My son has been having temper tantrums lately. Friends have told me “it’s not the ‘terrible twos’ it’s the terrible two and halfs that you have to watch out for.” So here we are on the cusp of two and a half, and he’s freaking the f* out. The first time it happened I felt scared. All I could think was: oh my god! What is wrong with him?! Sure he’s freaked out before, but this was full on hysteria. I couldn’t really handle it. All that fierce display of intense emotions was frankly too much for me to wade through. I left him to freak out on his own because well I was tired of getting smacked in the face and kicked, but more than that I didn’t really want to see my son flailing around like that. It was disturbing. Yesterday it happened again, but I was in a better place so I sat with him. While he was screaming and throwing himself on the ground and kicking and all of that, I bore witness and remembered being young and what it was like to feel so out of control of my own body to be flooded by my emotions in a way that I couldn’t process them and I remembered feeling alone and not wanting to be, so even though he kept screaming I want you to leave (because that is what I had done last time) I said calmly “No, I am going to stay.” Staying was easier this time too because he stopped hitting and pushing at me, and I gave him plenty of space to thrash. After a while he seemed to settle a little… there were more pauses between the screaming and so I said “Can you tell me how you are feeling? It sounds like you are feeling angry and frustrated.” He stopped thrashing and screaming and said between gulps “Yah.” Then I asked him “Do you know why you are feeling angry and frustrated?” More gulps (It’s hard to catch your breath after so much wailing) “Because… because (then he started to lose it again) I wanna put my pants on first” and then he was crying again but this still felt like progress because what prompted the throw down was getting ready for bed and putting on PJs at all. Now it was just the order we were concerned about, so I said: “Okay well let’s change your diaper and put your pants.” He said “No my diaper is dry” –still on the verge of melting down again. I told him we didn’t have to change his diaper since it was dry, and then magically this hurricane of a child was in pajamas and snuggling in my lap. The transformation seemed profound and ordinary in the same moment. I like to think that I taught him something about making contact with his emotions, naming them, trying to sort them a little… tools to use when he feels overwhelmed by his feelings and also that it is okay to be upset. I realized that I could probably use a temper tantrum myself and that unconditional love means that I love you even when you are behaving like a crazy monkey hooked on methamphetamines going through withdraws. Mothering takes a kind of dedication that you grow into overtime and under pressure. Nothing else in my life has brought this much joy nor this much sacrifice of self for Self.