I have parental meltdowns. Not often, but occasionally my emotions just seem get the better of me. It could be that I am tired, stressed, disconnected from the kids or my husband or that I have been pushed to the brink by my spirited children. Either way, I know it shouldn’t happen. I know I have to work harder to keep my emotions in check. I know that each time I lose it with my children, it affects them and it affects our relationship.
I have blogged previously about some of these moments but never have i stopped to consider the importance of repairing the relationship with a child following a parental meltdowns. This would be a process whereby I would take responsibility for my actions, swallow my pride and model humility for the benefit of my children and our relationship.
I was able to practice this today and am overwhelmed at the difference it has made in the connection between my daughter and myself.
It all began when I was hanging the washing out. I was just outside the rumpus room and my two daughters Lucy (2.5 years) and Penny (1.5 years) were playing inside with the neighbour’s children (aged 8 and 6 years). The 6-year-old came to me to let me know she thought Penny had a dirty nappy. I thanked her and went straight inside to check.
As I got near to her, the eight year old pointed to the back of Penny’s leg and said ‘what’s that?’ I realised straight away that it was poo coming down the back of her leg and immediately the category one situation got ramped up to a category four!
I let Penny know that I needed to change her nappy and was just going to grab some supplies. As I turned to locate these supplies, a scuffle broke out between Penny and Lucy. I noticed Penny was now sitting on a ride-on car and Lucy was trying to get it from her.
Instead of calmly dealing with this situation, I made the split second decision to grab some wipes from just outside the room before intervening. As I left the room, I heard Penny’s cries shift from a scuffle whinge to a hurt cry. Sure enough, when I got within range I saw Penny sprawled on the floor and Lucy starting to climb on the car.
One of the older girls let me know that Lucy had pushed Penny. Now, at this point I was actually more cranky with myself for making the poor decision to leave the room than I was with Lucy for pushing Penny but it didn’t manifest that way. I grabbed Lucy quite roughly and abruptly put her on the ground away from the car before picking it up and angrily shouting: “No one is having the car now!” and shoving it up high out of reach without any further explanation.
I then picked Penny up and let her know I was going to change her nappy. I laid a towel on the floor in the room next door and proceeded to do so. Lucy entered the room and in a show of dislike for how the situation was handled, made a swipe at Penny which I was by then able to calmly block and divert with an: “I won’t let you hit Penny.”
After the nappy change, both girls went back to the rumpus room to play whilst I set about cleaning and disinfecting the car and the floor around the contaminated area. I then offered the cleaned car to Penny who by this stage was not interested and had moved on. I left it sitting there.
I then noticed Lucy sitting at her desk quietly drawing in her art pad. Having had time to reflect on the situation, something told me I needed to make reparations for my earlier parental meltdown. I knew I had handled the situation poorly and I wanted to try to acknowledge her feelings post event.
I moved near her and initiated a conversation. I started with, “You’re doing some drawings, huh?” and when I didn’t get a negative response I continued, pausing after each statement… “I’m sorry I lost my temper with you. I know you really wanted to sit on the car that Penny was on. I should have been more gentle with you when I moved you away. I was feeling frustrated and worried about all the poo and did not handle my emotions very well. I’m really sorry, sweetheart.”
At this point, Lucy stopped her drawing and stood up on her chair reaching up for me to pick her up. She then wrapped her arms around my neck and squeezed me hard into her with her little fingers.
As she cuddled me tightly like this for quite sometime, she calmly and matter-of-factly said: “That was my car.” letting me know with her limited articulation that she probably had the car first. I knew then, that she had been stewing over the incident as well. She had not simply gotten over it and moved on as it can be easy to think. She was internalising the event along with my reaction and further convincing herself that my love for her may not be as strong as it is for Penny or may be that it is conditional.
She continued to cuddle me for what seemed like forever before pulling my cheek towards her and lightly kissing it.
As far as ‘aha’ moments go, this was up there for me. How many times had I lost my temper with the girls but failed to resolve it with them, instead using the benefits of time to cure-all angsts?
Lucy had shown me not in words but in actions that she forgave me and furthermore appreciated that I had taken the time to talk through it with her. By speaking openly with her about my remorse, I could successfully dispel any of those horrible thoughts she may have been having about the depth of my love for her.
I listened to a podcast recently whereby Richard Fidler from ABC Local Conversations spoke with Dr Tina Payne Bryson, a psychotherapist about how a parent’s interaction with their children, particularly in moments of high stress, will affect how their children’s brains are ‘wired’. It was relieving to hear her say that, “it is impossible to be an intentional, thoughtful parent all the time”. She also stated that our children give us, “millions of opportunities to connect with them throughout their lives” through moments that are high stress.
I do think, however, that when I am not ‘thoughtful’ in my interactions with my children in a particular instance, it is important for me to make reparations with them in the aftermath and in doing so, recreate some of those opportunities for connection. It sure felt good doing this today.
You may also enjoy reading:
The Secrets to Successfully Sportscasting my Children’s Squabbles ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids
Respectful Parenting Is Not Always Easiest ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids
Bonding to Our Children Through Conflict ~ Janet Lansbury-Elevating Childcare