Tantrums and Torture

 by Jennifer Ryan

This morning I experienced the mother of all tantrums. My son had climbed onto the counter and retrieved an item that he wasn’t supposed to have. I took the item from him, and he spit at me. Yes. He spit at me. Spitting is his go-to response, when he is particularly angry. He reserves “the spit” for truly special occasions. I grabbed him by the hand and sat him in his time-out chair. In order to leave the time-out chair, my son had to utter two words: I’m sorry. That’s it. I didn’t think I was making an absurd demand, but you would have thought I was asking him to admit that he had somehow participated in the Kennedy assassination. My child refused to say, “I’m sorry.” Instead, he said, “Please.” He said, “Please,” repeatedly and with varying tones that ranged from pitiful to incensed rage. Imagine a three-year-old, with a red face, shaking uncontrollably as he screams, “Please,” at the top of his lungs. Whenever he would have one of these outbursts, I would say, “Mommy, I’m sorry I spit at you. Mommy, I’m sorry.” That’s it. That’s all he had to say to release himself from prison. Did he comply? No, of course not. Immediate compliance would have been too easy. This vicious cycle continued for fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of screaming. At one point, I actually got on the floor in front of him and said, “Baby, all you’ve got to do is say that you’re sorry.” Nope. The tantrum continued.

I have to give my son credit. The kid can commit. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. After twenty-five minutes of this behavior, I began to lose my grip on reality. Why were we here? What’s happening? Was I at fault? In a moment of weakness, I penned the following letter:

Dear Son,

I hereby admit defeat, and I concede that you are indeed the superior being in every conceivable way. I deeply regret any offense I may have committed during the course of your punishment. The house and its contents are yours with which to do as you see fit. I only ask that you not burn down the house with me in it.

Your obedient and faithful servant,


Luckily, the tantrum passed. I saved the letter for a later date, when he can…you know…read. I briefly considered loaning my child to a law enforcement agency as a tool for enhanced interrogation. I cracked under pressure. Any criminal or terrorist would likely do the same, but I’m pretty sure such torture would violate the rules of the Geneva Convention.

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