We've had a very meltdown-prone couple of days, probably due to a stomach bug. Whatever the organic cause, the tantrums are fascinating, infuriating, and confusing.
The most common example of a tantrum from this weekend was the "Can I pee in the potty?" freakout. It goes like this: I ask Ryan if he has to go to the bathroom; he does not know how to properly answer a yes/no question, so even though the answer should be no, he runs crying to the bathroom; then he refuses to leave the bathroom until he has peed, even though he didn't have to go in the first place. I think what's going on here is that when I ask "Do you have to?" he hears "You have to." Then he has a fit because I'm making him do something he doesn't want to do. And then he's frustrated because he's unable to do the thing he thinks I've ordered him to do. The obvious solution would be to stop asking him if he has to pee, but he rarely thinks to communicate his own needs, and I like to err on the side of keeping the floor dry.
We're working on yes/no questions at the same time we're working on either/or. If I ask Ryan "What do you want to eat?" he might respond with an item on his short list of favorites: fruit bar, cheese, banana. If I want to encourage him to pick something else, I might ask, "Do you want Kix?" He will always respond "Want Kix." But that doesn't necessarily mean he wants Kix; I have to wait a few seconds to see if he starts whimpering to know if he actually means he does NOT want Kix. I might say, "Do you want Kix or animal cookies?" He will inevitable respond, "Want Kix AND animal cookies!" But again, this doesn't mean he actually wants both, or either, of these snacks. If I approach this visually, say by holding up a box of Kix and a box of animal cookies and asking which he wants, he will usually still demand both, or will point at one and then ask for the other. And then he'll still request a fruit bar.
Another common trigger for tantrums the last few days has been changes in routine. On Saturday, Stu's parents came over to visit, but they were coming from different places and therefore arrived at different times. When Grandma walked in the door, Ryan asked, "Where's Grandpa?" We explained that he was on his way. Ryan was ok with this at first, but when 5 or 10 minutes passed and Grandpa still wasn't there, he realized that the order of the universe had been upset - Grandma and Grandpa must be in the same place at the same time - and he launched into a meltdown. There was a brief respite when Grandpa arrived, but the world had already been shattered, and Ryan wasn't about to let us forget that. After 4 hours, he mellowed out enough to play with his grandparents for a few minutes before they had to drive home.
On Sunday we celebrated Thanksgiving at my parents' house (holidays tend to be somewhat arbitrary in my family). Things were going pretty smoothly (aside from bathroom tantrums) until guests started arriving for dinner. The break in routine was jarring, and spun Ryan into another meltdown - this time he initiated our exile to the bathroom. We left early.
Then when we got home, he started throwing up. So I guess much of the tantruming was a result of his not knowing how to tell us that his stomach hurt, which is odd, because he certainly knows how to tell us when he hurts his leg or his head. The closest he came to expressing his discomfort was saying, "Can I have squeeze it please?" Somehow I figured out that this meant "Rub my tummy."
One of these days, he's going to be able to let me know what he needs without having to cry. Soon, please.