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Tantrums and Triggers

All the parenting books in all the world can’t prepare you for the emotions that rise up when your child screams at you, slams the door, and yells, “I don’t want to see you anymore!”

I want to help her. But I don’t know how. So I sit on my side of the door. And wait. And listen. “Get away!” she hollers.

And my ears are throbbing. It feels like they could bleed at what she says. My own childhood memories are resurrected. They only stay quiet for so long. Because it’s not the first time I’ve heard those words. It’s not the first time I’ve curled up on my side of the door. It’s not the first time I’ve listened to the voice of someone I love screaming.


What in the world do I do?

So I get up from my side of the door.

I go to a quiet place, to think, to pray. To be alone with my thoughts.

“Dear God, help me show love,” I beg Him, alone in my room. Can He hear me over the pounding of my own heart? I will my hands to stop shaking as I wipe sweaty palms on my jeans.

Should I go back and try to comfort her? What’s the point? She just needs to finish her tantrum, get her cry out. There’s nothing I can do to help anyway.

Nothing I can do to help – those words are familiar, too.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. And listen. It’s quiet here. I can hear the birds outside my window. Maybe I’ll stay. It’s tempting to hide on my side of the door until it’s all over, and maybe for a while after, like I learned long ago.

I shake my head, I shake myself. Out of my memories. Out of my thoughts. No. Today is not yesterday. Today is a new day. And today is a good day.

My daughter needs me

Today, my daughter needs me. Something inside says, Go to her. And I know it’s Him. The One who gives love when I’m empty. Can He give love even today? When I’m not only empty, but exhausted?

Decades-old memories can be exhausting, sometimes.

When I stand up, my heart is quiet. And I know He heard me. Maybe He came even closer, because my heart was pounding.

I walk slowly to her room. She’s still kicking the floor, still blocking the door.

The strength isn’t mine

“Can I come in?” She says nothing, but moves aside. So in I creep. And I sit down, this time on her side of the door. Her tantrum lasts a while longer. I don’t remember what it’s about anymore. Is it because I put cheese on her eggs? Or because I told her ballet was cancelled today? It doesn’t matter. She’s five. It’s hard to be five.

For some reason, I know I shouldn’t leave her to cry it out. Not today. But what’s the point of staying? She won’t look at me, won’t talk to me.

She’s getting louder, again. So I get quieter. I’ve learned, over the years, when I don’t know what to do: to do the opposite.

She yells, “Leave me alone!”

I whisper, “I’m here because I love you.”

She’s crying fast, loud. I take deep, slow breaths. And I know Jesus is with me. He’s the reason I can be the Mom that you need, the peace in your storm, the quiet to your crazy, the smile to your tears.

He’s the Reason I can be different.

Finally, you’re exhausted. You come to me, weeping quietly. “I’m sorry, mama,” you whisper. I take you in my arms and carry you to the rocking chair, where you melt into my lap. You snuggle up so small, like when you were a tiny baby. I smooth your hair back; it’s curled and damp.

And I rock you, back and forth, and pray. I can’t fix the cheesy eggs or the cancelled ballet or whatever it was that got to you. But I can be the adult, I can let go of the triggers that got to me and I can be here with you.

And the point of it all was to get to this point of you in my arms. You’re melted, loved.

From where does it come? Only one place, I know. There’s only One person who can heal the far-distant past. Only One person who turns pain into love.

The present healing the past

And my mentors have told me to forgive. They told me about trusting God. But they never told me that my past would heal when I loved you. We rock and remain here a little longer. Back and forth. Your tutu is wrinkled. Your tears are on my sleeve. You’re almost asleep. Today is healed. And so are my memories.

Healed by the One who said: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9)

Laura Costea

Laura Costea is the author of "The Inheritance," a novel about faith, family, and a small ranching town that just won't give up. She is passionate about Jesus, the outdoors, and strong cups of coffee. Laura is blessed to live in Idaho with her husband and four young children. You can find her online at

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