fact, because this toy store tantrum went so horribly wrong, I learned so much.

A gigantic “Mommy, I want this!” meltdown.

She was inconsolable when I explained that we didn’t have the money for any toys today, but would happily put things on her list for Santa.

You know what else a three-year-old doesn’t understand?

Delayed gratification.

It got ugly at the checkout.

She started screaming and crying, throwing herself around. And I realized then, I might have been able to make some different choices before we got into this situation, but for the most part, we were both coping as well as we could.

And she couldn’t cope. Epic tantrum!

I didn’t ignore her tantrum, just spoke in low deep tones to her. I picked her up and held her, through the judgmental stares of the cashier, but rather than feel vilified, for the first time, I realized HER INABILITY TO COPE was not a reflection of my value as a parent.

HER INABILITY TO COPE was not a reflection of my value as a parent. Life is messy. Click To Tweet

In that situation, stuck far from home, it just was what it was.

I got her out the door, managing to stay calm, then the car seat box didn’t fit in the loaner car’s trunk. I had to reinstall her emergency seat to fit the box in the back seat.

While I was bent over, sweating, and burning my fingers on the metal buckles, she realized she had to use the restroom. The tantrum escalated as she feared having an accident in her pretty skirt.

I can only imagine the picture we made as I raced this excruciatingly hysterical child all the way back through the entire store, back past the judgmental cashier, to make it to the restroom just in time.

But we could not yet claim victory, I had to walk her past all the toy displays, again.

Hysteria engulfed her as we got closer and closer to the door without a new toy.

But I was not going to give in because she threw a fit.

I knew this wasn’t fair for her. She didn’t ask to be stuck running errands waiting for our van or way past nap-time with nowhere to sleep.

But I had no choice that day, and I learned that her reaction was understandable. In her little mind, the world had fallen from its axis. Nothing made sense outside of her little routine.

While I chose not to buy her a toy, I did choose compassion.

Sweet, sweet loves, I know this is hard. I’m so sorry this day has not gone our way, but I will do my best to get you some lunch and a nap as soon as possible. You will be okay. Mommy loves you. We’ll get through this awful day. 

And we did.

A fistful of chicken nuggets and a milk and a repaired van put our day back on track.

Honestly, I’ve never personally seen a worse tantrum than the one she threw that day. Though her behavior was unacceptable, it was all she knew how to do. I could feel embarrassed and angry or see she needed my calm.

Again, I chose compassion.

As a parent, I learned to always carry back-up back-up purse snacks, and to seek the source of the tantrum not just the catalyst. Empathizing got better results than demanding she correct her attitude.

Seek the source of the tantrum not just the catalyst. Compassion got better results. Click To Tweet

As a woman, I learned that reality is sometimes messy. Own it.

But as a Christian, I see myself in that tantrum.

All the times I thought I had prayed enough but God didn’t give me the answer I wanted. All the times life broke my heart, and I thought God didn’t care or wasn’t listening. I realized I’d been wrong.

I couldn’t hear Him over my tantrum.

I’ve learned to seek Him, knowing His perfect gifts trump whatever I thought I wanted.

He chose compassion for me each and every time, inviting me into His stillness, offering His peace for my panic.

When I throw an epic tantrum of my own, God reminds me, that I don’t have to cope on my own. I just have to . . .

Psalm 46:10   ESV  “Be still, and know that I am God.

and calls me His – His sweet love, His daughter.

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What Mom did while you were sleeping . . .

If you’re a mom, you’ve crept across a toy littered floor to your child’s bedside to watch your baby sleeping. You’ve smoothed stray locks, wiped warm foreheads, and whispered I love you one more time. Those are savored memories, stowed away treasures.

But our kids have no idea. Most of the time, they sleep right through these moments that only we hold.

The childhood of my daughter, for whom I waited and waited, is beyond precious to me. And like a wonderful novel, I’m constantly balancing between wanting to savor every page and racing to see how it all turns out.

Because someday, she will be an adult and sleeping somewhere else, I wanted to freeze these memories in my heart, for her to know how much I treasure these midnight moments.

Every night while you were sleeping, the last thing I do before bed is kiss you once more.

While you were sleeping . . .

I have kissed your face about 87 million times, conservatively.

