We knew there was a storm brewing from the moment my daughter woke up. Crabby isn’t the right word. We’ll call it “off,” just not right. It was a walking on eggshells kind of day.
Still, we had errands to run, so we headed out to the mall, hoping things would blow over.
And then…it happened.
The public meltdown.
She began to spiral out-of-control. Screaming and crying turned into hitting and yelling. Soon, I was exhausted, joining her in crying as we drove back home.
Looking back, I realize that I learned 5 things from this experience:
1. My Anxiety Got the Best of Me: At first, I was very calm and attempted to be comforting and supportive. But it wasn’t long before my anxiety kicked in and I couldn’t think clearly. I felt panic and embarrassed, I wanted the meltdown to stop ASAP. I was worried about what people were thinking about me, my parenting, my daughter.
2. She Needed More Time: As I rushed her to calm (in order to save myself from embarrassment), I lost track of what she needed. My daughter is slow to warm to new situations and new people. She is also slow to cool off after feeling big emotions. She needs more time. Calming her down cannot be rushed, even in this public place.
3. We Both Need to Review Calming Strategies: From time to time, it’s good to go back to the basics. I realized that we need to practice and prepare for these times of high energy, anxiety and frustration. It had been a while since a meltdown of this size, so we were both out of touch with what we needed to do to get back to a calm state.
4. Some People Really Do Care (not just stare): Not everyone looked at me with judgmental glances. Some parents offered support. I am really thankful for those moms and dads who reached out to help. Even though there was nothing they could do, their supportive gestures and words of encouragement meant the world to me.
5. I Did The Best I Could: I am not a perfect parent. As I look back on this event, I can see things I could have done differently to support my daughter in her time of distress. I could beat myself up for not being more perfect in the moment, but I cannot go back. I can only use this information to change how I react to the next public meltdown.
And one more…
6. I felt like a failure, but I am not: As parents, we cannot define ourselves by the actions of our children. They are going to meltdown, tantrum, argue and whine. If we see this as a reflection of our failure as a parent, we will be discouraged. Refusing to give up shows that we are not failures, but imperfect parents working on new ways to build the relationship and connect with our kids even when things are challenging, messy or inconvenient.