The youngest member of our extended family—a 22-month-old affectionately nicknamed Mubsy-Bubsy—is an expert in giving the silent treatment.
As the youngest of three girls, her toddler brain has worked out that to have an effective tantrum, she needs a point of difference to her sisters’ versions, which involve a lot of loud shrieking. And I mean loud.
It took the family a little while to identify when Mubsy was actually throwing a tantrum because she was so quiet about it.
We started to realise something was going on when we visited a playground when she was about 18 months old. She had been walking for only a month or so and was unsteadily making her way to a swing when an older child rushed past her to claim the prize. Mubsy, strangely, simply lay down on the tanbark and tried to take off her shoes.
A few days later at playgroup, she was carefully putting a doll into a cot when another child decided to snatch it off her. Mubsy immediately lay down on the carpet. We realised she was not lying down to rest, she was lying down to protest.
Yes, Mubsy-Bubsy throws the best tantrums in the world, at least for those around her. She looks you in the eye, carefully lowers herself to the ground and—still eyeballing you—takes off her socks and shoes. If she isn’t wearing any, she pretends to take them off. After a minute or two, she gets up. Tantrum done.
By contrast, I remember my own youngest daughter’s meltdowns, particularly in the supermarket. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has been trapped with a laden trolley, trying to ignore the screaming, red-faced toddler rolling around the aisle in front of them.
But grown-ups also feel angry or sad when life’s not fair, don’t we? At times, I’ve wished I could act like a little kid and scream in indignation or just lie down in silent, immovable protest. While I know that some of my ‘inner tantrums’ are no more justified than Mubsy’s outrage because a kid with longer legs got to the swing first, there are other times when life really is tough.
Sometimes we just need to have the tanbark dusted off our back, and sometimes we need healing from deeper hurts. That’s when it’s a comfort to know that, like a loving parent, our heavenly father is there to ask him to please “pick up the pieces; put me back together again” (Jeremiah chapter 17, verse 14 The Message)