Being so afraid of your child having a meltdown that you have a meltdown instead….
….also known as the time I had a tantrum at Halloween.
Parenting is hard! Finding balance between preparing for the worst and being the worst. Being so afraid of your child acting like a monster, you act like a monster instead. This is the story of my parenting tantrum.
I stomped off from a family event in a huff, muttered the f word, overall acted like a monster–in front of my kids. In front of my parents In a public place. What a monster!
Let me go back to the very beginning. I am a human female person; a daughter, a sister, a sister-in-law, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a foster parent, a professional early intervention specialist. I am all of these things. On this day i was also acting like a monster.
My Parenting Tantrum: Setting the Stage
Our foster child was a challenging child. He had meltdowns–meltdowns that could not be reversed. This blog post is not about how to deal with a tantrum or how to avoid a tantrum. No, this post is about me.
We learned quickly that the best “cure” for his meltdowns was prevention. In fact we got so good at preventing them by reading his cues and by anticipating what would trigger him, we were living on edge. One of his triggers was being told no. As a result this made me a little tense– ok a lot tense– in public with him.
My Parenting Tantrum: Halloween Created the Perfect Storm
When we went Halloween trick-or-treating event we hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. So many variables and triggers: candy, costume, walking or stroller, other children, other children and adults in costumes, and the biggest one of all–spending the evening with my extended family.
My extended family had not spent very much time with him because traveling with him is hard. Because we are busy and so are they. They didn’t know our reality. They also have never had any dealings with children with special needs at all. Their children are a delight. My children are weird and do not always behave perfectly, and I know they judge us.
Nevertheless, we rode together enjoying a hay ride.
The Incident: “He’s Got to Learn”
When we found ourselves in a situation out of my control, I could feel my stress level rising. I asked to move. I was told no. I warned them our Little Monkey was about to have a tantrum if we didn’t move. I was told “well he’s got to learn.”
“He’s got to learn” comment made me snap.
In preparation of this big day, I thought of every possible scenario that would trigger a fit and how to avoid that. It took me weeks to think of a perfect costume that was sensory friendly (not only for him but us as parents.) We bent over backward orchestrating the entire day managing his nap and medication dosing times to make this evening ideal.
I was a nervous wreck.
We worked to get all seven of us in adorable costumes. We all had buckets, flashlights, accessories. Make up was applied. All were well fed. We arrived on time with the stroller, diaper bag, emergency toys, emergency change of clothes. I thought I had thought of everything.
I had not anticipated being slapped in the face by that attitude.
My Parenting Tantrum: The Moment I Snapped
It felt like my family was saying, “his behavior is your fault. If you taught him better he would not behave this way. You are not doing a good job.”
I acted like a horse’s ass. I said some things in a huff and stormed off. The things I said may have included a few curse words. I took me and my kid that “needed to learn” and took him back to the place we had parked out car and was fully prepared to leave this whole thing. I’ll be damned if I’ll stay in a place where my own family is trying to sabotage this perfect Halloween. Hell, I don’t want perfect I just want meh.
Kid was fine, by the way. No tantrum.
By the time I walked to my car I got a call from my husband and cried my way into my senses and decided to call and apologize and rejoin the group. I had to swallow a lot of pride that day. Still am.
My Parenting Tantrum: the Rest of the Story
As a result of a life of living in fear of one meltdown after another, I have worked myself into a constant state of tension. I lost it, and now I look like the one with the problem. No one knows why I lost it because they didn’t see him throw a fit. He was an angel. I was the one with an anger problem.
For months I heard things like “I don’t know what you are talking about, he was such a delight at Halloween.”
My Parenting Tantrum: Is There a Solution?
Maybe it would have been better for MY needs to let my kid to act like a monster having the world’s loudest and most violent tantrum at Halloween for everyone to see. It would have been just like a normal day for us.
In that case I would have been the angel and he would have been the monster. No, the path I chose was to work myself up and snap at my family, behaving like a monster, while equipping him to behave like an angel.
There is no advice, no tips, no right answer. The point here is parenting is hard and it is even harder when you have a child with a disability. It’s impossible if your people are not supportive.
In order to go trick or treating as a family, our choices are to deal with a child’s huge meltdown or my own huge meltdown. When these are your choices, there is no right choice.
The truth is there may have been another choice that I did not think of. Even now as I brainstorm, I cannot think of a scenario that would not have ended up with one of us having a fit. But who knows? Maybe those perfect parents out on the internet can tell me how I should have handled it. *sarcasm*
My Parenting Tantrum: What Do Others Have to Say?
In my shame, I did a little research and here’s what I found.
However unconsciously, most of us have discovered that our most potent defense is a strong offense. Consequently, when we feel denied or accused, we’re likely to block off our lurking fears, insecurities, and self-doubts by turning them back on our adversary. Which is the reason so many of us get mad—or even “lose it”—when our partner begins to make us question ourselves.
We’ve all had moments that we’ve been ashamed of our parenting, of how we screamed with rage, or threatened, or grabbed our kids, or really really wanted to smack them, then felt like we really really suck at parenting because of the fear we saw in their eyes.
The truth is that parental meltdowns are far more common than we think, even among parents who seem to have it all. With the fatigue, doubts, and kids who seem to have perfected the act of pushing our buttons, it’s next to impossible to keep up the charade of being super-competent parents.
My Parenting Tantrum: Nobody’s Perfect and Maybe I’m Not as Bad as I Think
A good friend of mine told me recently how she admired my parenting style. She said I was so calm with my children. I scoffed and said “well what about those times…. I yelled at ….so and so and… the time you saw me loose my cool about this and that.” She replied, “Well the thing is, you are calm until …you’re not.” We laughed but it is true. Most of the time I am calm, but I do have my limits I’m calm until I’m not.