I have worked with children in one form or another for most of my life. I know what a meltdown looks like. In several forms. From uncontrollable sobbing due to an aggressive seagull to table-smashing chair-throwing screaming meltdown due to a change in lighting in a familiar room. I have a very particular type of career and I will tell you more about that another day.
With that being said, one of the things I was unprepared for about raising children is the number of meltdowns they have.
From about 18 months old, The Girl has had meltdowns over things that baffle me. One notable time was in the pastery section of a well known budget superstore with my Mum in tow. Grandma has hold of the toddler backpack reigns & the then 20 month old didn’t understand the concept of pay first. This resulted in a full-scale, lieing on the floor paddy that was utterly unstoppable. Once she gets to screaming there is very little that will get through to the child underneath, you have to wait out the first wave of anger and try to regain some common sense when she pauses for breath. If your lucky.
That meltdown though, made some sense. And I think with that age group you expect it sonewhat. Our current struggle is the meltdowns of a three and a half year old. Gone are the days where she had no language so the tantrums can be explained away by frustration because she can’t communicate. Now they are even more baffling.
Reasons my three-and-a-half year old has had a meltdown today:
• she woke up
• the door was open
• the door was shut
• she needed a wee
• the toilet seat was up
• I put the toilet seat down for her
• her brother was in the room
• the green spoon was dirty
• her throat hurt
• she wasn’t hungry
• she wanted her brothers straw
• her brother sat on my lap
• her brother cried (she made him cry)
• she was crying (I mean...!)
• Daddy is at work
• Mummy is going to work tomorrow & Daddy already goes to work
• she had to go to pre-school
• she sat on her brothers hand by accident
• I made her get changed but she had a stuffy nose
• her favourite show isn’t on CBeebies back-to-back
• her favourite show is on but she wanted her other favourite show...
...this list is not exhaustive, and she was at pre-school for half of the day.
When she gets to screaming inconsolably, I am never sure of the best cause of action. Distraction doesn’t work anymore and I have read conflicting advice about ‘ride it out’ or ‘nip it in the bud.’ I know I’m biased, but I don’t think it’s about her being a ‘naughty’ child either. I know, she’s a ‘threenager’ & it’s common at this age, but it’s not really about defiance. Often, when you finally get to the bottom of the issue, she doesn’t really know what is wrong. I feel like it is worse when she is tired and hungry, but being well rested & well fed does not remove the chances of a meltdown altogether. As we approach the end of term it is worse because she is drained, even if she is only two and a half days a week at preschool. Some downtime at Christmas will do her some good, but won’t remove the possibility of a meltdown. For now we are going to have to accept that it is to do with the age, learning to manage powerful emotions that we take for granted and deal with each one as it happens, giving both of us time and space to deal with things and process events.
Meanwhile, as The Boy demands to be in charge of walking the dog, and screams relentlessly when he isn’t allowed to because we are by a road on in a busy place, I am reminded that we have more of this to come.
He’s 18 months now.
Here we go again...