Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fixing a Mommy Meltdown

We all have our low moments. Those moments where you can't even pretend to be that even keeled mother who reacts exactly like a parenting book says you should. The moment when you just lose it.

I had one a few weeks ago. It was a big one. The girls still talk about it, in hushed voices and warnings against any future behavior.

I exploded. I yelled. I shamed. I exaggerated the long term impact. I gave them the silent treatment while they cried. No, I didn't get physical, but I doled out plenty of emotional attacks, the kind that you are NEVER supposed to do.

And then, when I calmed down, I felt horribly guilty. I still feel pretty guilty. I feel a little justified in getting upset (you'll see why in a minute), but I still can't forgive my own explosion.


It's a few weeks ago. That morning Reagan was at school, and Madison and I did our schoolwork at Starbucks. It still felt like summer and Starbucks had their mini Frappucinos on some sort of special. Either you got bonus stars, or they were on sale, or something, and I decided to treat Madison to one after she finished her work. We went through the non-coffee options and she decided on some sort of chocolate concoction. Since we got it on the way out, she put it in her cupholder.

Lunch, Reagan pick up, and off to Kohl's to get some fall clothes on sale. En route, I asked Madison if she'd finished the drink, and she said she had. Whenever we arrive at any store, I ask the girls to gather up any trash from the backseat and throw it away. On this particular trip, Madison had a small bag with trash, and I assumed the finished drink was in there. I didn't look.

We got back into the car after a successful shopping trip where I bought clothes for the girls and nothing for me. The girls climbed into their seats as I loaded the bags into the trunk. Then I heard a fateful "uh oh".

What did "uh oh" mean?

Well, Reagan was thirsty. Maybe. She was whiny, and that sometimes comes out as thirsty or snacky. So Madison, being a kind sister, took the melted, separated, nearly full Frappucino, which was very much unfinished and still in the car and tried to pass it over.

And Reagan dropped it.

The lidded, dark chocolatey drink hit the middle seat between them, the top popped off, and a chocolate volcano exploded in my backseat. It didn't just spill. It didn't just get on the seat.

The girls were covered. The car seats were covered. Everything in the backseat was covered. The doors, the floor, the ceiling. Covered.

Covered in a milk based, chocolate drink. In summer.

I lost it so badly. I am generally not a yeller, but I yelled. A lot. I yelled at them for being careless. For taking my beautifully clean, literally, vacuumed that morning car and turning it back into disgusting mess. They had no pride in other people's work, or in my things. I yelled at Reagan for spilling. I yelled at Madison for having me spend money on a drink that she had no intention of drinking, and for lying to me about it.

I yelled about the time it would take to clean up. I yelled about how I'd just spend MORE money on them. I threatened not to bring Madison to dance, now that I'd need to spend MORE time cleaning up. I was sarcastic. I was mean. It was not pretty.

I mopped up the worst of it and we drove home with a combination of electric silence (me) and quiet tears (them). I had them put their stained clothes to soak as I tried to get more thorough. I fumed and seethed as I wondered how one even goes about cleaning a car ceiling.

And then the guilt set in. And regret was quick to follow. It was an accident. A messy one, but an accident.

So now what? How do I fix my tantrum? How do I take back those mean, sarcastic, biting comments? That atmosphere of anger and fear we'd driven home in?

What did I really want the girls to take from this?

We sat down. I calmly told them I'd lost my temper. I told them why I'd lost my temper - that I was frustrated by messes. And then I apologized for how I reacted. I told them that when people get upset, we don't always think smartly about how to use our words. We make bad choices. And we can't take those words back, but we can own up to those words. We can apologize, acknowledge that we didn't react smartly, and go about setting things right.

They helped me clean up the car. And we made a new rule about what drinks are and aren't allowed.

Unrealistic to think that Mommy meltdowns won't happen, but like that car ceiling, they can be cleaned up later.
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