I have wished I could hold you one more time without waking you up. And then picked you up anyway.

If kids knew the things moms do while they're sleeping. How many kisses you have slept thru. Click To Tweet

When you were not quite a toddler, I would pick you up and rock you in the glider, trying to memorize the weight of you on my shoulder, the way sleep makes your face even more perfectly angelic.

Sometimes, it didn’t break my heart if you woke up and I got to soothe you back to sleep.

I have cried over how fast your babyhood went and simultaneously celebrated your miraculous growing up.

I’ve held your hands, marveling at your still chubby baby fingers on little girl hands.

I have wished you were still small enough to scoop up and snuggle. And then picked you up anyway again.

While you were sleeping, I’ve heard your murmured voice and listened in on your dreams. Some nights your face has danced with smiles, but others was covered in tears.

I’ve whispered brave words against the monsters and nightmares, Mommy’s right here. You’re safe.

Mom, you've crept across that toy littered floor to your child's bedside to watch them sleeping. But do they know all mom did while they were sleeping?

I've listened to your dreams, picked you up, covered you in brave words against the nightmares. Click To Tweet

I’ve smelled your head: deep breaths of baby, toddler, little girl. Scents of baby powder and lavender were replaced by green apple and watermelon, then cotton candy.

I’ve sung to you. You are a promise . . . you are a possibility and Sunshine, you are my sunshine . . .

You always need more tucking in, because this blanket is thrown one direction, that sheet wrapped around one foot, pillow on the floor.

I’ve taken pictures of the myriad strange ways I’ve found you.

Almost 2, you snaked your hand through the crib slats to reach the hamper, pulling on an additional pair of pajama pants halfway. Then fell asleep, wearing both pairs.

Mom, you've crept across that toy littered floor to your child's bedside to watch them sleeping. But do they know all mom did while they were sleeping?

Once, you scared me to death by not being in your bed; however, I found you in the far corner under it, behind a carefully constructed wall of toy bins.

Perpetually, you sleep like a chalk outline on a detective show. I would need a chiropractor to get out of bed.

Your room magically has been cleaned while you were sleeping.

I’ve reorganized the toys and books that have mysteriously found themselves out and about post-goodnight and wondered about the late-night adventures you were having. Teddy bears wearing costumes sitting with dinosaurs at a picnic or a pile of books next to your nightlight.

I’ve stepped on magic wands, doll high heels (and I thought Legos were bad), and stubbed my toe on a mis-timed step past the glider. Do you know how hard it was not to yell?

Some nights, just needing to share your quiet space, I’ve sat in the glider reading a book, listening to your sweet snores.

But mostly, while you were sleeping . . .

I have prayed over you.

I have prayed for your life, your health, your heart, your salvation. Praying for five minutes more of patience than you have energy, to end everyday with I love you and kisses.

God, make me a better momma. Give me a gentle spirit and a heart to listen to my child. Even when I’m busy, give me joy in each season of motherhood.  

I have thanked God for the blessings of you, how I’ve learned to be a better person through raising you, for the laughter you bring.

Life will break your heart. You will have sickness and tragedy, and someday I’ll leave you, but ultimately, I’ve asked God to work everything that happens in your life for your good, including my failures, praying I’m learning humility and grace fast enough to be the mom I hope you’ll remember.

But mostly, I've prayed for you, ultimately, for God to work all of your life for your good. Click To Tweet

I’ve prayed to watch you grow up, to see you choose faith, a career, to marry, and to hold your babies in my arms.

But there are no guarantees, so I’ll treasure every moment I get and continue to kiss your face and pray while you are sleeping.

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When is it time to shut up?

Shut up isn’t very nice. We try not to use it in our house, but sometimes it is the only way to get someone’s attention.

God used it to get mine.

This month has brought me some personal challenges that have broken my heart, left me wracked with sobs wondering if things will ever be okay again.

And in my little external processing way, I start trying to use my words to grapple with my tornado emotions and thoughts that keep me awake and make my blood pressure skyrocket.

But in this hurt, I can’t even hold onto the words. Nothing is making sense. I feel completely discombobulated.

My prayers are mostly groans, but I’m begging Him to tell me what to do.

And again, He guides me through my parenting moments, loud and clear.

