My Daughter Throws a Fit

I unloaded the dishwasher. I obsessed over the words, "I don't want to be trapped." I played with my son. I buried my face in my hands and questioned how anyone can ever claim to be a great parent. I preheated the oven and got the fish sticks ready.
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My kid threw a Category 5 fit in front of her day care yesterday. It started when she wanted to open the door to the car. I shut the door and motioned to her to open it. She yelled that it was too late because she hadn't wanted me to open it at all. I explained the transitional nature of a door and that it can be opened and shut multiple times and that she could still open the door. She lay down in the parking lot and started crying. I picked her up and she punched me in the face.

This is the first time she has hit in months. My eyes watered, both from anger and from the pain of a fist being thrust down upon my nose. Why does it always have to be the nose?!

I had to force her into the car and clip her into her car seat, all while praying that no one around would think I was kidnapping her. Then, when I got home, all of our neighbors were out in their yards to see me pry my daughter out of my '99 Accord (she didn't want to get out of the car just as much as she didn't want to get in it) and fireman-carry her, still kicking and screaming, into the house. Oh, and I had my 1-year-old son, too. Sometimes I paint a pretty picture of parenthood, but sometimes it is really f*cking hard.

When we got inside she went straight to her room. OK, I carried her straight to her room and set her down. I told her she was on time-out and that she needed to stay in her room. She screamed and sobbed and lost her breath, and I walked out, shut the door, and held the knob as she struggled against it.

"Daddy! I d....on't... wa...nt to.... be..... in my room. Let me OOOOOOUT! Take me back to day care!!!"

"No. We don't hit. You go and you sit in your chair and you can come out in 10 minutes when you have calmed down."

"D....a.......a.....a." It was getting worse. It is so long ago, but I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. I remember being so upset that getting a single word out through the stuttered sobs was as upsetting as the reason for the sobs themselves. I wanted to open the door. I wanted to pick her up and hold her until she caught her breath. I wanted to... I needed her to know that she shouldn't throw fits like that.

"Da....d....I....don' be....trapped."

That's how I felt. I felt trapped. I don't know how to do this. I have no f'ng clue what I am doing. Everything I do could be wrong, and I might not even find out for 18 years. At least one of us didn't have to feel trapped. I opened the door.


"No, you need to sit in your chair. Come here." I picked her up and carried her to the glider in her room. I got down on her level. "Look me in the eyes." I gently pulled her chin up from her chest to look at me. "You need to sit here and take some time to calm down. I know you are very upset. I am not going to lock your door. I am going to leave it open. You are not trapped. I am also going to go get you some water. But you can't come out for 10 minutes. OK?"


I grabbed her a small glass of water and when I came back in the room her crying had stopped and she was left with only a few sporadic breath spasms.

"Here's your water. I will tell you when you can come out."


I spent the next 10 minutes calming myself down. I unloaded the dishwasher. I obsessed over the words, "I don't want to be trapped." I played with my son. I buried my face in my hands and questioned how anyone can ever claim to be a great parent. I preheated the oven and got the fish sticks ready. I replayed the scene in the parking lot of the day care in my head and was ashamed. I looked at my watch.

"It's been 10 minutes. As soon as you're ready to say sorry, you can come out!"

Fifteen minutes later she quietly walked out of her room, eyes still red and puffy. She came up to me and crawled into my lap. She gently lifted my chin and brought my eyes to meet hers.

"I'm sorry for throwing a fit, dad."

"What else are you sorry for?"

"I'm sorry for hitting you and not listening."

"Do you know why we don't hit?"

"Because it hurts?"

"Yes. Because it hurts people. You hurt me when you hit me." Sometimes as I watch her eyes while I talk to her, I can tell that what I am saying is getting in. When I said she hurt me, I could see it. I could see that hurting me hurt her and then that hurt me. "I love you, honey."

"I know," she said. "You love me even when I throw fits."

"I do. I love you all the time."

"I love you all the time too, daddy."

"No more fits tonight? Your mommy is out with her friends. I need you to be my special helper."

Her eyes lit up. "Can I be in charge of little brother?"

"Yes. You can be in charge of little brother, as long as you are nice and share."

"I will. I promise."

"No more fits?"

"No more fits."

And we ate our fish sticks. And we put little brother to bed. And we watched Tinker Bell. And there were no more fits.

An earlier version of this piece appeared on John Kinnear's personal blog, Ask Your Dad. You can also find him trying to be funny on Facebook.

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