It happened again… We could not make it through the day without yelling, throwing/slamming something, and of course crying… I wish I was just talking about my children, but sadly I am not, I am also talking about myself.
Most people in our life know what my children’s meltdowns look and/or sound like, but few know of mine. I was raised to always put your best face forward, whether that was your true face or not, because you should never let anyone see your flaws and weaknesses. It is only through the grace of Al-Anon that I am finally accepting that I can cry in front of people and not be ashamed. Although this is going be extremely hard for me to write, I need to do it. So here is the story of the Mommy Meltdown. The events may vary but the reactions, feelings and actions are usually the same…
It was a bad day. The girls were “off” and having various behavior issues. I was exhausted and fighting depression (not sure why, but I know the signs well enough to know that is what my problem was). The day turned into what felt like an ocean of quicksand that we could not climb out of. One “bad” thing led into the next and even if we squeezed a little “good” in there, it was not enough to escape the horrible hole we seemed to be in. I could feel it happening and the more I fought it, the more it seemed to engulf me. It was the dreaded Pity Train with my VIP seat in the “Woe is Me” section, and they were serving “Why I am Cursed” for a snack. I HATE myself when I get like this and that makes my frustration spiral even more out of control, which causes me to be a beast that cannot control her emotions.
As I was fighting my own emotional and mental battle, I was trying to put on a happy face for the kids so I could pull them out of meltdown town, but nothing was working. It was not working because you cannot fool children; they feel EVERYTHING, even the emotions and negativity we fight so hard to hide. They are little sponges whose feelings and actions are directly linked to how their parents feel and behave. So I accepted that we were all just going to be miserable, but we could at least try to make the best of it. For the most part we did well, and even had some great spurts of uncontrollable giggles and crazy, fun screams. Then we would hit a snag, something would go wrong and I would become the screamy mommy, yelling and having a meltdown over a seemingly insignificant thing. “How Important Is It?” would pop into my head, and I would start to calm myself down. Thankfully my girls love me no matter what, because at the time I was so disgusted with myself I had to walk away to avoid crying.
The final straw for the day was attempting to brush Beth’s hair after bath time. I put Anne in the bedroom and closed the gate so she could play while I tackled the unpleasant task. Beth cannot stand having her hair brushed most nights, but I can usually get through it with minimal meltdowns if Anne is not bothering her. Well my plan backfired, she was actually worse, and to top it off Anne was standing at the gate screaming too. Her hair was really bad, and it needed to be brushed, so I strapped her in the booster chair and started again. We had to take breaks, she was screaming, sobbing, flailing, barely able to catch her breathe. It was HORRIBLE! I would give her a break; try a new approach (favorite show, singing songs, brush lighter, slower, faster, etc…), nothing was working and I was quickly losing patience. There was an argument going on inside me head. First, “You know she has problems with this, you know how hard it is for her, just be patient, be kind, and help her.” Then, “We do this every night, when will she learn, it is just hair brushing, come one Beth you know it has to be done just let me do this.”
After what seemed like an eternity of two kids screaming and me pleading, I lost it. I yelled at her, yelled at Anne, yelled at the air, threw her toy bin until it made enough of crash to upset everyone even more, then sat down at the desk and collapsed in tears. I was so ASHAMED, how could I yell at her for something out her control? How could I let them see me behave so APPALLING? How did I let my frustration and temper get the better of me? I just had to sit, cry, say the Lord’s Prayer, chant the Serenity Prayer, and try to breathe for almost 10 minutes before I went over and begged for forgiveness from my children.
I decided the hair was good enough, and put it in a ponytail. There was always tomorrow, and we just could not handle anymore stress tonight. I unhooked Beth, let Anne out of the bedroom, put on a Classical Baby, grabbed our favorite toys and headed to the recliner where we cuddled until both girls fell asleep. It was the perfect end to a dreadful day. They love me unconditionally, which is something I need to learn how to do for myself.
I do not want to my children to have to forgive me, but I am not perfect and I will make many more mistakes in the future. The important part is to learn to forgive myself when it happens and use it as a teachable moment for my girls. As I progress in my Al-Anon program, I will learn to control my mood swings better, and I will learn that I can release my negative feelings in a more constructive way. I will learn to be a better me, which will make me a better mother. I will eventually become in-tune with myself enough to recognize and heed the warning signs, so that I may THINK before I act or speak. A prayer that I am finding particularly useful these days is from One Day At A Time In Al-Anon: “When I am tempted or pressured into irrational behavior, I pray that I may stop and think before I do or say anything whatever. I ask God to remove these impulses and help me to grow into the person I want to be.” Of course I always have the wonderful, centering Serenity Prayer as well.
Autism Proud – Journey With Us – by Jest Tu Positive by Dorothy Stronglove is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.