My little one is obsessed with animals. We take weekly visits to our local zoo. Our favorite TV show is Wild Kratts.We have so many plastic animals in our home that they’ve taken over their tub and simply congregate in random corners of our house. We’re an animal-loving family. So taking a trip to an even larger zoo that boasts elephants, a hippo aquarium and panda bears was a pretty huge deal. They even have a rhinoceros, which my daughter adored telling everyone about because she was super proud that she could say the word. Kind of. Almost understandably. Alright, don’t worry darlin, I have a hard time saying “rhinoceros” too.
Anyways, we were pretty stoked about the zoo. My daughter was taking the day off daycare so that she and my husband could have some extra, special bonding time. They were going to drive over two hours away, spend a rapturous day looking at animals and having fun, then head on home for a nice family meal. We had been talking to my daughter about this special day for weeks, building it up and getting her excited. She told all of her friends at daycare the exact reason that she wouldn’t be in tomorrow. Really, all of us were waiting with bated breath for this one amazing zoo trip.
Then, the night before the big day, terror struck. I’m not sure what exactly happened or why it got so out of control, but my daughter had one of the largest temper tantrums that I’ve ever seen her throw. She decided that she didn’t want to go to bed that night and man was she sticking to her guns. My daughter has never been a shy, laid-back child. She’s always known what she wanted and been rather forceful in achieving it. But this was a whole new level of determination. She kicked, she screamed and she refused to say that she was sorry. It was the type of meltdown that you normally associate with a well-timed visit from the in-laws.
I did my best to stay calm and ride out the storm. I continued to repeat that I loved her very much but this type of behavior was not acceptable. My husband joined in, refusing to fight or argue, simply repeating that it was bedtime and there was no debating this point. By the time we left her room, I was emotionally exhausted and a little upset. I can only imagine how she felt. My husband and I sat down to talk about what we were going to do after such a long and completely out-of-line temper tantrum.
I have to admit, I was the light-weight. I wanted to wait and see if she apologized in the morning. I wanted to have a long talk about what happened and why it hurt our feelings and what we were going to do better next time… My husband had to be the strong one. He looked at me with a completely level head and a lot of disappointment and said, “No zoo trip tomorrow.”
But… I mean… She was so looking forward to it… What would we tell her babysitter… She was going to be so upset…
I blathered and sputtered. Then I admitted that he was completely right. We could not reward a huge, intense temper tantrum with a special event. We had to cancel the zoo trip, so we did.
Our daughter was not happy. Just like my husband, she was really looking forward to her special day. Every day since, she has asked me, “Today can be my day, momma?” Not yet darlin. It’s going to take a little while to earn another day like that.
I know that we did the right thing. It’s our job as parents, not just to provide our daughter with fun opportunities, but to teach her proper behavior. If she can’t play by the rules, she can’t get the rewards. I know all these things, but it was still really hard to tell that adorable little one, “I’m sorry, but you made some bad choices. We can’t go now.”
Hopefully, next time we plan something special, she’ll remember that in this house, no plan is too big to fail.