Dealing with Donny's Tantrums

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 11, 2019 - 01:17:00 PM

This week we’re seeing one more example of why we need experienced grandmothers both as the Speaker of the House (which thank goodness we do have now) and as a candidate for President (earnestly desired for 2020). The absolutely best experience for dealing with the current incumbent is going to the grocery store with a two-and-a-half year old. 

Here’s the scenario: you start shopping with (let’s say) him in the kid’s seat in the cart. As you roam the aisles collecting your purchases, aiming to get in and out as fast as possible, he spots familiar desired items, including, but not limited to, graham crackers and cheerios. He shrieks with delight, urging you to put them in the cart, and most of the time you agree with these choices. He asks to get down, and you let him do that, because he walks and talks pretty well, so why not? 

But then it’s checkout time, and as you stand in line with your choices he spots the candy display. Instantly, he grabs one of the brightly colored boxes. This, for your family, is a no-no, so you tell him to put it back on the rack. 

He shakes his head. You try politely to take it from him, and he screams. You try harder, and he lies down on the floor, kicks and flails his arms, all the time clutching the candy even tighter and shrieking ever more loudly. After what seems like an hour, but is probably only three minutes, he loses interest in the candy and devotes his full energy to a spectacular display of naked emotion. 

What’s a mother (or father) to do? For the novice parent, this episode is traumatic, embarrassing, exhausting. You can’t reason with him. Once a normal two-and-a-half gets revved up, there’s no turning him off.  

And here’s where experience counts. If you’ve seen a lot of such tantrums, you don’t try to reason with them. 

If it’s grandma in charge, the minute the child starts screaming, she parks the shopping cart, scoops the bad boy up and takes him outside, where he can emote to his heart’s content. He’ll give up quickly without the audience of shocked shoppers to egg him on. Problem solved. 

Unfortunately, when the naughty child is seventy-two years old and the president of the United States of America, it’s not quite so easy to remove him from the scene of his bad behavior. Little Donny wants his wall, and no amount of patient reasoning will have any effect on him. He really wants that shiny object. 

The analogous solution, of course, is to try to evict him from the scene of his childish tantrum by impeachment, but that’s harder than taking a bad boy out of a grocery store. In the grown-up world, there are unintended consequences, and also predictable ones. 

Even if we were able to take out Donny, we’d still have his better behaved brother Mike to contend with. Mike Pence seems to know better than to have public tantrums at the market, but I wouldn’t put it past him to snatch candy and hide it under his shirt if he had the chance and thought no one was looking. 

If impeachment were successful, or even if the threat of it prompted Trump to resign, it would be harder for a Democratic candidate to run against an apparently well behaved Pence. If Donald Trump continues to act like a spoiled child, it should not be too hard for an obvious adult to defeat him. 

But that doesn’t mean the grown-ups need to indulge his childish bad behavior. Nancy Pelosi is absolutely right to continue to say no to Little Donny, despite the fact that he’s lying on the floor howling and kicking. She knows, like any experienced grandmother, that giving in to a screaming child will only produce more unpleasant scenes in the future. But also, she knows that this too shall pass—if she (and we) can tough it out for just a while longer. Eventually even the worst of the Terrible Twos gets tired and calms down, if the supervising parent can just hang on,