I attempted to explain this to the Grape while he paused for oxygen during a recent 28-minute tantrum over just this issue. He has a red matchbox sports car. And an elephant from an unrelated safari play set, which coincidentally matches said toy car to nearly perfect real life scale.
The Grape, unfortunately, appears disinclined to yield to the most basic laws of physics. You see, one of his favorite books features a nursery rhyme wherein a pachyderm drives a convertible. Because the book is targeted to toddlers, a whimsical illustration accompanies the silly little poem.
After marching the offensive toy Lamborghini to the kitchen trash, The Grape wiped giant tears from his reddened face and toddled to his bookshelf. He showed me the page as evidence that I was wrong, and he, the Grape (or Tantrum King, as I've taken to calling him this week) was therefore justified in his meltdown. When I made some wholly ineffectual stab at explaining fiction to a 21-month-old, his tantrum escalated.
After seventeen more minutes I couldn't take it any longer. I hauled the thrashing, wailing Tantrum King to his crib and deposited him in it for a nap. Even though he wasn't due to snooze for at least another couple of hours. He slept for a record three hours, on an empty tummy at that, spent from his extreme over reaction.
Fast forward to this morning. The Grape staged a pre-dawn fit because these (utterly infernal) train carriages he received as a gift connect by magnets. Therefore, according to the laws of magnetic polarity, they can't be thrown together in just any old fashion because like poles repel. Try explaining that to a hysterical toddler. Before having even one teeny sip of coffee.
Those trains, which delighted him yesterday afternoon, caused enough grief this morning to buy themselves a one-way ticket to the next charity toy drive that crosses my radar.
"You cannot give in to tantrums," my mother counseled after the elephant/Italian sports car incident. Which I know. I've been around enough kids to understand that when they behave like rabid Tasmanian devils on a sugar high, you, the adult, must stick to your guns - under peril of having the undesirable behavior repeat with increasing frequency.
And I don't give into regular, garden variety tantrums. I physically wrestle the child into his stroller at least two or three times everyday. I refused this morning to let him play on the patio in a rain storm, though he howled and banged various toys against the glass door for the better part of an hour. I don't let him eat chocolate for dinner, even if he screams for it and flings his actual meal into the waiting chops of Lila the Dog.
But what about tantrums sparked by frustration with the natural order?
What guns can I stick to, when the problem involves a demand for something physically impossible? The Grape now routinely freaks when his toys don't perform to his expected standards. And he cannot be distracted. Once he locks in on accomplishing something, he's not swayed by the old, "Hey! Look over here!"
"It's the Italian genes," my mom said, her tone striking an admirable balance between sympathy and schadenfreude. "They're dominant. There's nothing you can do."
She meant my father's mother's family's genes. The progeny of the Cicatelli line are legendary for staging what I've learned to call "disproportionate reactions."
My sister, in a less charitable spell, coined the family phrase "Vinny Moment," in reference to my father. As in, "The cable people called at the end of the six hour window, after I waited home all day, and said they weren't going to make it, and they wanted to schedule another six hour window for the day after tomorrow. So I had a 'Vinny Moment' with the customer service rep."
A kind observer would say the family has a passionate nature; a person on the receiving end of a disproportionate reaction might use the word crazy. Friends who see the Tantrum King in action remark, with pinched smiles, that The Grape has a will of steel.
"In time, he'll learn to keep it -mostly- in check," my mom added. "Hopefully." Indeed, other members of our family function well in society. By which I mean, for the most part, we've learned to gage whether staging a Vinny Moment will produce desirable results, because let's be honest: at least in my experience, it can. I certainly don't want to train all the fire and edge out of my kid.
But I did ask mom if there was anything I could do to ramp up The Grape's learning curve in regards to controlling his temper. "Pray that R.'s [restrained Connecticut WASP] genes diluted the Cicatelli ones," she said.
Thanks, mom. I'm lighting a candle right now.