I don’t know what it is these days, but come 4:30/5:00 meltdowns seem just another part of our busy day. This particular day wasn’t any different.
Except it was.
Perhaps it was the much needed Thanksgiving break. Whatever it was, I was seeing/hearing/feeling much more clearly.
So here we are, 4:30 on the nose, plopping our tired selves down on our welcoming couches. Mondays hurt. And Mondays after the Thanksgiving holiday hurt even more.
I offer snacks and a favorite episode to decompress before we get the dinner/homework/bath/bedtime shuffle into high gear.
Little Sister has other plans…“I want my secret hideout, Mommy. I need to sleep in there.”
And I know already that I must very carefully, delicately, and skillfully deliver my next line. Or else.
The problem? Her “secret hideout” is the Christmas tree box that just the day before we had packed back into that deep under the stairs closet while cleaning up after a very messy Christmas decorating day. No way was I going to fish that thing out. Are you kidding me?!?
“Oh, honey, remember we packed it away? You gave it a hug good-bye until it’s time to clean up after Christmas. Want me to help you make a new secret hideout?”
Brilliantly crafted on the fly, don’t you think? And I did deliver it as gently and lovingly as I could.
Cue tears/begging/pleading/throwing self on couch.
I quickly realize there’s not going to be an easy way out of this one. Hello meltdown. Goodbye best laid plans.
So the tears and tantrum continue.
I’m so tempted to banish her to her bedroom until she’s “ready to use her nice words” or “to apologize for yelling”.
I almost do.
Until I stop for a minute and sit down on the couch next to where she’s sprawled out on the floor. I just look at her. Think about what I should do. Because quite honestly, it feels like I should do something. I’m momentarily at a loss.
It’s so hard not to react to her tears, her anger, her strong emotion. It’s no longer just about her lost secret hideout. It’s everything and I’m a bad mom.
Finally, I pick her up as gently as I can. She resists, but I let her know we need to go relax in her room. I seriously consider just leaving her there. But instead, I stay. I sit on her bed. She still has some crying and stomping to do. So she does.
In those moments I still doubt what I’m doing. What am I doing? Waiting? For what? I honestly don’t know.
Then suddenly she joins me on her bed. Plops herself right next to me and collapses into my arms. I wrap my arms around her and know exactly at that moment what I was waiting for.
The storm had passed and now she needed me. Needed to know I’d still be there. That I wouldn’t abandon her at the height of her anger, sadness, or disappointment. And I was there. Ready to accept her back into my open arms. No questions asked.
I don’t even really recall what happened next. All that mattered was that we both were relieved and ready to forge on with the evening plans. She was ready for a snack and some cuddles on the couch and I felt pretty darn good about finally doing the right thing in the midst of a tantrum.
It only took the last 7 years of trial/error/guessing/doubting with two children to figure it out…but my God…what a difference.
Doing nothing is the.hardest.thing.to.do. Not reacting to your child’s strong emotion and reigning in your own negative emotions is really hard. Staying close by is even harder. Frankly, it’s easier to leave the room or banish your child to another room so you don’t have to hear and see them play out their meltdown.
But the reward? The reward for staying strong, calm, and close by?
The reward is the knowledge that your child now knows of your unconditional love. You have shown it. More than words ever could.
We eventually did talk about that moment later during our bedtime routine. She apologized. I forgave.
After all, every child needs a secret hideout. And when it’s lost and they can’t find it; they need someone who understands their grief, will hold their hand through it all, and help them find a new one.
Looking for more advice on Tantrums and Meltdowns? Janet Lansbury from Elevating Childcare has just revealed her secret for staying calm when her kids aren’t. And it’s very, very good advice. Believe me, you want to read this and you will feel pretty heroic if you can manage to do this in the midst of a terrible meltdown.Pin It