Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Confessions of a Melty-Downy Mom (and a winner!)

Thank you all for your terrific responses and stories from MeltDown Town. To be fair, I figured I should share my best (to date) humdinger of a meltdown.

It goes like this: I get pregnant with my second child and begin reading copious amounts on birth order, sibling peace/rivalry, parenting fairly, etc. etc. I actively involve Big Kid to get her ready. I brace myself for feelings of shock or jealousy. I envision myself dealing with regressions, temper tantrums, and outbursts in a calm, dignified, saintly manner.

And then, after all the sweet anticipation (and 39 weeks of puking) we become a family of four. I wait, and wait. Nada, nothing ... zip. The same happy, sunny kid I have known for nearly three years seems to vacillate between adoring her sister and just obliviously going about her business. Um, could it really be this easy? What, my friends, was all the fuss about? I start thinking ... "nailed it."

And then the big day came, the one I had prepared for, practiced for over and over with mental dress rehearsals. I walked in to find Big Kid pinching her sister -- with a focused intensity. Little Kid is screaming, her arm welting up. So what do I do? Well, I make sure Little Kid is okay then I calmly remove Big Kid from the situation and talk to her about her feelings. Then, through music, movement, and art we come up with some creative ways to handle frustrations with her baby sister.

Okay, not really.

I grab Big Kid. I hold onto her by her arms. I look in her face. And to my child, my child that I love so much it hurts, I say...."You are a horrible, rotten child." Oh gentle readers, it still makes my heart ache. We both burst into tears. We both went running to our respective dad/husband. Me screaming, "I just did something horrible," and her screaming, "Mommy called me a 'rot child', mommy called me a 'rot child,' WHAT IS A 'ROT CHILD?'". We both seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. It was a bonafide meltdown.
I was sick with regret, and my heart felt like a brick in my chest. I sobbed in my room. What was wrong with me? Why had I reacted so improperly? Said such horrid things? And this was just the worst. The fact is, nearly daily I react with lack of patience and wisdom. Instead I -- whatever the opposite of "nail it" is. ("screwed it?")

I try hard. Really hard. I read, I talk, I ask (you mostly). I do improve; I listen more, I ask more open-ended questions. I consider how fleeting and precious childhood is. And this all helps. And yet, I AM a bit high-strung, and I will NEVER nail it. At least not every minute of every day. Try as I might, there are times my voice will go up an octave over something as silly as a missing shoe, or that I will make the proverbial mountain of the metaphorical molehill.

So in addition to trying to improve my reactions and our interactions, I also practice extending grace and compassion to myself after the moments I am less than proud of. And I hope you will too. You are the best of the best. Thank you so much for all of your honest sharing, support, and truly helpful tips and tricks. I love our little community; thank you for being a part of my journey as a mom.

"Calgon take me away!" Image from Go Retro!
And finally, the winner is Anonymous Comment #21.CONGRATULATIONS! And here is where my 2nd confession comes ... I started thinking I couldn't give away a book I hadn't read. So, long story short, the book is bent and there is Indian food spilled on page 11. I feel bad the book isn't as pristine as it was, but this is the blog that gave away a mix tape and tried to give away a box of Franzia. (tried and failed, as I drank the Franzia -- which was kind supposed to be a joke in the first place).  So, like me, it isn't perfect, but I hope you enjoy it anyway!

To cap off meltdown show-and-tell, please take a moment and share your favorite method for meltdown come-down. How do you unwind, reconnect, move on ... forgive yourself after a bad moment? Thank you as always!


  1. Have I told this story here? I can't remember, so I'm going to tell it now. A therapist once told me that we (women) are like sponges. We soak up all the stuff around us, and clean up everyone's (emotional and literal) messes. Well, sometimes that sponge gets saturated and we have to wring it out. By wring it out, he (yes, it was a he) said we cry. This was such a liberating metaphor for me because I really hate that I cry. I cry a lot, over nothing. Not like depression cry, but exhaustion cry. So it was really good for me to hear that it had a purpose, and it was healthy!

    I think our meltdowns happen for sort of the same reason. We don't meltdown over one little thing, it's over a whole bunch of little, medium, and big things that we haven't fully dealt with. And, if you are like me, 99.9% of the time, the only person I'm TRULY mad at is myself.

    So, to answer your question, Sister1, I think we have to practice forgiveness. For ourselves as well as others. When those negative thoughts enter our heads, just shoo them away. Look at it this way: we forgive our kids easily and almost immediately for whatever they did to CAUSE the meltdown, so let's forgive ourselves as easily and almost immediately for being human. Because we really are, you know.

    I'm pretty sure now that I've confessed (some of) my meltdown sins, seen the humor in them, and forgiven myself, there will be fewer of them. Actually, I know this because it's already worked. I haven't had a meltdown since the last post was originally made. Now, I don't think I'll be meltdown-free forever, but I do think I can reflect on what we discussed in the post and forgive myself.

    And, if none of that works, I think I'll try alcohol ;)

  2. Shellody,
    Alcohol, the old stand by! I once heard someone refer to their xanex as "mommy's little helpers" and thought that would make a great t-shirt. Anywho, a funny thing about the meltdowns for me too, it is like just acknowledging them has really cued me into my own process and I feel SO much more aware. I don't think I am "cured" but taking it one day at time and ready to show myself a little of the compassion I hope my girls will be able to extend to themselves.

    I really love the sponge thing. It's a great re-frame--it isn't losing it or falling apart, it is a logistical and occasional necessity. Thank you!

  3. Ha! As usual I love Shellody's response. The sponge thing is genius--and rings very true for me! :)

    How do I reconnect after I let my crazy loose? I read him a book or get on the floor and really play with him. Don't worry folks, I do these things with him even when I don't release my wrath upon him---however there is something about actively engaging with your child that helps you recover from being a nutjob.


  4. What if the only time you played with my nephew was after going nucking futz? So then he made an association between rage and play? That would be soooo sad.

    Seriously though, marriage researcher John Gottman says that for people to feel overall positive about their marriage the ratio of positive interactions to negative has to be at least 5:1--I think this rule applies to many relationships and when my kids and I have been butting heads (or I have been losing it with them) then going out of my way to restore the balance with a mindful, purposeful, positive interaction feels really good and seems to let everyone hit "reset". That was a really good one T-Dog, too bad I am not doing a give away or you would totes win. Maybe I will find something to give you. "Made this for you honey."


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