Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Good Fit

My nephew was less than three years old when I witnessed his fit throwing, which had his mother quite concerned and frustrated with his misbehavior. I don't remember what was not going his way that day, but I do remember him sliding onto the floor and quietly lying there.

"Do you see how he throws fits when we tell him no?" his mother asked.

I thought she was joking. I looked down at the boy who silently looked up at me...and I laughed.

"That's a fit?"

Mind you, there was some non-compliance in his slouching to the floor. However, I think the act should have been labeled sulking rather than fit-throwing.

I thought of my own kids. I remember Kate throwing her body to the ground, kicking her feet, and screaming. Wait,that was just last week and she's 18.

Seriously though, at three years old Kate would howl,twist around on the floor and stiffen her arms because she did not want to put her coat on. She would cry and stiffen her entire body every time we tried to put her in a car seat. The only thing that stopped the tantrum was to tickle her ribs. She'd go limp with laughter and we'd quickly buckle her in. Once she realized she'd been restrained, the howling would start again.

Then there's my quiet daughter. She may be my most quiet child now, but that's only because she used up most of her allotted noise during the first 18 months of her life. She screamed for a solid 18 months. And this is not simply the claim of an over-tired, frustrated mom. I have witnesses. Grandma, neighbors, friends, and even the older cousin we all referred to as the World's Best Babysitter all tried and failed to calm her. For 18 months! The funny thing is, once she learned to communicate with words and signs, the tantrums stopped. I guess she just had something to say, but didn't have any other way to say it.

I remember my son, at three years old, stomping to his room and slamming the door when he wasn't getting his way. When we didn't follow, he would peek his head out and announce, "Hey, I'm crying in here!" And I would say, "Okay," and his sisters would laugh. And then he would laugh and the fit would be over with. I guess the fact that he was the fourth one helped me not worry too much about three-year-old fits. That and the fact that there wasn't any amount of crying, wailing, and body contortions that could top what I'd already seen with his sisters. Some things, I think, girls are just naturally better at. Fit throwing, at least in my house, seems to be one of them.

Come to think of it, when I look at the men and women in my own life, there does seem to be a pattern. Men seem to be natural sulkers and women seem to be natural fit throwers. I wonder if it is indeed genetic, or if it goes back to that age-old idea that men should not express emotions for fear of looking weak. Or maybe, women are just so good at it, that our men have realized not to even bother trying. So perhaps it's not necessarily sulking, so much as it is self-preservation.

So consider this--If females are naturally so much better at fit throwing, obviously it is an inborn trait, a genetic calling of sorts. So why, do we work so hard to stifle this talent when we grow up? I'm thinking of embracing my natural tantrum tendencies next time things don't go my way. But not in a foot stamping, Kate Gosselin kind of way. Instead, I think I'll go for the mature, adult fit. Think Julia Sugarbaker of Designing Women. Now, that's the way to throw a fit. It might not get me what I want, but if I could find a way to get a studio audience to applaud, I'm sure I'll feel better when it's all said and done.

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