I had a tantrum.
A tantrum, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, is “an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child”. Since I last wrote I have turned 39 so I am not a young child, but still, the rest of that definition sounds like what I had. Or rather, what happened to me, because I don’t think it was a voluntary response. Like a wee in your knickers, it wasn’t a choice I made.
It was last week; a damp and chilly morning. I was in a grump already on account of a number of factors involving mouldy apples, the dairy industry, floods and storms, lost shoes and lost sleep. Just the usual.
And then a man pulled onto the Arthur Highway in front of me and I had to brake suddenly enough to screech and send every loose item to the floor. I didn’t hit him. Even had I not been paying attention I may not have hit him, because he saw me at the last minute and pulled back into his driveway. But from the back seat of the car came the whimper of a frightened child. My child. And I LOST. MY. SHIT.
I put the passenger side window down and I screamed. I used the word ‘idiot’ multiple times. There’s a high chance it was coupled with some sweary bits, although I don’t remember entirely. He said he was sorry, that he didn’t see me, but his tone was all wrong. It was all ‘so-REE’, with a ‘shut up’ sub text. Then he said, “Calm down woman”. Red rags. Bull. I was the bull.
I don’t usually behave that way. As I drove away, I shook all over. I cried. The children cried. All of us were more traumatised by my outburst that the incident itself. I felt terrible. The man had his young son in the passenger seat; I probably frightened him too. None of it was my usual sort of avoid-confrontation-at-all-costs behaviour. I mortified myself and I felt very, very sorry (not ‘so-REE’ sorry but ‘I’m so sorry’ sorry).
Later I tried to make a bit of sense of it all. I had a near miss with a hooligan truck driver not so long ago; I’ve had nightmares about it since. As a former trauma nurse I have seen over and over again the horrific and heartbreaking results of motor accidents. And on top of this, a mother will turn animal to protect her children.
There are lots of reasons why my response was possibly disproportionate to the incident. Sometimes, says Alain de Botton, “We carry years behind us that have no discernible shape, which we have forgotten about and which we aren’t in a position to talk others through in a manner that would win us sympathy and understanding. We just come across as mean or mad.”
Yes, I was a mad woman that morning. A mad tantrum woman. A tantmum. I should probably grow up.
Anyway, please, drive carefully everyone.
PS If we’re going to get all honest, I didn’t turn 39, I turned 41. Yesterday I watched birds through binoculars and then looked them up in a bird book which makes me #officiallyold
Too old for tantrums anyway.