October 3, 2002 - Thursday
I was away for most of the day yesterday and Harry's mother picked him up from school. She tells me that on the way home from the store with Harry and Jeremy, Harry had an absolute tantrum in the car, triggered by her taking the wrong of two potential ways home (she "turned" instead of going "straight."). She says that she talked with him about it after the fact and that he seemed to understand that his behavior was inappropriate. In fact, he was particularly good the rest of the day, she says.
Unfortunately, the lesson did not stick. While I was picking up Harry from preschool, indeed while still in the classroom putting on his shoes, he began to come unglued. He said he did not want his shoes on. I knew that he would not be at all comfortable outside without them, as we and his teacher have learned before. First I tried talking with him, then eventually picked him up and left the room and the building, with a questioning glance shared with his teacher. She said before that he's one of the calmest in the group.
Since he was still demanding that he didn't want his shoes on when we got outside, I stopped and took them off him. Immediately, he demanded that he wanted them on. I walked him to the car barefoot, some 30 feet away and put him in. The seven minute ride to Jeremy's baby-sitter's house was among the worst behaved I've ever seen Harry. When it first started full bore, I did stop the car and told him in no uncertain terms that his behavior at the school and in the car was not acceptable, but when it continued I just ignored it and that made him madder.
In an odd way, it's much easier to deal with a tantrum than an afternoon of drawn out whining and off-center behavior. There's less ambiguity about what should be done and little internal parenting debate about whether being gentle, being mad, being intellectual, or being strategic is the best approach. With the tantrum it's all about him and it was clear to me that my job was done for the duration of the episode. I listened to the radio.
There's an interesting trade with a tantrum it seems to me: in exchange for 10 minutes of complete disaster, you might get a sweet child for the duration of the day. It worked yesterday. It worked less well later today. The real question, however, is where did these two outbursts on consecutive days come from. Is this some new behavior Harry was trying out? Did he witness the tantrum of one of the other boys' at preschool last Friday when I was there and think, either consciously or subconsciously, that it was something he needed to experience? It seems awfully (both ways) strange that he'd do something like this two days in a row when he almost never done it before, at least not so randomly.