Parenting. It’s not always black and white, that’s for sure. In fact, most of the time it’s not black and white. If anything, it’s more like a nice thick sludge of pasty gray, kind of like a bowl full of 2-week-old pâté mixed with a dollop of mud and a pinch of what the heck am I even talking about.
Exhibit A (and the only exhibit): At a world-famous candy shop, a child breaks down into loud tears, asking Daddy to buy him a world famous chocolate bar.
Parenting Test – Does a GOOD Daddy:
A) Buy his son the chocolate bar to bring an end to the tantrum.
B) Teach his son that such behavior will never get him what he wants and leave without buying his child chocolate.
What’s that you say? Definitely answer A?
You think it is black and white?
And maybe. Just maybe. The right parenting move is to buy the kid chocolate.
I never would have thought so either, but last week while visiting Hershey Chocolate World, I became that dad, having to make that decision, and I learned that it sometimes was a nasty shade of pâté grey.
And since you’re in suspense, I’ll give away the ending. I bought him the chocolate bar.
Now, the rest of the story.
I think it goes without saying that aside, perhaps, from his mother, nobody knows my child better than I do.
Nobody knows his personality better.
Nobody knows his temperament better.
Nobody knows his moods better.
Nobody knows his triggers better.
Nobody knows his behavior better.
And nobody knows how all of it plays into everything that is going on in any given moment.
But before Chocolate World, let’s rewind one day to a very different tantrum being had by a very different person in the exact same building.
While walking up the stairs toward one of the many attractions that Chocolate World has to offer, I witnessed a full-grown man have a tantrum of his own. He had to have been at least 6’4” and a solid 250 lbs., mid-thirties, thick beard in need of a trim, and a look that said he had been pushed past his stress limits.
He was holding hands with a young child. Walking beside him was a pretty twenty-something woman. I heard her ask him what the matter was. He snapped back, “I just don’t like nasty tobacco-coffee-God-knows-what-goo sprayed all over me, okay?”
The woman said, “okay, I just…”
But he cut her off sharply and meanly. “Geez, I’m allowed to be annoyed!” The way he said it was harsh and attacking.
“I don’t even want to do this anymore,” the woman blurted back. “Let’s just go back to the hotel.”
“Well, I still do. We’re doing this and we’re going to have fun!” the man barked as he stormed up the steps against the woman’s wishes. He left her behind to decide whether she should give into this man’s tantrum, or teach him a lesson. She decided it was best to give-in and followed him up.
Oh, by the way, that man was me. And my tantrum was ridiculous.
Now, I’m normally very happy. Very level-headed. Very reasonable. Very patient. And, a very decent human being. I don’t snap often, and I rarely let things get to me. Tantrums are not part of my normal routine.
And, I know myself better than anyone else does.
I know my personality.
I know my temperament.
I know my moods.
I know my triggers.
I know my behaviors.
And I know that something was very off in that moment. Whether it was chemical or stress-related, I don’t necessarily know, but I know that something made it impossible for me to be sane or rational or nice in that ten seconds going up the stairs. And, I had a big fat man-tantrum.
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