Tag Archives: Limbic System

Why It’s Always The End Of The World For Your Child

In my house, the end of the world came around with a distressing regularity.

With three young dudes growing up in the same house, being ruled over by the meanest, most horrible dictator ever to put on a pair of pants and then jump up and down on poor, defenseless boys who only wanted so very little. . .

Those poor young dudes. It must have been like living in hell. Only, the thing of it is. . . I was there. It wasn’t hell for anyone. Anyone but an adult in the vicinity.


You’ve all seen it. Even if you’re not a parent, you’ve seen it.Pulling an ugly face is a regular occurrence for little dudes during their toddler years. And beyond, if I'm being honest.

Something happens and suddenly the world ends for a young dudette, who starts screaming and yelling and crying and throwing herself onto the floor of the grocery store and acting like the end is not only nigh, but already here and wearing spiked heels to step on her.

On a (slightly) less histrionic level, I and probably most parents in the history of history have heard just about every single variation on the phrase, “This was the worst. Evar!”

I mean, seriously. If I hear that again, I just might be the one who screams.

So, yeah. We’ve all seen this sort of thing happen. Something minor rocks the little dude’s world and he reacts like someone tried to cut off his arm and beat his puppy to death with it. (Although that might be a bit of a harsh simile. Accurate, but still harsh.)

The big question (other than, “How do I stop this? Or, barring that, make a clean get away without being caught?) is why? Why do our little dudes and dudettes react so over the top?

The easiest answer is also the one about which we can do the least. They simply have no basis for comparison. When young dudes aren’t yet six or so, they are all about existing in the now.

If it already happened, it doesn’t matter. If it will happen in the future, it doesn’t matter. Right now. That’s all that matters.

Which means that, if a child doesn’t have something right now, at this very moment, it will never happen. They will forever be deprived, just like they have always been deprived of what they want. That’s a hard thing to face, especially for tiny humans who have so little experience.

Which leads us to a second reason. Being young, they have no basis for comparison. When little J’Amelia is mean to your daughter in school, it might be the worst day of her life so far. Really. She might not be exaggerating. Oh, she will experience worse (much, much worse) later in her life, but being young, she still hasn’t enjoyed all of life’s little jokes.

Young dudettes and dudes don’t have the life experience necessary to really make a good comparison between miseries. Stubbing her toe is bad and hurts, but they can’t ask themselves if it’s anywhere near as bad as that time they broke their arm. Or cut open their thumb. Or, really, anything.

Our ability to compare allows us to realize that it’s just pain and we’ve had worse, which allows us to calm down.

And, that’s another thing. We, as adults, are supposed to be rational, thinking beings. (I’m going to be nice and say most of us are, although, in my heart of hearts, I doubt it.) The brains of young kids don’t fully mature until they’re much, much older, say, around 25 or so for boys.

Unfortunately for the ears around them, their limbic system (which controls their emotions) is fully functioning, firing on all cylinders. Toddler brains become flooded with the hormones and neurotransmitters that cause pain and anger and sorrow and all the rest, but they don’t have the cognitive skill and experience to overcome that and regain control of themselves.

Looking back, I’m not sure I was able to offer much in the way of hope for struggling parents. Other than the obvious: This, too, shall pass.

And, though you doubt it in the midst of a truly epic meltdown, it will get better. All you have to do is stay relatively calm and help your little dude through his current issue.

It’s not personal. It’s just what and who they are at the moment. Keep showing good behavior, being a good role model and talking them through their experiences so they learn the right thing and . . . everything should be fine.

I’m going to do you younger parents a favor and not even bring up the teenage years here. Mostly because I’m a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and there’s some stuff up with which no one should put.

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Bed’s Buggin’

by Richard

Don’t marry someone and expect to change them after the ceremony. It’s good advice. Only sometimes, when you least expect it, you might find those changes occur anyway.

I’ve been married now for a little over 20 years, not counting the couple of years we dated and such. When I first started going out with the young lady who would eventually become my wife, known to me then as “Hey, Who’s The Hot Chick?,” I was — literally — a different person. But we’ve gone over the cloning vats and the acid baths, the stringent personality sequestration and reconstruction, the emotional scouring and the replacement of most of the significant portions of my limbic system before, so there’s no need to beat that dead vivisectionist again.

But it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized just how much I had really changed.

Yesterday, I was alone in the house and walked by our unmade bed. Without even thinking, I stopped what I was doing (without even pausing The View, so I missed Barbara’s trenchant comment on, well, something) and made the bed, putting all 3.74 x 107 pillows back in their correct places.

I actually felt better after I made the bed, just seeing the smooth comforter stretched out on top of the mattress, all the pillows just so.

Dude, I really think there’s something wrong with me.

There’s a comedian who once said you can tell how long a dude has been married by the number of pillows on the bed. The more pillows, the more years he’s been married.

I have been married a long, long time. So long I’ve come to see an unmade bed as something to be actively avoided. And I was the dude who used to wash my sheets only when the sheets themselves would get up and walk themselves to the washing machine.

All right, fine. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, but this is a significant change. And I didn’t even see it happen.

Something has gone horribly wrong in my head and here’s the worst part. I don’t think I want it to be altered. How’s that for change you can live with?

Somewhere deep inside, there’s a college student’s voice screaming out in agony and then being silenced. And I find myself enjoying the quiet.

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