I often find Evan, a small-spaces boy, tucked happily into a box or cupboard playing Boat or Cave or Fort. A few days ago, he discovered a wicker laundry basket with slanted sides. Cool.
He dragged it to the middle of the living room wearing a concentrated scowl, fixing to climb aboard. But lo! Every time he’d swing his leg over the side, the whole thing would upend. He’d huff, extricate himself, right his boat and try again. And again. And again. Each time being unceremoniously dumped in a boy-basket pile on the floor.
I’d retreated to the kitchen, having left him to his play. I was chopping tomatoes or some other such dinner thing when I heard a frustrated “AAARRRRGGGH!”.
I stopped. Silence. [I like him to try solving his own problems, find his feet after bumps, before stepping in.] More silence. Then “UUUGGGNNNGGH!!!!!!” and the sound of a basket being kicked. “AAAAAARRRRGGGHH!”
I peered around the corner to see Evan in a face-off. He was MAD. Not sad-mad, poor-me baby’s mad. Toddler mad. Effing mad. Frigging-stoopidhead mad.
He swung round to glare at me, quite wild-eyed with fury. “AAAAARRRRGGGHH!!!” he screamed, locking eyes with me, baring teeth and stamping feet. He swirled around with another “AAARRGGGGHH!!” and bit the side of the basket. Take THAT! And another kick. And THAT!
He ran circles around the room, whacking everything within arms’ reach. Back to the basket, one more leg over the side, one more upend and one more “AAARRRRRRGGGHHH!”
Then, depleted, he collapsed on the floor and looked at me, panting and seething. A strange feeling, a new vibration to process. I have this energy.. and I have to get rid of it.. it’s going to be messy.. stand back, and don’t you dare get in my way.
This is some dark and inevitable stuff. I knew it was coming, but haven’t had to think of it until now. What if another kid’s on the receiving end? I’m sure it will happen, and I will be duly mortified.
Trouble is, I have absolutely no clue what to do. None. Do I ignore it, as long as no one is within flailing range? Grab him and hold him until he calms? Distract? Empathize? Mimic? Show him how silly his ARRRGGGHs sound? Try to make him laugh? Dump him in the playpen and leave the room until he gets hold of himself?
I need to figure this out, nip it in the bud. Teach him how to release his anger in a way that’s sensible, safe. The last thing I want to do when he explodes is reward him with attention. I need to diffuse the bomb with minimal fuss, and then move on.
That’s my instinct, but I’ve no effing idea how to apply it.