I have been expecting my son to have a major meltdown for some time now. Lately, he has been highly anxious, angry at school and uncooperative with his teachers – he has been quick to anger here at home too. He hasn’t had a major one for a while now, so, like earthquakes and volcanoes, the chance of an eruption has been growing more imminent with each passing day.
Today was the day.
I was running late (as usual) in my daily race to arrive home in time for school pick-up and turned into our driveway to see his special transport bus already waiting. I got out needing to whisk him off the bus and race him around to Miss 5’s school as soon as humanly possible. I opened the door to be greeted with a demand for a “mini-mag” – no hello, no nothing, just a demand that made my heart literally sink.
He has gone through phases before where he has expected a “surprise” each day after school. When the surprise is not forthcoming it gets seriously ugly. Tears, screaming, running about in rage, pushing, throwing – whatever he can do to show you how very angry he is, he will do. Because, of course I should know that he wanted a surprise and I really should have had the sense to have left work early in order to procure said surprise for him. Because in his mind that is the rational, logical mode of action – I just didn’t get the memo.
I managed to get him off the bus before he got too worked up, deposited his belongings inside and somehow got him into our car so we could drive around the corner to his sister’s school. Normally we would walk there but just to make the afternoon that much easier for me, I HAD to go to the shops before picking up Miss 1 from family daycare as we had a swimming lesson to attend. When I informed Master 7 of this plan he was at first upset before he worked out that the shops would sell mini-mags…awesome…
Now the easy way out here would have been to give in and just buy him the magazine. But unfortunately I knew the right thing was to take a stand and make it absolutely clear that we were going to the shops to buy things for dinner, not to buy a mini-mag. You can guess his reaction… So I found myself trying to wrangle him from the car so we could get his sister (who had been waiting so patiently for us to arrive), then try and get them both back safely while he flung himself around, screamed at the top of his lungs and tried to run away from my grasp.
This continued at the shops. By this stage I was feeling rather frazzled (understatement of the year) and found myself struggling to contain my own anger and frustration and embarrassment at his behaviour. It didn’t help that I was feeling somewhat responsible for the whole situation, by not taking him home and providing him with the deep pressure treatment and time alone that would have helped calm him down. Instead I had taken him out in public while he was feeling anxious and upset and frustrated. That guilt just served to amplify my other emotions and I found it harder and harder to control my own reactions.
I managed to keep reasonably calm although I did use a raised voice at times and found myself trying to reason with him even though I knew there was no point. He was beyond reasoning and could not see past the point that he wanted something and I was denying him for no good reason. All I could do was try to get in and out of Coles as quickly as possible and try to ignore the stares of disapproval as we went…
We managed to get out of Coles with the food and a packet of chips for each of them which helped satisfy his need for me to buy something. But the damage was done for all of us. My son told me he was feeling “red” with anger – I replied that I felt “red” too while Miss 5 told us she felt “yellow” with happiness (she is used to these situations and seems to take herself into her own little world for the duration).
Master 7 was physically and emotionally exhausted by the meltdown and was still fragile when we got home where he declared he would not be going to swimming that afternoon. Which was the reason why I felt I needed to the shops in the first place…I really should have known better! So I encouraged him to have some alone time outside while his sisters did their own thing and I sat at the kitchen table, too exhausted to even cry.
This is one of the hardest aspects of being a parent. You have to be “on” at all times, you have to be in control of your own emotions even when they are being sorely tested. You need to be patient and willing to listen when all you want to do is stamp your feet in frustration and give in to that primal need to scream in exasperation. While my son had his meltdown I had one of my very own – it wasn’t as loud or as violent as his, but it was just as exhausting and made me feel as angry and anxious as he did.
Even after 7 years experience with situations like these I still struggle to deal with them – will it ever get better, will I ever get it right, will I ever learn from previous experience?
How do you cope when you’re at the end of your tether with your kids?
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