trying to categorize and analyze the meltdown

So after many weeks of really good sleep, last night was ROUGH.  In fact, M woke up around 11pm having a BIG meltdown. This was like the meltdowns he used to have as a young toddler in which he wants everything and nothing at the same time.  Except now he has words. It sounded like high pitched screaming combined with phrases like, “gimme some spaaaaace!”, “don’t leave me!”, “I need my Bubbie (blanket)!”, “I don’t like Bubbie!”, “I need agua!”, “I don’t like agua!”, etc. and those phrases are spoken in rapid fire succession. It is nonsensical and I feel helpless for how to help him.

My mathematician side needs/likes to categorize meltdowns. I pretty much use the same scale as hurricane categorizations.  This one was a  category 4, but mostly because of the length – 2 hours ish. It was only a 3 in severity. We’ve never had a category 5, I am saving that for a really special situation. Plus, then I can still say, “it could be worse.”

The scary thing was that we aren’t even in hurricane season.  I mean we’ve had a little rain here and there and an occasional afternoon thunderstorm and definitely some overall cloudy days.  This caught us totally off guard.  I should have seen this coming, and from what I can guess is the cause, it was my fault.   There was really just too much change this week.  A special event at school. I was away this past weekend. And the icing on the cake: we went out on Wednesday night and left the kids with a babysitter. They had a great time with the sitter but M was slightly off schedule.  Yesterday (Thursday), he was in a very rough mood, literally running into walls, me and M2 just to blow off a little steam.   He gets this look on his face and I know it’s in everyone’s best interest to stay out of his way. That’s pretty much what I did last night. I didn’t work very hard to help him release the tension in a productive way. I cooked a meal for dinner that was a gamble whether he would eat or not.  I lost.  I should have probably had him do some sensory work.  It’s easy to think back and give a list of “should haves.” He went to bed hungry, irritable and overly tired.  3 hours later, he was up screaming and totally dyregulated.

I did try some new methods for helping to bring M out of the meltdown. I had some success with this.  One of the techniques I learned at Dr. Chasnoff’s seminar a few weeks ago was to ask questions that activate the other parts of the brain during that “fight or flight” meltdown phase.  It definitely seemed to help.  I think I need to keep practicing this technique because a few of the questions that I asked seemed to send him reeling but overall successful.

I am thankful that this doesn’t happen as often as it did in the past and I am hopeful that we all get a good night’s rest tonight.


appreciating the good weekend

It is rare that we have whole weekends that are free of major incidents. I think that the major weekend related struggle for M is simply the change of routine from our very scheduled weekdays.  This past weekend was one of those rare successes. Now, I am pretty sure that what I define as a successful day, other parents may feel like was a disaster.  Changing my expectations of successful parenting has helped to keep me sane.

My strategy this weekend (which also happens to be my mom’s primary parenting strategy) was to lead the kids through physically exhausting activities.  This is also was the key to success in training our overly energetic puppy 10 years ago.  This can sometimes backfire with M as if he is too tired, he can get exceptionally cranky.   This past weekend it worked.  We spent 3 hours at the indoor playground on Friday after daycare, we went to the natural history museum and ran through the gardens on Saturday morning.  On Sunday, we did our normal gymnastics class followed by a 3.5 mile (round trip) hike up to a waterfall.  M hiked nearly the entire time. M2 needed to be carried a little bit, but not even as much as I thought.

After our hike, they napped in the car a bit, but awoke as we pulled into our driveway.   M was a bit cranky as he normally is when he gets woken up.  He had a small meltdown but I ended up getting him settled on the couch watching the Minions movie.  Then the best thing happened, the boy who hates being touched curled up next to me and snuggled for a bit.  It was lovely. Then a few hours later, he ate a mostly normal dinner. This is also unusual. He is usually too dysregulated by the end of the day to eat much of anything besides cereal. Last night when I put him to bed and we talked about the day’s activities, we recounted all the fun we had, primarily our snake sightings i.e. rattlesnake and king snake. When said “I had a lot of fun with you today, M” he said “Fank you, mama!” and gave me the sweetest kiss.  It may not seem like much but he can be so oppositional that my expressions of love and affection are usually met with “NOOOOoooOOOOOOoo!” or just angry grunting.  It makes me feel hopeful for more days when we can find the right balance of activities for him to get him regulated.

Now, the weekend was far from perfect.  He had some obsessive moments.  He had trouble at the museum when he wanted to have his snack on the stairs near the fountain but I wasn’t understanding his vague attempt at describing where he wanted to sit.  He lost a favorite item somewhere and talked about it for 2 hours straight. He is still searching for a tiny plastic sword off a McDonald’s toy.  He woke up obsessed with it two days in a row.

Another parent at the museum gave me a judgy sidelong glance as I was trying to help M sort our his frustrations over the stair sitting.  I get it, to the outsider, my parenting strategies seem indulgent. I was trying to get him back to calm so that I could understand what he was trying to communicate.  He escalated to frustrated very quickly, as usual. My best defense against a full on meltdown is to be exceptionally compassionate and patient while he sorts out his feelings. In this case, we were blocking part of an uncrowded walkway and I was crouched down beside M, repeating, “I want to help, can you take some deep breaths?” as he scratched and bit me.  It was a bit of a scene.  But within 5 minutes, it was over, we were seated where he envisioned.  He was happily crunching on some chips. The reason I consider this a minor meltdown is because it was over in a few minutes, it didn’t ruin our day.  I didn’t lose it.  I didn’t have to drag him out of the museum. That parent’s judgements have stuck with me.  Its strange to think that in that moment when I felt very successful, someone else was considering me a failure.