Sunday, September 2, 2012
The Mother of all Meltdowns
So this past Friday, I dealt with an event I honestly hadn't dealt with in almost a year-and-a-half--a meltdown from my three (and a-half) year old son. And we're not talking about just any meltdown--we're talking about an apocalyptic size meltdown. The swinging, screaming, flailing, 'oh-my-goodness I think that child is possessed' kind of meltdown. Don't get me wrong, we are no strangers to meltdowns. Thankfully, they have become fewer and far between as the 'terrible two's' drift further and further into the sunset. Just not like this.
And where did it happen? In the sanctity of our home surrounded by four insulated walls and at least twenty feet of 'thank God we have space between our neighbors' privacy? Oh no. That would have been too easy. That would have barely broken a sweat. That would have ended as swiftly as it began with a stern, 'we don't behave that way--go to your room until you can calm yourself down' approach. Oh meltdowns at home how I love thee! Did it happen in the car when Icould react with the stealthiness of supermom and say, 'if you continue behaving this way I am going to turn the car around right now mister and we are not going to the park?" Nope. Of course not. That would have been too easy too.
Rather, it happened at approximately 2:45 pm on Friday afternoon. I had just picked up my son from mother's day out and we were walking out to the car. I could tell he was still in that twilight "half-awake half-asleep--I was woken up from my nap about an hour too early" state and had already vowed to go straight home after picking up my daughter and give him another little cat-nap before dinner. But, we didn't even make it to the car. About ten steps from the front doors of the church where we attend, the meltdown of meltdowns began with a simple "no you cannot climb on the rocks" reprimand. Suddenly it was chicken little the sky is falling. And of course, at the same time that my son is raging through this meltdown of meltdowns, about twenty moms are walking out hand in hand with their little Suzie-q's and Sammy sunshine's. To make matters worse this was our second day at this mother's day out program. Of course, he had never done this at the others mother's day out program that we just spent two years at, where I knew other moms and they knew me. Knew that my child was normally a sweet, well-behaved three-year-old (I use the word usually in a loose term here, because like I said, we have had our share of moments where I would just like to sprinkle myself with some invisible dust and magically disappear). Nothing quite like motherhood to help you swallow that huge piece of humble pie.
I decide to move him off to the side so we are not blocking the only pathway to the parking lot and start trying to reason with him, trying to strike the balance of not letting him get his way, without creating a scene straight out of the exorcist. It doesn't work. Now, to paint the entire picture for you, you must envision me precariously juggling with one hand an extra cushiony nap mat (you know the blue and green kind that fold up like a fan and are approximately 3 inches thick but a more than a foot thick when folded up), his backpack, a folder they insist on me taking home each and every day that does not fit into said backpack and a small doggy pillow; while the other hand is holding on to my son for dear life while he flails like a wild animal trying to escape a predator and make a beeline straight for the busy parking lot. This continues for fifteen LONG minutes in the 102 degree hot Texas August afternoon sun among thirty or so other moms who I swear could be nominated for mother of the year. I don't look at them. I don't look at anyone except my son who I am trying desperately to calm down and regain some shred of control over not to mention a minuscule amount of dignity. I finally decide 'to hell' with it, clamp onto his small little hand and bolt for the car. We finally make it, where he continues to flail and scream as I try to buckle him in. At this point, the parking lot has mostly cleared out. Thank heaven!
For the next two minutes I just sit in my car with my head on the steering wheel relishing in the cool blast of the A/C while the sweat pores down my back and I cry. I cry because I am embarrassed. I cry because I feel like a terrible mom. I cry because I worry what kind of child I am raising. I cry because at the moment I have the irrational feeling that every other mother in the universe is a better mother than I am.
Eventually I put the car in drive, wipe away my tears, brush back the stray hairs that have clung to my cheeks and head in the direction of my daughter's school. My son falls asleep on the way, I fall asleep when we get back home. We survived. That night after my son got out of his bath and we were putting on his pajamas, he touched my face with that same little hand that five hours earlier was swinging at everything in sight, and said "I love you, Mommy." To which I of course smiled, wrapped him in my arms and said, "I love you too, Tyler."
I have decided to share this with you because my mom has often said that when she looks back on the early years of her battle with breast cancer, she can see things much clearer now. Of course, that's the tricky part of life. Hindsight is always 20/20. At the time she tried to hang on to every second, every birthday, every holiday - not knowing if that was going to be her last one with us. She tried to hold on to the good times. But the tough times were never far away. Those tough days, the days she thought might just be the death of her - literally- were just as much an integral part of her survival as were the warm, fuzzy days. Now, with more relaxed eyes and with a lot more distance from those 'yesteryears' , she says that it was probably because of those those tough days that she was able to survive it all. They were the distraction she never knew she really needed. Something to shift her focus away from the all-consuming 'I have breast cancer' thought. The 'I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend' thoughts sneakily crept in and took precedence and without her even realizing it those distractions were a necessary part of her climb to the top of the mountain. My mom told me once, that she was so much more than cancer ever could be. Now I understand - in part anyway what she meant. Don't focus on the cancer. Live your life to the fullest - and make sure you have plenty of distractions along the way. Oh yeah, and if you have kids, congratulations, look no further, you have found your distractions. Arguing over what she can wear to school in the morning and practicing piano, homework in the afternoon, driving to and from swimming, gymnastics, softball, football, getting dinner on the table, bath time, story time, sticky hugs, gummy-faced smiles, and yes, even those tantrums. They are all a part of you. And at the end of the day, when you are writing in your journal you can give thanks for each and every one.