petite anglaise

December 28, 2004

journey to the end of my patience

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 6:56 pm

Tadpole screamed. A piercing, 200 decibel caterwaul only she knows how to produce. She roared. She howled. Arching her back with fists balled and legs kicking, she wailed some more. Tears coursed down her cheeks and she paused only long enough to wipe her nose on my clean jumper. (One of the two items I had managed to pack in the impossibly large bag for myself to wear.) The serenade continued undiminished for another twenty minutes before she became too weary to go on and finally relaxed in my arms, drifting off into a peaceful sleep. I was afraid to stop stroking her hair, despite the cramp in my badly positioned arm, for fear that this might cause her to rouse.

Peace at last. Although the sleeping Tadpole’s angelic expression wasn’t about to fool any of our fellow travellers who had just been treated to such a convincing demonstration of her vocal range.

As a parent you eventually learn to become immune to the stares of outraged fellow passengers. You no longer pay attention to the low murmurs of ‘parents today, they just don’t know how to control their children….’ and ‘I’d put her over my knee, that would teach her to throw tantrums…’ The accusatory stares do not penetrate beneath the toughened parental hide. I no longer even blush or feel even a twinge of embarrassment. Make no mistake: I’m not here to make friends, I just need to survive this trip.

Anyone who has had to deal with a toddler who has skipped her nap, who has flaming red cheeks as a couple of molars are pushing painfully through her gums, and whose routine has been generally turned upside down over the last couple of days will testify that sometimes there is absolutely nothing the poor parents can do. Where normally a book, a hug, a biscuit or a drink would suffice, or in more extreme situations bribery involving a piece of chocolate or being allowed to play with a forbidden object like a mobile phone or a watch, in this instance there is no solution but to play a waiting game. It’s a war of attrition.

Control is not a issue here. The Tadpole is a tired and wounded animal. She doesn’t really know or care where she is or what she wants.

If you happen to be catching a British Midland flight from Leeds to Paris next Sunday, I recommend you request a seat as far as possible from Tadpole, just in case we are all treated to a repeat performance.

Or invest in earplugs.


  1. The colic and toddler tantrums (as well as the teething upsets) are forever engraved in my memory. On one occasion, my son who had no desire to head home in spite of the treat of being driven in a taxi kicked off both his shoes, threw his coat on the pavement and legged it as fast as his dumpy little legs would carry him straight on to the main road. Fortunately the lights were at red. Once I caught him, he writhed and wriggled like an eel, screaming his lungs out. A rhinoceros hide was thin and fragile compared to mine. Here in Waffleland, tuts and hostile stares are routine whenever a child emits a sound of any description, even gurgles of pleasure – the “children should be seen and not heard” mentality is alive and well. I moved out of my first flat (and ended up paying two rents for the first eight months of my new tenancy, as my former landlady insisted on my respecting the lease to the letter – in all conscience, I could not fob off an unsuspecting replacement either for reasons, which will become clear) because of the relentless persecution of my downstairs neighbour. After 6 pm, she would bang on her ceiling when my son was taking his first teetering steps. Similarly, if I conducted a telephone conversation after 10 pm (there is a law prohibiting excessive noise between 10 pm and 6 am) in little above a whisper, I would be given the broomstick handle treatment again. The last straw was when she rang on my front doorbell in the middle of the night, threatening to phone the police (my son was barely three months old) as he had been howling inconsolably for twenty minutes and, I quote: “Babies do not cry unless they are being abused”. Fortunately for me I could afford to pay combined sum of about 1,300 pounds per month on the two properties, but I have never forgiven the old sow for the mental anguish she caused me (I felt particularly defenceless and vulnerable as a single parent in a foreign country with no support network in the shape of either family or friends). Nor, I suspect, did it contribute to my offspring’s healthy development for me to appease him continually for fear of being lectured to again. As it was, I moved out without a word of complaint to her face and put up with the financial misery.

    Comment by Chameleon — December 28, 2004 @ 8:33 pm

  2. i once took Dune Messiah on a six-hour busride from upcountry way on down to the city, wherein he howled almost the WHOLE WAY. About the same causes; and not even breastfeeding would help (the milk has a natural sedative).

    Canadians are a pretty patient bunch, as a whole, but after the first couple of hours i’m sure the rest of the passengers were all mentally throwing us off the nearest precipice. Stares… oh yes. I still remember some of the more ‘gargoylish’ of them.

    Of course, WE were never like that, as children.
    WE were ANGELS!

