Tale of a Tantrum


Veruca Salt After Daddy Ate All of her Halloween Candy

When I was seven or eight, I made a stand against injustice. It was a Sunday evening in autumn, maybe 4ish. I had spent the previous hour ignoring my mom, who had made several entreaties via phone and voice for my return.

Why I ignored her I do not know. It was Sunday night, the black hole of the week, mockingly part of the weekend, yet not, its minutes and hours dissipating like steam. Sunday night dinner set off a chain reaction of events that meant the start of the week: a command to bathe, a query about homework, a glance at the watch and the mention of bed. The return to reality.

As a seven (or eight) year old, it was melodramatically significant. It was the end of the best part of the week marked by friends, games, Saturday morning cartoons, multiple bowls of cereal. An additional blow to my weekend serenity on this Sunday was the waning autumnal light. A summer of long long carefree days was long long gone and they were replaced with the graying light on a Sunday. I was depressed.

So I took a stand against it all. No, I would not come home. My weekend wasn’t finished yet. I was holding a basketball. I would not come have dinner, screw that bath, shove my homework you know where. No.

These days I admittedly laugh at my young self for eschewing an evening bath, dinner, and reading.

I might be laughing now, but I was not laughing then. I was seven (or eight) and I was upset and fed up with the rules. I knew that to disobey my mother was an executable offense, especially if she brought in Dad, Pontius Pilot of the house.

My mom wasn’t laughing either. She had four kids, I was the oldest and my brother was the youngest at one or two. She was exhausted and after a weekend of dealing with us, probably daydreamed about shipping us off in boxes to combat zones around the world. El Salvador. Beirut.

She stalked across the street to retrieve me from the half basketball court in my best friend’s yard, and she was not pleased. I was either defiant or injured, so she was either going to be upset or angry, but which one she did not yet know. I was, however, sure about my stance. I didn’t want to go in yet. I wouldn’t.

Even Eddie was unsure about my actions. Eddie, my best friend and compadre in all matters worldly, otherworldly, and philosophical; the boy who would join me without question on an ill-considered trek across a frozen pond or into supposedly haunted woods, said:

“Just go, Dame. Your mom wants you.”

“No!” I shrieked, firing off the opening salvo of an irrational tantrum. This caught him, our friend Mike, and my mom all off guard. The boys grew uneasy, backed away from me in hopes of avoiding implication and then persecution from their own parents. Eddie’s mother and his oldest sister came onto the back porch.

“Oh, hi, Almarita,” Mrs. Schorpp said, still unaware that a brouhaha was manifesting.

“Come home, now!” my mother’s patience was gone. I can now imagine the things weighing on her beleaguered mind, such as my three siblings sitting at the kitchen table unsupervised, their dawning realization of that, and their subsequent transformation into fed-after-midnight gremlins.

“No!” My shriek was now accompanied by pre-tears of frustration, because though I was standing against a grave miscarriage of justice, I knew I was gonna lose and I was gonna lose big.

What happened next really depends on who you ask. My mother made a grab for me and I swatted her away. I think I ran, but I got caught quick, the byproduct of short legs that has haunted me my entire life. I pounded and kicked and punched and gouged, screaming and ranting the whole time. I was blinded my tears, my mom had a handful of my hair to keep me under quasi-control, everyone else silently watched the insane fisticuffs.

I was right; I lost and I lost big. I was whooped by my mom, and then Pilot handed down a sentence: grounded for a week, confined to quarters, no TV, just books. It occurs to me now how my childhood punishments are my adult pleasures.

This took place about 35 years ago, and to this day I feel twinges of embarrassment about it all. Sometimes I remember this tantrum and cringe, then literally scatter the memory with my hands as thought they were assaulting mosquitoes. Sometimes, I thank a deity I don’t believe in that there was no such thing as viral videos or YouTube when I was a kid.

I don’t have kids and I don’t want them. I am happy raising a cat, basking in the warmth and love of my niece and nephew for a while before going away from them and to the nearest pub. It’s for these and other reasons that I try not cast judgment on parents or comment on parenting.

Over the weekend, I caught some of these videos of parents pranking – or, I guess in the modern parlance, punking – their own kids. Common themes included kids’ reaction to parents telling them they ate their Halloween candy, Kids’ reaction to unbelievably bad Christmas presents (like a zucchini or a battery), Kids’ reaction to being told the newborn’s gender is not what they expected.

They are kids; they react with less than mature dignity.

My parents pranked us sometimes, of course. It was never cruel, just a bit of a joke. In hindsight, it’s funny. I guess what I don’t get is the fact that parents record and then share it with the world. Sometimes just remembering a childish tantrum (whether thrown as a kid or a thirtysomething) is majorly humiliating. I can’t imagine the expanse of that humiliation if there were a viral video of one of these embarrassing tantrums. Who would want something like that for their kids?

I am mystified as to why parents would want to globally embarrass their children. Are we just so desensitized to making information public that we no longer consider not making something public? Every (naked) baby picture is on Facebook, so why not their embarrassing moments too?

What’s next?

Kids say the Darndest Things (both under anesthesia and in confession editions!), kids react to being told their father has died (wait until you see their faces when he jumps out of the closet!), kids react to being told they’re adopted (but are they!?), kids react to a false cancer diagnosis (the malignant version is best, man do they freak out!).

Kids (and adults for the matter) occasionally throw tantrums, and it’s embarrassing. But can’t we allow them some privacy, especially when it comes to kids? Remembering these tantrums are punishment enough, they don’t need the world in on it too.

  1. #1 by PJ on September 25, 2017 - 12:21 pm

    Although I do watch and occasionally laugh at some of those videos I’m constantly amazed at how many parents post pictures of their kids that they would never have posted of themselves. I also daily thank the various non-existent deities that I grew up before the age of camera phones and youtube. Because that what the horrible hell that is teenage awkwardness needs…. a larger audience.

    • #2 by Damien Galeone on September 25, 2017 - 12:28 pm

      Right!? Exactly. Who would want those terrible moments of embarrassment shared with the world?

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