Sunday, June 27, 2010

How A 5 Year Old Handles Being Overwhelmed

The 5K was yesterday- again, thank you all so so so much for all of your support and encouragement. It was a very emotional morning for me in unexpected ways.

Given that it was emotional on so many complicated and intricate levels for me, I guess I should have known that some of that would be passed on to Teagan. She, apparently, doesn't handle it well.

She did fine when I first passed the family. She saw me and yelled to me over and over and as I passed, she was so excited to tell me that she had just seen Miss Tori (preschool teacher).

Then they went to the next corner to wait for the finish. Teagan saw me and started yelling to me. As I got closer, she's yelling to me and then she yells out... "Where's Christy?" Good to know her focus was on mom, right?

Anyway, I cross the finish line and meet up with Tori and Christy and Ashli and Amanda and Ginger and Jeff is working his way over to meet us and I see that Teagan is... in tears. She wanted Mommy. She had thought I was going to stop when I got to them. And even as she now had Mommy, it took some time for her to calm down. But she did and we started the walk home.

We were enjoying our walk- at first, she and I walked and held hands and talked about the race and why some people go slow and some go fast and some walk and some run. Then she wanted to run, so I would "challenge" her to run to the black mailbox, the silver car, the third mailbox, etc. She had picked a dandelion and was running with it. She was about to run to the corner that would be just a few blocks away from our neighborhood when Zach asked to hold her flower. She said no and started to take off. I bent down and picked a dandelion to hand to Zach. Teagan runs up and tries to trade him. I tell her no- she wouldn't give him that flower when he asked so now he has his own.


Seriously- in case you don't understand- MELTDOWN CITY

She screamed and whined and cried. We ignored her and kept walking. She screamed that she wanted to pick a flower- so we encouraged her to do so. Then there was a ... WAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIL

Like none I've ever heard.

I think she might have wailed in a complete musical chord. Or maybe there was a demon about to escape from the bowels of her soul. Apparently, there was a bee or a fly or a gnat or maybe some dust on the dandelion.

The ignoring thing isn't working. The calm and helpful thing isn't working. I try to get her to sit down and chill out for a minute- didn't work. So I picked her up and threw her over my shoulder and took off down the road. She starts screaming that she's scared of heights (that's a new one). I tell her that I will put her down once she calms down. Calm down to get down. Calm down to get down. We are on our street before she finally stops. I put her down. The family keeps walking. She is crying that she doesn't want to be in trouble. Over and over and over and over.

We get home and I realize that the young lady who had been across the street from us when it all started had ended up walking behind us the whole way. Greeeeeeat. Teagan continues with her screaming and crying. I tell her that I love her and always will no matter what but that I didn't like the choices she was making at all. She responded by getting stuck in a new loop... "Why don't you love me anymore??? Why don't you love me??"

I so wanted to run out into the middle of the street and start doing my OWN screaming and crying! The meltdown continued indoors. We put her in her room - I really just needed distance from her and from all the drama. The personal meltdown going on in my head required that I not be the main enforcer of discipline for most of what was going on. This was MY day, MY morning, I wanted to celebrate my accomplishment with my family. I wanted to feel their pride and joy as I reflected back on the race. Instead, I was dealing with one of the biggest behavior disasters we'd seen in many, many months. It eventually stopped and her mood changed back to the normal Jekyll self.

I asked her about it all after we'd eaten our brunch at Bob Evans... why she fell apart, why she yelled and screamed and cried and wailed in such a way that I'd never seen before. Her only answer? I wanted a flower.

I'm sure that all of our neighbors- especially the ones we've never met before- loved the histrionic display going on down the streets of our little suburban neighborhood. I'm sure no one called CPS or watched out the window to make sure we weren't kidnappers or other horrible bad guys. I'm sure that no one watched and judged us as parents- seeing the frustrated, sweaty mom in her running outfit and race bib, the frustrated dad pushing the younger brother and the screeching banshee tossed over a shoulder. The only answer I could find later was that maybe all of that emotion of the day had just caught up to her and she couldn't handle it.

I've always felt that she and I have a unique kind of connection and I have to wonder if she wasn't picking up on my own wild mix of crazy emotions and that her little 5 year old self just had no clue how to process all of it. She'd had plenty of sleep, she'd been fed and hydrated. She'd had playtime at home with Daddy and Zach. She was excited about coming to cheer for Mommy and Aunt Christy. But something wasn't right and it had to come out somehow. I'm sure there was a better way to handle the situation. I'm sure I could have made better, more nurturing, more compassionate choices in how I dealt with my daughter. However, I wouldn't change anything that Jeff or I did with her yesterday. Not a word, not an action. While there may be an explanation for her meltdown, it isn't an excuse for behaving in such a way. And I like that Jeff and I made it very very very clear that her choices were unacceptable- the same message she received with past meltdowns.

The funny thing? As I reflect back on the morning, I'm realizing just how similar my experiences were. Running is hard. Running is not a natural state for the body. You have to choose it and stick to it and work hard to keep your body moving. You have to know what you want and you have to find ways of achieving your goal.

Parenting is hard. Parenting is not a normal state for the mind and soul. You have to choose it and stick to it and work hard to stay committed to your parenting goals. You have to know what you want and you have to find ways of achieving your goal.

My 5K was tough. I had to get myself in the right mental place and I had to commit to my goal and I had to push myself to stick with it. I had all kinds of methods to use to get me through the hard spots but I eventually reached the finish line.

Parenting my melting down daughter was tough. I had to get myself in the right mental place and I had to commit to my goal and I had to push myself to stick with it (would have been super easy to just pick a dandelion and hand it to her, right?). I had all kinds of methods to use to get me through the hard spots but I eventually reached the end of the meltdown. Funny how life works and how the lessons come to us.

Running and Parenting... so much to learn from each of them!


Isabella said...

First off, congrats to you for finishing the 5k! :)

Seondly, I have a 2 year old that is starting to do the same thing. All out emotional breakdowns...quite different than a temper tantrum.

So, you're saying this won't go away any time soon?


Alison said...

Yeah, I think I woulda stuck her in her room, too! Kind of like, look, if you want my attention, this ain't the way to go about it.

Well, hey, it works on dogs. :)

So, running a 5k and handling a meltdown...does this mean you qualify for your Supermom cape?

Barnmaven said...

Keeping your cool during a meltdown is hard on any day of the week, but you managed to do it on a day where you were both emotional and physically tired. Good job, mama.

Nancy C said...

Congrats on much to be proud of!

As for this, you did the right thing. Sometimes, they just run out of good behavior.

Anonymous said...

Wow - what a fantastic post! I am sorry to say I have heard screaming and whining myself and it almost always comes at a time when I am tired, however like yourself, I have to "get in a Place" and stick to my guns and, well, be a parent and parent.

And yes, we seems to always have people behind us too when we parent a crying child! Isn't that the way it always goes? Where are the people when the kids are ANGELS??????!!!!!!