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It’s a heartbreaking meltdown kind of day

It started like any other day.  Lovebug coming downstairs to greet me with a “Good morning, Mommy!” when she got up.  Then it went downhill in a hurry.  She wanted oatmeal (gluten free, of course) for breakfast.  Simple enough, right?  Since we are working on her motor skills & coordination, it provides a great way for her to practice independence.  Measuring the oats, pouring them into the bowl, measuring the water, pouring that into the bowl, and then pushing the right buttons on the microwave.  It’s rolled oats (not the quick kind), but we still often cheat and cook it for 2 minutes in the microwave.

So far so good.  A little trouble pouring the oats into the measuring cup and I could tell she got more frustrated than usual, but I let it go.   Then, she wanted warmed up strawberries in her oatmeal too.  No problem.  I throw some frozen strawberries in a bowl, heat them up and that’s it.

She wanted to pour the strawberry “sauce” into her oatmeal herself.

Fine.

Only she couldn’t.  If I didn’t know how truly hard it really was for her it would have almost been comical to see her trying to pour this little bowl into a bigger bowl.  She was twisting her arm in ways like she was trying to perform an underhanded trick or something.  She just could not get her brain to make her arm move the way she wanted it to.

She got very very frustrated.

Evidently, I made it worse when I tried to help her and have her practice it a couple times because I was “making her do it over and over and over and over!”.

We took a break and sat on the sofa hugging as I consoled her.  In the middle of that she had a meltdown over some bug bites that were itching.  I’ve seen that before.  The kicking, the jerking, the “GET IT OFF OF ME NOW” movements that look like she’s being attacked by fire ants.  That’s how she used to be with her panties and socks.  Finally, I got her to use some words and we put medicine on them to stop the itching.

Once she was calm, we went out on the patio to have a nice breakfast and enjoy the cool temperatures.   I thought we were good.  I knew she was extra tired today, but I thought we were going to be ok.

NOPE.

Our neighbor friends came over for a while, and Lovebug was playing with the little boy.  No big deal  – happens all of the time.  After a while, I told her we need to clean up and go to the grocery store.

Usually, she would have been happy to, because 1) she loves going to the store, and 2) she knows we’ll see these friends again later.

NOT TODAY.

Today, she came inside and fell apart crying like she was never going to see this friend again.  Seriously.  On the floor crying and everything.

At that moment, I declared it “one of those days”, and I knew we needed to get some extra rest today as well as some sensory input.  Maybe she didn’t sleep well last night, but something set her off and even she knows she is extra tired and sensitive today.

Unfortunately, it means I also had to cancel plans to go to another friend’s house tonight for a cookout.  On days like this, it gets worse before it gets better and I knew taking her to another situation where she would be overstimulated and up late would not be a good idea.  Thankfully, my friend totally understands and we quickly made plans for a playdate at the park to feed the ducks & have a picnic in a few days.

I spent an hour laying on my bed holding Lovebug and letting her cry.  She was a mixture of emotions.  Tired, disappointed about not seeing her friend, upset with her body for failing her, not knowing why she was so upset, and just plain worn out.  She was crying so hard and nothing could console her.  I did my best to “manage” it and reminded her to take deep breaths so she didn’t end up making her tummy hurt.  Often when she cries this hard, she swallows so much air that her tummy ends up hurting.

I finally needed a break.  I told her she was welcome to be tired – even to cry because she’s tired – and I would hold her as much as she wanted today.  I would not, however, continue to listen to her be upset about not seeing her friends.  I tried to explain to her that she was upset about not seeing people that we will see again soon – the neighbor, probably the next time we step outside, and the other friend in a few days at the playdate.  I reminded her she isn’t missing out on anything that will never happen again.  I told her she needed to spend some time in her room alone.

At this stage in the meltdown, there is no reasoning with her.  She was now getting upset about “being all alone”.  I stayed calm and sweet as I explained to her that she was going to go into her room and have some time to “get it all out” and to get rid of being upset about her friends.  When she was ready to come out and “just be tired”, then I would be happy to help her all I could.   I turned on her soft music, put her in her sensory swing, gave her a couple of her favorite stuffed animals, kissed her and told her I’d be back in 30 minutes to check on her.

This is a classic example of a meltdown versus a tantrum.  She is not in control of her emotions right now, and that just makes her more frustrated.  It breaks my heart when she’s like this because I can’t help make it go away any faster, I can just love on her and wait for it to pass.  We haven’t had a meltdown like this in a very long time, and for that I’m thankful.  I’m also thankful that God has given me so much compassion for times like this.  It took a long time for us to understand what was happening during these moments, but now I recognize it right away.  Oh, how far we’ve come….and how far we still have to go!

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2 comments to It’s a heartbreaking meltdown kind of day

  • Good luck with the rest of your day. I hope you are fully rested. I find that it is often after the meltdown that I have some of the greatest moments with the kids and we make real breakthroughs to discover how they can learn to recognize the meltdown before it happens and ask for their sensory tank to be filled. Unfortunately, most of the true meltdowns are hard to avoid, but your compassion for her comes through clearly and is a gift from God to equip you to be her Mom.

  • Sam

    My son is just entering the terrible twos (19 months) so we are having meltdowns/tantrums all of a sudden. He’s been so easy up to now, that we haven’t really learned how to deal with them. I enjoyed reading your post to see how love and compassion (and sometimes time alone) work wonders.
    I hope the day gets better.

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