Meltdown City

image: tiffany terry

C has crazy, scary, unpredictable meltdowns. It usually begins with something I say innocuously.

“Please take off your paint shirt before you go in the living room.”

Or something she does, or something that happens. Something I would never imagine would set off the cycle…

“I can’t button my pants!”

“My raisin fell on the floor!”

“I can’t reach that!”

“You put my syrup on top of my pancake instead of beside!”

…turn into yelling, angry face, awful words, hysterical crying, “please hold me, Mama, don’t go, just hold me”, tears streaming, turning into hysterical laughter and the exhausted calm and the “I’m so sorry, Mama. I was just so angry.”

We’ve tried deep breathing. We’ve discussed that all problems have solutions, if you can stay calm long enough to figure it out. It’s that “stay calm long enough” part that tends to be an issue.

She isn’t a spoiled kid, in fact, she is a wonderful, kind, empathetic girl. She doesn’t like to freak out. It exhausts her. She even knows she needs some self-regulation and asks to do yoga after she regains her sanity. (Thank you CosmicKids Yoga on YouTube. You are a necessity in this house.) I know that with time and maturity, (hopefully) she will improve her ability to manage her emotions.

Prior to staying home with the girls, I was an early childhood specialist, doling out advice to frustrated parents who didn’t know how to deal with their child’s out of control behavior.

“He’s doing that for attention. Just let him cry it out in his room. It may take some time. He is in control of you when you let his throw the fit in front of everyone. Remove him from the situation.”

I see now that despite the training and education I was drawing from, I had no idea what I was talking about. I want to go back and apologize to all of those parents. I had at that point so far only dealt with a very compliant 4 year old of typical fit-throwing abilities, and a classroom full of special needs preschoolers who spent just 3 hours of their day with me. I feel as though teachers often are absorbed into their bubble of time and space, and although what they (we) do is very important, we forget that we see our children but a fraction of their lives, and really can’t get the whole picture of what is going on with these kiddos. In my own circumstance, I can look back and see that although I felt like I knew these children inside and out, I knew just a small piece about them, and most likely not enough to venture into advice territory. Perhaps just active listening and compassion would have been a better choice. But alas…that was another lifetime ago.

For a long time, I just felt like an awful mother during C’s meltdowns. It was so frustrating, and time consuming, not to mention trying to keep a schedule and get anywhere on time is next to impossible when you don’t know when the hurricane is about to hit. I practiced my own advice, and found that tossing her in a room by herself only made things worse (as I had cautioned other parents that it would) but instead of eventually calming down, she would just become emotionally frantic. Threatening consequences, bribing with rewards, throwing my own fit…there was no solution and mainly made things worse.

My philosophies have grown and changed since my teaching days. I keep a quote from GHF on my refrigerator now, “The times when kids need your love most may be the times when they behave in the most unloving ways. Try to understand what is happening in their heads and their hearts and address that first.” I re-read it frequently.

The Explosive Child, by Ross Greene is the most helpful book about parenting that I have read in awhile. It gave me some answers, some strategies, and gave me hope that I am not the world’s worst parent. The Highly Sensitive Child, by Elaine Aron was encouraging as well, and helped me understand both of my little girls more completely.  I’ve learned that the most helpful thing I can do for C is weather the storm. hold her when she needs me to, and let her be. Sit on her bed, or lay beside her or hold her hand until she is able to calm down. Let her know that I support her when her emotions become too much, and improve my patience with her during the challenging times.

There are good days, and bad days, and there are just age-typical “I want my own way” days, which are an animal of their own requiring their own response. At the end of the day, though, I make it a point to have the girls find one or two of the best things about the day, and finish it on a positive note, concentrating on the happy moments and proud moments rather than the difficult ones.

Because as Roald Dahl wrote…” if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”


Something I Wrote Once

My girl is that unusual one…
The activist, making signs to “save the prairie dogs” at the soon-to-be developed field
Reading the book about the Civil War, crying throughout dinner
Over those who perished in the war, unable to take a bite.
Who is able to meet adults, professionals
And have eloquent discussions with them
Yet is too nervous to leave the house to meet a group of girls her own age.
Who blurts out a passage of a book that she has memorized
Because she is not certain of what to say,
And wants to be part of the conversation
Who answers big questions with good vocabulary
While her face is dripping with the water of melted ice,
Because she loves how it feels on her face
Whose hands are cracking, dry, because she hates the feel of lotion
Who flaps like a bird and stomps her feet when she gets excited
Quirks others don’t understand…
The excitement that comes from reading the best part of the book
Saving an animal from harm
Finishing the math problems without help
Writing a story
Seeing something beautiful
Christina Rossetti
Abraham Lincoln
Ghost stories
Watching documentaries about anything prehistoric.
The solar system. The human body.
Who loves anatomy and practices cutting with a scalpel,
Dreaming of her future career as a surgeon
Who can tell me the species of
And intricate details about almost any bug or bird we meet
Who is teaching her little sister how to read and spell
Who can learn just about any new skill in five minutes.
Ten, if it’s difficult.
Who wakes up in the night, crying because her pajamas no longer feel “right”
Who feels the most miniscule rock in her shoe, or chair, or anything she has to touch
Who asks me to put my hand on her lungs to confirm she is still breathing while she sleeps
Who senses my stressful mood before I do, and expresses my emotions before I realize them
Who expects lifelong friendship and connection after playing with a stranger for five minutes.
And is heart broken when that is not the case.
Who speaks of life and death and the existential beyond
With the understanding of a philosopher
Who remembers events and details about everything more fully than I can ever hope to.
Who loves to learn like a bird loves to fly
And fly she will, someday.
For now, she will swing on the pendulum,
The intensity of the sun
The feelings of a 5 year old
With the intuition of an adult
The reasoning of a sage
With the tantrums of a child
And an open heart, naive and vulnerable
To everything and everyone around her. was kind enough to publish this on their blog here. They have many fantastic resources for parents of gifted children and 2e children, and a discussion forum that is invaluable. This year, SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) is offering GHF supporting members a special discounted rate at their annual conference. This is a great opportunity to learn new information about supporting the social and emotional needs of our gifted learners, find support in the gifted community, and meet some great people. More information can be found at GHF here, and more details regarding the conference can be found at SENG here.