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The developmental milestone no one warns parents about

This ^^ was yesterday.

Sweet Corrie was screaming because, monsters that we are, we tried to get her to eat her yogurt in her high chair, rather than on the couch. I’d include an audio clip, but I’m pretty sure you could hear her from where you are, wherever you are. The kid is loud. And angry. About everything! All the time! She goes completely berserk for no reason, and no one and nothing can get through to her when she’s having one of her fits. One minute, she’s chirpy and charming and full of fun, and the next minute, she’s flailing on the floor, writhing and drooling and thrashing around.

I’ll stand over to the side and let the geyser of unsolicited advice rush past.

Red Dye! GMOs! ADHD! Oppositional Defiance Disorder! Heavy metal poisoning! Failure to pray enough rosaries in utero! Kids these days! Parents these days! What are they putting in our water! What do you expect when you listen to David Bowie! My child loves her Tula wrap, and she never even wakes up, much less cries. But it has to be an original Tula, not one of those awful Target ones . . . 

Feel better now? Thanks for the advice, but I already know what’s wrong with her.

She’s about to learn something. She’s almost 15 months old, and is a smart little thing, so I suspect she’s about to start putting two or three words together. Her tantrums may be incredibly painful, but they sure look familiar.

Whenever my kids — say, age 4 and under — are about to hit some new, exciting milestone, they turn into horrible little rage demons for a week or longer beforehand. It’s like their brains are on fire, and they don’t know what to do, so they try to kill everybody. It happens before they walk, before they talk, before they figure out anything big and new. As soon as they learn the new thing, they’re happy and calm and reachable again (more or less).

I have no idea if this is normal behavior for all children (I gave up reading baby books after the first baby, because they were making me crazy) but it sure is normal for my kids, and for some of my nieces and nephews, too. It’s still not pleasant, but at least we know that it’s a passing phase, and we’ll get something out of it at the end.

Another benefit: it gives me a little insight into what other moms are dealing with, when they have kids with special needs. I have several friends whose kids behave like this routinely — the irrational tantrums, the unpredictable rage. But it’s not a passing phase, and they won’t get any kind of reward, and it’s not due to any kind of bad parenting or poor diet choices. It’s something that the kid and the parents endure despite the best research and medical support and the most devoted parenting; and it’s a cross that’s heavy enough without strangers passing by and shaking their heads in disgust.

So the next time you see someone’s kid acting like a complete monster, may I suggest that you either just pass by quietly and say a prayer for everyone’s mental health — or, if it seems appropriate, murmur, “Hang in there, Mama!” Recall that Miss Manners, arbiter of etiquette, considers it “excruciatingly incorrect” to correct a stranger.

And if it’s your own kid who’s gone bonkers, don’t despair. Look, maybe there really is something wrong with your child. I’m not a diagnostician, and I have no way of knowing how you can tell the difference between normal and worrisome tantrums. The only thing I’m an expert in is my own kids; and so the only thing I can tell you, with complete confidence, is that it certainly can be normal for bright, healthy, well-loved, reasonably-disciplined children to turn into the Tasmanian Devil from time to time.

Now, if you have any other questions, please direct them to your pediatrician. I’ll be hiding in the bathroom, at least until the baby figures out how to pick the lock.

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