Tempering temper tantrums with tea.

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When my daughter was around 3, she had her first hissy fit over some perceived slight. It could have been over something silly like that I didn’t take her to gran’s house after a play date or didn’t stop for ice cream, I don’t remember why.

She stormed into the dining room and threw herself onto the floor, kicking and screaming, bawling her eyes out. The noise was deafening and unexpected. I had never seen someone lose their shit to this magnitude before, least of all a sweet little person I loved to bits. I was completely perplexed. 

My visceral reaction to having someone go batshit crazy on me is instantaneous anger. I can go from 0 – 100 faster than you can say “Lamborghini”. Luckily for all concerned, I did the unexpected. I took my anger to the kitchen and made a cup of tea. Then I stepped over the body that was writhing on the floor, with not so much as a glance, and continued to my room.


I gently closed the door behind me, set my cup carefully down on the bedside table with shaking hands, picked up a book and tried to concentrate on the words swimming in front of my tear filled eyes. I felt that I had failed somehow. What had I done that could make her react so horribly? Why was she so angry at me and why did I feel angry at her?

After what felt like hours but was only minutes, I heard a timid knock on my bedroom door. I answered “Come in,” and there stood a red-faced, tearstreaked, snotty-nosed piece of my heart that lives outside of my body. It stood there looking confused momentarily and without another glance, I suggested this little person should give her hands and face a good scrub and then return. I was buying time because I still didn’t know what my response should be but I knew it shouldn’t be anger.

A few minutes later, a freshly scrubbed child stood shyly next to my bed and I smiled at her and patted the pillow next to me and asked if she would like to get in. She was in the bed like a flash and I offered her a sip of my tea – after all, I assumed wailing banshees must get pretty thirsty.

I pretended to read my book as she took small, noisy slurps of tea in between the hiccups she had managed to get from crying. Then I turned to her and asked softly, “Are you done shouting now?” to which she had the temerity to look embarrassed and replied softly back, “Yes.”  And then I explained to her how she had more words in her vocabulary than most children her age, that she was a very clever little so-and-so who had no problem articulating clearly in English, much to the surprise of many when she won a speech contest at the same age, and choosing to scream at me was counterproductive because I didn’t speak wail.

My daughter is almost a teenager now and over the years, I have had post it notes, letters, emails and even what’s app texts from the other room but I have never had a knock down screaming tantrum again.

My children have learned In Case Of Emergency, make tea. Bad grade? Failed a test you were reminded to study for and didn’t? Note from a teacher? In trouble with Dad? Tell Mom, wait for the initial incredulous outburst and then go make tea. By the time you return, Mom has devised a strategy to help you fix the problem and you can both sit down and iron it all out. 

After all, who can shout over a good cup of tea?

The World is flat, and other bedtime stories… 

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Ever since I was a fetus, literally, I have been attempting to travel the World.

My mother was 8 months pregnant when she returned from the UK to South Africa with me in her belly. You could say it was my first tandem flight. The next one would occur when I flew to South America pregnant with my second child. It is quite surprising that airlines don’t charge pregnant women for two seats – they are pretty quick to charge for anything else these days! 

“Oxygen mask? No, we don’t have those in economy. Here, have a glass of H2O. It has all the oxygen you need. And that will be $25, please.”

My next flight took place when I was 4. I remember my Dad and sister flying with us until our stopover and then returning home while we continued on our way. My sister refused to come to London. She had school, she said. 

She was 7. 

We moved between Manchester, Bolton, Preston, Middlesex and Reading and stayed with our very colourful family both distant and close. In one home where we stayed for a long time, the extended family ate from a large communal plate on a tablecloth on the floor.

In my Irish aunt’s home, my uncle seemed to do all the cooking while the rest of us spent our time trying to stay warm. That Winter in London, wrapped up as I was, I developed a love for the cold, for Winter coats and scarves and boots. A love I still have to this day.

There were other trips I took, at other times in my life, to Switzerland and Mozambique and a couple of times Italy sang to me in a falsetto, calling my name, and countless trips back to the UK. But my favourite journey has been to South America.

It wasn’t so much that I was travelling alone with a child because this wasn’t my first trip alone with my son. It wasn’t just that I was with a toddler or that I was 3 months pregnant. It wasn’t that I was unable to have the Yellowfever vaccine and not allowed to leave the airport. It wasn’t the thought that I didn’t speak a word of Portuguese – well except to say “nao fala Portugues”. It was the thought of the long stopover in Brazil that I was dreading. Over 16 long hours, in Winter, pregnant, with a toddler. 

At this point, my inner commentary was on repeat shouting “More guts than brains!” and “What are you thinking?” and another voice answered calmly, “Surprise, Brain!! Sometimes I don’t think, okay? Let’s just wing it! We got this, big guy!” We did not have it. 

Not by a long shot.

I won’t take you through my 16 hour stopover today, although I will tell you all about it some other day if you remind me. I’ll skip a few weeks forward instead to landing in Chile, in a blizzard, pregnant, with a toddler on a leash and being filled with joy at seeing a friendly face.

Chile was my opportunity to do something else that I seem to be intent on doing in my life as well. It was finding the nearest mountain and going to conquer it, albeit by car! Just as I had stayed in a wooden chalet in the Alps to fulfil my childhood Heidi fantasies, with a 9 month old who was immediately smitten by the curly haired blonde petite-fille named Lola who lived there, this time it was the Andes that beckoned. 

In a place called Portillo, under a Southern sky I was familiar with, I was enthralled by the snow and the skiers who annually drift to South America from around the World for a second chance at Winter. Legend has it that Laguna des Incas is enchanted. I could believe that.

In Santiago, I made friends. I made family. I made memories. And tomorrow, one of the children of the man who gave my son and I shelter and entertained us so kindly, arrives in my home town. Her father has long since left this mortal coil, but his generosity can never be forgotten and so tomorrow, I will make a new friend at the airport and be the friendly face she needs to see.

The World isn’t flat, but it’s very, very small. 

Laguna des Incas