    Comment by anan — December 29, 2004 @ 5:13 pm

  3. the worst time i have ever had with any one of my kids was one saturday afternoon in IKEA. i wanted to go to IKEA and my bastard ex did not so his bargain was to drop me off – with our then 3-yr-old son.


    so todd and i went around the shop and it wasn’t long before he started crying so i made a short-cut to the cafeteria, bought him an orange juice whilst i drank coffee wishing all the time that it was vodka.

    todd was fine after that, until i had to literally pull him away from the soft toys. he screamed and screamed and screamed. even at the check-out desk. he screamed. i was at my calmest ever – i’ve never been so calm since – yet the little bugger still screamed.

    i offered him an ice-cream or a hot-dog afterwards, neither of which he wanted. he just screamed. he screamed so much that i eventually pulled down his trousers and pants (with warning, but he decided that screaming was better) and smacked him one. i pulled up his clothes as people stopped in their tracks and stared at me as if i had committed the crime of the century.

    todd stopped screaming. he looked at me and he hugged me.

    my boy had understood.

    Comment by zed — December 29, 2004 @ 6:48 pm

  4. I recently caught a train from Doncaster to London. A family were sitting nearby. A toddle ran up and down the length of the carriage screaming and wailing the whole way, despite the pleas of his obviously knackered parents. It was annoying, but I realised that the beleaguered bunch had been on the train since 10 am (I got on the train at 2pm and it is a two hour journey to London). Ignoring my irritation, I hunkered down in my seat and put on my ipod, feeling sympathy for his exhausted mother. ‘You’ve got all this to come one day’ I told myself.

    Comment by Stressqueen — December 30, 2004 @ 1:16 am

  5. I do that all the time to get my way. Kids don’t have the monopoly on tantrums you know.

    I’ll keep an eye out in Leeds for you.

    Comment by Watski — December 30, 2004 @ 4:16 pm

  6. Awww, poor Tadpole.
    I feel for her.

    Comment by PPQ — December 30, 2004 @ 4:29 pm

  7. Never mind poor Tadpole – what about poor Todd?
    On the other hand, some would pay good money for… etc, etc.

    I’m confused re. “One of the two items I had managed to pack in the impossibly large bag for myself to wear”
    So, you packed some items in a bag, and then wore the bag? It must have been quite a scene. No chance of any photos?

    Comment by Tim — December 30, 2004 @ 5:17 pm

  8. good one, Watski… wouldn’t it be something if adults used tantrums to get what they wanted? You know; say, if the bank refused to lower the service charges on your account, you could throw yourself to the ground, kicking and screaming in a wild froth.

    i like it!

    Comment by anan — December 30, 2004 @ 5:32 pm

  9. No,Tim; you have never had to pack for a toddler, I take it, or you would know that the steamer trunk of clothing and equipment that is required for one small child scarcely permits the space for a change of underwear for the poor parent, especially if you are flying, with strict weight limits set. Ryanair, for example, are effectively cancelling checked luggage, as of the New Year and permit only 15 kilos carry-on, I think.
    Anyway, that’s how I read the post! May I be spanked for presumption if I am mistaken………

    Comment by Ruth — December 30, 2004 @ 5:54 pm

  10. My mentally handicapped boy Joshy was having a screaming fit in his pushchair whilst we were in John Lewis. This old lady tut tutted and said “Can’t you keep that boy under control..”
    I said “Apparently not but I’m sure you can do better, have a try.” and I pushed him toward her and walked off.
    I didn’t walk far, just enough to make my point. The old lady shut up then.
    And by coincedence so did Joshy. Result.

    Comment by Mike Da Hat — December 30, 2004 @ 6:37 pm

  11. well, and speaking of tantrums…

    my oldest was in his terrible twos when he decided to throw himself on the floor and scream for sugar in a major mall. All the other parents looked at me, a new mom, as if to say, ok, what are you going to do now? So i threw myself on the ground and kicked and screamed along with him. He stood up and said, Mom, you’re crazy.

    He never tried that again.
    Mind you, i don’t think we were allowed back in the mall, either!

    Comment by anan — December 30, 2004 @ 10:38 pm

  12. I totally sympathize with both of you. The only cure that we found that worked well when traveling with a small child was Dimetap, when it still had alcohol in it. It was sure to put them sound to sleep and only make the task onerous in that we had to carry a 20 pound dead weight in our arms.

    Comment by Bob — December 30, 2004 @ 10:41 pm

  13. “poor todd” ? the little brat didn’t even cry. he’d worked himself up into such a tantrum that not only could he not hear me anymore – but he lost all sense of feeling.

    Comment by zed — December 31, 2004 @ 2:12 pm

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