Last fall my husband had to go out of town for a few days for work. The day after he left, my two year-old son and I were sitting in the living room on the couch when it seemed to dawn on him all of a sudden that his dad was gone. He said, “I want daddy.” I told him his dad had to go away for a few days, but that he’d be back soon. He started to cry and repeated that he wanted his dad.
I said, “I’m sorry he’s not here. I know it’s hard when he goes away, but he’ll be back soon.” His crying became louder and he started to kick me. I put my hand on his legs gently and said, “I can’t let you kick me”.
At this point he started thrashing and yelling, “I don’t want you, I want daddy!” His tears became sobs and I could feel his body temperature rise. There was a wild look in his eyes that worried me. His tantrums were not usually this intense and I wondered how long it would last. He continued to cry as he yelled about the fact that he didn’t want me, he wanted his father.
I listened longer, even though I wondered if he was OK. Every now and then, I told him his father would be back soon. Eventually, the loud cries became quieter and his anger seemed to dissipate. He looked out of the living room window and noticed how the leaves on the trees were gently resting on the windowpanes. “Look at the trees, Mommy.” he said.
That evening we had a wonderful time together. He played happily on the kitchen floor as I made dinner. We ate together and talked about the day. My son enjoyed getting ready for bed and seemed to sleep well that night. I was amazed at how such a strong tantrum could result in such a lovely evening. The tantrum itself didn’t last more than about 10 or 15 minutes, but it cleared the way for a wonderful connection between my son and I over the next few days.