My daughter was having a day her emotions were too big for her to handle. She was exasperated at everything and not doing a very good job of letting small frustrations slide.

She came to me sobbing and proceeded to go on a tirade about her toys, exploding verbal diarrhea so violently I could barely understand her. I struggled to get her attention over the storm she was brewing.

She was so loudly upset that she couldn’t hear a word I was saying even though I just wanted to comfort and calm her.

I looked at her and YELLED – “STOP! You’ve got to shut up.”

Shut up isn't very nice, but it can be the only way to get someone's attention. God used it to get mine. #BeStill Click To Tweet

I wasn’t harsh, but I was loud enough she paused, a tad stunned. When she got quiet, I said, “You can’t listen while you’re talking.”

Shut up isn't very nice. We try not to use it in our house, but sometimes it is the only way to get someone's attention. God used it to get mine.

The words had barely left my mouth when I realized what God had been trying to tell me all week.

I had to shut up to hear Him, too.

I had been so loudly upset and exploding in my own way that I couldn’t even hear Him, much less be comforted and calmed by Him.

Job 6:24 ESV “Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray.

I couldn’t hear God’s instruction through all the noise I was making in my head. All the mental scrambling to get past the hurts wasn’t bringing me any peace and the pain kept getting louder.

It was time to put up and shut up.

If God is my refuge, my portion, I needed to prove it in the midst of distress, not just when life is easy.

I was reminded of one of my favorite verses when my emotions get out of whack.

Psalm 46:10 ESV “Be still, and know that I am God . . .”

I got still. Despite my hurt feelings, despite the panic surging inside, I just sat still for awhile, physically and mentally, ready to listen.

What I heard was just grieve. It’s okay to be sad for awhile. The image of Jesus weeping over Lazarus flooded my mind. Even though He knew He would restore him to life, Jesus grieved His loss.

Be sad about the conflicts and failings, humbly do your part in this world to get along with everyone, but leave the rest up to Him.

Exodus 14:14 ESV / The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Again with the shut up. 😉

But God is reminding me that in the quiet, He is there. In the silence, I can hear His instruction.

And when I shut up instead of letting my hurt feelings overwhelm me, the quiet will solve more conflicts than arguing back ever could.

When I let a gentle spirit speak for me, God will be glorified more than my words could bring.

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My Aspiring Police Officer: Little Boy Blue

Police Officers have always been respected in our family, but all I see when I look at the tragic news today about the Dallas tragedy is my aspiring police officer: our little boy blue.

We have friends who serve in law enforcement, and I see their sacrifice and service as kindred to my husband’s respected military service.

They work terrible hours to serve people who usually aren’t glad to see them. They risk their lives never knowing for sure whom they have pulled over or how “Stop!” is going to be received. They keep our country from dissolving into chaos by ensuring most of us follow the law of the land.

But the past few days have deeply changed my perspective on the police.

Earlier this week, our middle child (my younger stepson) told me his plan to pursue a career in law enforcement.

And I became that mother.

The one who sees her child in uniform while the world calls him a man.

Probably the same mental image my mother-in-law still has when she sends her baby off to war, a five-year old in camouflage.

Police Officers have always had my respect, but all I see when I heard the news about the Dallas tragedy is my aspiring police officer: our little boy blue.

He has so many gifts and strengths and interests, I encouraged him to keep his options open as he heads off to college in a year. Goals change; majors change; be willing to see where life takes you.

Of course, he knows everything and isn’t willing to concede that he could encounter a life experience that could change his mind.

But I don’t want to discourage his decision so much as make sure he is following the path he is meant to be on. I could very much see him chasing a pod of whales off the coast of California as a marine biologist or charting stars as an astronomer, but law enforcement is a noble profession and suits his personality.

Then Dallas happened.

Police officers were pointlessly shot and killed, presumably by somebody hateful who only saw their white skin and blue uniforms instead of their humanity, instantly turning wives into widows and children into orphans.

I haven’t been able to do more than skim an occasional news article about the coverage. My heart is breaking too much for their families.

Via Facebook, I watch my friend worrying about her Texas police officer husband, assuring us he is safe. I see my sister in Christ who married a state trooper in Indiana grieving with those families in Texas. My friend in New York is sending her husband off for his next shift today as their baby turns one.

