Updated: Apr 6, 2019
I am shattered. This afternoon I witnessed a horrendous meltdown and, for the first time in as long as I can remember, it didn’t happen to one of my children.
We were asked to leave a building by another door in order to reduce the risk to the child. Mine couldn’t handle the change to routine and hid behind a door, refusing to come out and angrily shouting. I explained what was happening and how we could help. I wanted her to help and to leave by the other door but she wouldn’t and I was furious with her. I felt that she could/should have handled the change and that at that moment in time, she would see that the little boy’s need was greater than her’s. I was angry with her as we walked to the car, as she cried in the car and even when she suddenly snapped out of it and started talking and laughing about her day.
I could measure out the whole of my parental life in meltdowns; indoor, outdoor, public, private, long, short, hourly, daily, self-injurious, injurious to me. Every one different and yet all having one thing in common. They are most desperately painful to those having them. They are the expression of terror, a feeling of such wrongness that it must be escaped at all costs. It’s tough for the parents of course, hideously tough, because most attempts to stop them fall short and leaving the parents feeling crushed and useless. But the suffering of those having them is truly awful. Meltdowns must simply work themselves through and all you can do is try to keep your child as safe as possible and comfort them afterwards. Parents try desperately to reduce the fears of their children and that responsibility can be stifling. Life shrinks and becomes purely about keeping your child calm. Any risky activities are discounted and there are days when leaving the house can be abandoned all together. There is simply no point in taking the risk.
This time last year my child had a catastrophic meltdown that meant that well over a hundred children had to leave a building by another door. They filed out quietly, without any fuss and it was my daughter that suffered the consequences. It was unfair of me to expect her to either remember or empathise. I have no right to feel this way. This did not happen to me and I should be grateful and not sad. My frustration with my child was unreasonable and more about the horror of my own memories rather than her refusal to do as she was asked. I think it was just a reminder that I can never feel confident that the meltdowns will stop permanently. Both of my children have them, although my son’s are less frequent now. I felt desperate for the child and terrible for the parents. They would have known the risk of sending a replacement to collect their child and would have been hoping beyond hope that it would be OK. It wasn’t and they will feel like crap.
I hope his parents will be alright tonight. I hope the little boy has recovered and feels that the world is safe again. I wish I could have helped simply by managing to get my own child out of the other door.
Instead I’ll write her a card. I’ll send it via the person that knows who the parent is and only if they say it is OK. All I can say is this:
‘I know that your son had a tough afternoon and I also know how upset you will be that he was so distressed. All I want you to know is that in time the world will become less frightening to him and that things will get easier. Sending best wishes from a parent just like you x’