29 February 2012


Maddie and Riley are no different from most kids in many ways, one of them being the way they store up negative emotions for release with a safe person: ME. This means that while yes, they were very happy to see me this morning when they got up from school and yes, we had a lovely time telling each other about all the great things we'd done while we were apart, the proverbial shit hit the fan tonight.

It was the perfect storm:

• Saving up of lots of big emotions during our time apart.
• The arrival of a package from John's parents, which is super fun, but which always contains toys the kids want to play with Right Then when there's no time for much of that in the evenings.
• Exhausted kids, exhausted mama.

We opened the package before dinner (dumb move #1). Riley got this totally awesome LEGO kit from which you can build all kinds of Star Wars stuff. He got settled working on that while I got the delayed dinner ready (dumb move #1a, consequence of dumb move #1). Riley quickly got frustrated (tired child = child who has difficulty with LEGO directions). I advised him to wait for help after dinner. He plowed ahead. We had dinner. After dinner, I cleaned up and he plowed ahead some more. Then he waited for some help, but when I got there to help, things had become, uh, rather interpretive in the LEGO department and attaching the cool robotic arm was not really going to happen in a satisfactory way without some backtracking and redoing.

The world pretty much stopped turning for Riley at that point.

He proceeded to rail at me, rail at Maddie, rail at the universe. I told him that I was happy to help when he was in a state in which he could receive help. He railed some more. I repeated my offer of help, to either continue in the interpretive vein and figure something out, or backtrack and redo. More railing. I advised that it was getting into story time and perhaps it would be wise to put the LEGO decision off until morning, opting for some fun! Harry! Potter! instead.

More railing.

Finally, after much sitting and waiting (and a lot of patience from Maddie), offers for snuggles, and reiterations of help, I let Riley know that it was time to head upstairs for pajamas and bed and that there was time neither for finishing the LEGO project nor for stories.

Not really the first night home I wanted. It ended with brushed teeth and pajamas and two quick songs and big, big hugs and reassurances of love, but it was still a very rough evening.

I hate to see Maddie or Riley frustrated. I hate knowing that the frustration is from tiredness and other overwraught emotions, but knowing that such an explanation seems hollow to the frustrated child. I am proud of myself for not getting upset in this situation, but still feel like I wasn't much help. Would it have been better to just calmly go upstairs and let Riley know I'd be reading with Maddie and that he could join us when he calmed down? I feel like she suffered unjustly. I wanted nothing more than to just wrap Riley in a huge hug, but he wasn't ready for that until the very end of it all.

Oh, poor sweet baby. I missed them so much. I am grateful that the vacation gave me the grace to handle that situation kindly if imperfectly, but wish that it didn't feel like the vacation was indirectly responsible for the behavior in the first place.


Christie said...

Over at our house, real shit hit the fan. Sorry to hear about the bad night but, really, you lost me at LEGOs.

Mizasiwa said...

I dont think that the holiday caused it per se although it maybe exaserbated the situation a littl. With my son I have to disengage fromt he situation otherwise it sprials out of control. Any kind of attempt by me to assit the situation would have ended up in tears and screaming so I have had to learn to give clear instructions of my next move 'i am going with your sister to the bedroom to read when your ready you can join us' its really hard but works 9when I remember to do it that is ;-) i would have opened the gift too and yes that doesnt help but its also hard as a parent to ALWAYS be telling your kids that now is not the right time to do something and be constantly managing their time and your own. I hope that you feel better though. and so does he. kids are resiliant (im sure you know this already)

Lil'Sis said...

Hope you feel better, I wouldn't take the load on your shoulders here, it's not all happening b/c you went away, tired is just tired and when kids are tired this happens, you did great:) Rest up, more legos today I'm sure, thank goodness children are more resilient then us adults.

Anonymous said...

??? Christie, whatever's up with you must be pretty painful for you to lash out in that way. Snick of all people knows what really bad stuff is, know what I mean? I'm really sorry about whatever it is.

My experience, Snick, FWIW -- I never did have much success talking mine down out of a tantrum (this was true despite root cause of tantrum -- frustration, exhaustion, whatever combination of factors). No matter what I did, she tantrumed for the same length of time. After the tantrum burned itself out,and then we'd reach a sniff-and-cuddle stage.

Another thing -- don't beat yourself up about the vacation being in part a cause. I know what you mean, and it feels terrible, but I think it is a good thing that kids know that you also have a life, that they are not the center of your universe 100% of the time. Just 98% ;)


Snickollet said...


Thanks for the support. I'm glad to report that things were much better today. Some rest make such a big difference.

FYI, Christie is a IRL friend of mine, and I think you misinterpreted her comment. No harm, no foul, I just want Christie to see here that I know she wasn't all up in my business :).


Anonymous said...

This sounds like our house. Only we seem to be in this situation more regularly. I am trying to get a handle on dumb move #1 (i.e. having dinner ready too late), but I am not always successful. My kids have these meltdowns fairly often, it seems to be a matter of temperament. You'd think I know by now how to handle it, but no. Most of the time nothing helps. Give Maddie a huge compliment for being so patient the other day and I'd say ya'll handeld the situation very well. I know the feeling of inadequacy and the whole "should have's" that go through your mind. In reality there is no way to predict when Riley comes out of his funk.
(I actually think that going on a vacation has something to do with it, but that's unavoidable. We get this kind of behavior even when the kids were with us on the vacation... so there you go.)

- Fidi

Anonymous said...

Your pal Jen here (mom to ASH and E, to help you keep track of the Jens). Pretty much every time we have the kids spend a night at my dad's for a much-needed parental break, there are serious meltdowns and misbehaviors and shit when they return. It totally makes us wonder if it's even worth having them leave. Sigh. But it's still nice to have the break, and it's FABULOUS that you went to Mexico. If you hadn't gone, there would have been some other stupid meltdown about something else, because that's how kids are, and without the mental/physical break you might not have handled it so well. Or maybe I just think that because yesterday's delayed opening of school meant I didn't have to rush around getting everyone dressed and fed at the usual time, so at 8:37 I still hadn't had breakfast, and I totally fucking lost it. One kid was whining and crying and complaining about homework he could do perfectly well if he would just settle down and DO IT, then returning to the kitchen after handling that kindly and politely and understandingly, only to discover that the protein powder for my smoothie (which I had been trying to assemble, blend, and drink for about 45 minutes) had been blown all over the counter and floor by E, armed with a straw. Lotta yelling and banging of my hands on the counter. I need a vacation too. :-) We miss you and love you! You should come for a Boston visit this summer, just not in July because that's when we'll finally be taking OUR vacation, in Europe.

RG said...

Just happened to me, too! I went away for a week on a business trip (with some holiday thrown in), and the kids were heinous upon my return. It's exhausting, but it seems kind of necessary for small children to punish you for leaving them.