A former student is an Illinois state trooper, who just spent his vacation in Haiti building a school. He stored up the precious memories of these children, who have a different skin color and language, but all he saw was their need for love and a safe education.

He made friends with a precious little girl through their shared burn scars. He was burned in a terrible accident while on duty a few years ago. He couldn’t know her story, but she held his hand and smiled, no longer alone with her scars.

These aren’t police uniforms. They are people, and the ones I know are all good, Godly men who take protect and serve beyond the blue because their service starts at the cross.

I see all these men, and they are all their mothers’ little boys in blue.

I don’t know if my stepson will maintain this as his career choice as life takes him on his unique journey (he is just 17), but I know part of me will always see the little boy I’ve helped raise as my little boy blue no matter how long he wears that uniform.

These aren't uniforms, they are people. We need to see beyond white, black, or blue. Click To Tweet

The contradiction in my heart is overpowering. I am so proud of the sacrifice and service he is willfully choosing, but my stomach drops when I see the growing disrespect for police officers.

I see the way various leaders seek to divide us by white, black, blue.

I see the way we’ve turned so far away from God.

But I can’t be afraid, I have to bring my fears and hopes for my stepson, our police, this nation, and for humanity to God.

And pray God gives us the supernatural ability to see each other as He does, souls needing grace and Jesus, people deserving kindness and respect.

#PrayingforDallas and for God to open our hearts and eyes to the humanity within us all. Click To Tweet

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A Father’s Day note to my daughter’s dad

Father’s Day is always challenging. You hate being celebrated. The expectations for dads have never been higher, and you often feel like you’re not measuring up. You’re too hard on yourself.

So today, I want to tell you all the ways you are getting it right with our sweet little girl.

She was both the child you were most prepared for and least ready for.

You knew the ins and outs of babies, but you weren’t prepared for the intense little girlness of her, for the effortless way she would wrap you around her pinky and be so totally different from your boys, full of ribbons and bows and imagination and drama!

This Father’s Day, I want to say I see the good job you’re doing.

I love watching her with you, the way she races to your arms the second you pull in the driveway, the way everything is better because daddy is home.

I love hearing you call her baby.

I love watching your gentleness with her, the way you play dress up with her or let her style your hair. Watching you read to her makes my heart full. I love hearing the inside jokes you share only with her. She has softened you in beautiful ways.

Expectations for Dad have never been higher. Love him. Tell him what he's doing right. Click To Tweet
Keep being her dad.

Keep taking her fishing, teaching her to cast and reel and bait her own hooks. Keep taking her to fly kites and pick berries. Keep walking her through the woods, teaching her which plants are safe, which broken branches show deer signs. From you, she learns to honor nature and respect the animals we eat.

Teach her to love adventures and to forget about her hair. Let her get muddy on your watch.

Teach her to love adventures and forget about her hair. Let her get muddy on your watch. Click To Tweet

Keep wrestling and tickling. You’re teaching her so much more than to laugh. Your loving play is teaching her that good men can be trusted. You are teaching her to set boundaries with her body and to defend herself.

Do you remember how special it is to watch TV with your dad, just the two of you? She already so enjoys curling up next to you and watching hunting shows together. You’re building loving memories and creating exciting future plans in her imagination.

You celebrate Father's Day, but often feel like you're not measuring up as a dad. So, I want to tell you all the ways you're getting it right with our girl.

Keep flying her around the house as long as you can. You’ve taught her to feel safe in your strength. And our crazy, dreamer girl will always remember you made her first impossible dream come ‘true.’

You deserve a great Father’s Day!

Keep teaching her all the things you do. From you, she learns animals and biology better than any high school lab. She learns to try every new food at least once, even sushi or spicy octopus. 😜

She watches you decide to learn something and do it, going from novice to expert in front of her eyes.

From you, she learns that work is how we have our nice home and good food. She sees you work hard as a soldier and at home. She will learn to work hard and expect that from others.

Dad's teach daughters so much, including how to be loved. Keep loving her unconditionally! Click To Tweet

Keep loving her unconditionally. Someday, too soon, she will equate how you loved her with how a man should love her. Keep building a great foundation with whisker kisses on her cheeks and bear hugs.

She believes you are a superhero. She is right.

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