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Stories, observations, and reflections from a life of raising boys


Jenifer DeMattia

I recently wrote a piece about a really bad day I had with my son. I never shared it because the negativity factor was off the charts and I was so stuck in it, I couldn’t see the positive side, even after taking time and reflecting to write down my thoughts. Here is how it started:

When I was young I remember going on my first ferryboat ride. I was standing at the end where the engines roar and the water gets flown into the air. I was looking out across the water with my hair blowing in the wind. It was chilly but I felt free and excited. And then bird shit landed on my face. It was a moment once forgotten, but somehow the day I’ve had brought me back to that particular memory. Today has been a bad day.

Yes, please cue the “Womp..Womp..Womp”. The piece was regarding a really bad tantrum my son had at the doctor’s office and the concern the doctor shared. Recently I retold the story of the incident and only received this simple statement in return, “ I’m not so concerned with how he acted, but how much anxiety you were feeling in the moment.” Now you may cue the dramatic pause and moment of major self-reflection. When my son amped it up in the doctors office my anxiety was most likely off the charts. I have always been so concerned with him I forgot to check in with myself. I was so consumed with preventing the tantrum I inadvertently made it worse by my actions. In hindsight I should have better prepared my son for the visit. Laid out very clear expectations and consequences before arrival. Verified he understood and then let what would be, just be. I have come to the conclusion that there are not always going to be moments when I can stop a tantrum, and that sometimes I can only add fuel to the fire when the tantrums happen in public because of my own “stuff”. After all, how can I expect my son to continue making improvements unless I am willing to do the same?