How I Choose to Handle my Kid’s “Meltdowns”


MeltdownsWe sit across the table from each another in the restaurant. Her kid is sitting perfectly still in a booster seat. My kid is trying to escape his chair by sliding under the armrest. Her kid is staring at mine. My kid has colored more of the drink menu than the kids menu when I wasn’t looking. She’s talking to her little girl; her daughter is answering back. A sort of call and response straight out of that scene in “The Sound of Music” when Maria is teaching the kids how to sing while riding around in a horse-drawn carriage. My little boy’s talking/whining/crying is growing louder. He’s clearing the table of the cars I brought to keep him occupied.

I’m trying to stay calm and redirect him as I escape into my Diet Coke Happy Place. This is feeling more like an awkward blind date than a fun-filled play date.

Yes, I’m the one with the cartoon-esque frazzled hair. Yes, I’m probably wearing the same t-shirt I had on the last time she saw me. Yes, I have my hands full. But we don’t dine out together a lot. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time. We’ve known each other our entire lives, so I know she meant well, but I was still surprised when she suggested I “talk to his pediatrician on ways to handle his meltdowns”. And then my surprise gave way to insult.

Because I don’t think he’s melting down. He’s an almost 2.5 year old boy. He’s a toddler! And he’s “busy”. He has more energy than he knows what to do with. (I don’t know what to do with it either.) He doesn’t like to sit for extended periods of time in restaurants. Really, he doesn’t like to sit at all.

And I don’t want to “handle” him.

Because more than anything, I desperately want him to be himself. Because he’s strong-willed, stubborn, energetic, a wild child, whatever you want to call it. But I accept him as he is. Because I really wished and prayed and tried for him. And he’s mine now. Because of him, my life is barely recognizable compared to the life I had before. And it’s changed for the better. And he’s just like me. And that, to me, is pretty much a miracle.

In fact, in some ways I wish I could be more like him. Because he can express his table-clearing displeasure and dissatisfaction in ways I can only dream of as an adult.

Yes, some days are rough. But I’m not suffering. Yes, life with my toddler is a whirlwind. But it’s my life, and I accept that. Yes, some days I am a hot mess. But that has everything to do with trying to juggle my roles at work and at home. I am growing and learning in my role as his mommy as much as he is growing and learning himself.

Since that day at lunch, when I am out and about and see a child “melting down”, I find myself cracking a smile. I try to stop short of chuckling. I am struck by how much solidarity I feel with the parent, and I send some positive vibes their way. Because I know now that those are my kind of parents. The kind who need play dates that are less trendy restaurant and more rock pile. If you are one of those parents, know that I am with you in spirit. And just remember, karma will make sure that we will have the last laugh.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here