The Last Straw: Mommy Meltdowns

March 28, 2010

A close-up of what shall forever be known in our family as "The Sharpie Incident"

I’m writing this in our upstairs bathroom, watching my 21-month-old in the tub, hoping that a long soak in lots of bubbles will help remove the black Sharpie marks that she has made all over her legs.  I’ve only just discovered the Sharpie marks, since my husband and I perfomed a child-swap at naptime, allowing the marker to hide from me until I performed a post-nap diaper change.  I noted the huge black ink marks and called my husband, whose response was, “Oh yeah.  That happened.” 

My typing has been interrupted several times thus far.  Once, my little acrobat, with no warning, dove headfirst out of the tub onto the bathmat.  That required a bit of comforting and a fruitless dialogue about safe choices in the bathroom.  Twice, I’ve had to say, “Stop eating soap!” and wash the bubbles off of my kid’s mischievous open-mouthed face. 

For now, though, she’s playing happily, the Sharpee marks showing no sign of lightening, and I have a moment to assess.  Under normal circumstances, the sight of marker on one of my kids would barely evoke a reaction at all, let alone the welling up of tears and need to write a blog post.  This time, however, the Sharpee marks were the last straw.

Every parent knows what it feels like to be at the end of your rope, and every parent experiences that feeling just a little bit differently.  My friend Jamie is a yeller, and so is my husband.  My friend Bridget describes shutting down temporarily and functioning on a sort of mommy auto-pilot, which I imagine to be something like one of those incomplete dial telephone messages.  “I’m sorry — the mommy you have dialed is currently unavailable.  She will return to her fully functioning capacity soon, once you children have stopped behaving like complete ass-hats.”  I, myself, am prone to melodramatic crying jags.

The Sharpie incident has come at the end of a very long week, highlights of which include our three-year-old refusing to eat anything about but popsicles, demanding that I not talk to him again – NEVER, and discovering that the dog makes funny noises when you grab onto his tail and pull with all your might.  Our littlest has done her part by perfecting the bang-your-head-on-the-floor tantrum technique, dumping my entire iced coffee out on her as-clean-as-it-gets-in-our-house outfit, rendering her soaking wet and me under-caffeinated, and managing to come down with a series of minor and slightly absurd medical conditions with no apparent regard for the fact that we’re currently without health insurance.   Not to be outdone, biggest brother threw his hat into the make-mom-cry ring by saying, in attempting to get out of an appointment, “Well, it’s not like you ever have to do anything.  What do you do all day anyway?”  Charming.

Add to all those teensy little things my husband starting a new job and some disconcerting extended family news, and I’ve been pretty weepy.  In a particularly stressful moment, right after Corrina’s diagnosis with a burst capillary (bloody eyes, which came close on the heels of her big brother’s 24-hour bloody nose), that I glared at my sick, sobbing toddler and screamed, “It is NOT your turn to cry.  IT IS MY TURN TO CRY.”   This was actually a somewhat successful parenting technique.  Rina was so freaked out by my crying that she ceased with hers and stared at me, too in shock to keep fussing.  And as it turns out, I’m not the first one who has stumbled upon this method of kid silencing.  During a recent chance encounter with one of my favorite customers, she described a moment with her kids as “Mom has a breakdown, kids finally back off.”  The mommy freak-out actually has a somewhat positive effect.

Maybe it’s not such a bad thing.  Maybe our kids being shocked when we fall apart means that we’re doing a pretty good job holding it together the rest of the time.  Maybe it means that, at least from our children’s perspectives, we actually are the kind of supermoms and dads we’ve always wanted to be.  I don’t know.

What I do know is this – I don’t have any more time to spend figuring it out.  I have to go.  My kid just pooped in the tub –again. 

-Meryl at the Goose


7 Responses to “The Last Straw: Mommy Meltdowns”

  1. Melanie Says:

    Thank you for sharing. It’s sometimes hard to remember other mom’s have these moments too 🙂
    My latest meltdown involved a bribe at Purity Ice Cream. This was my Ex’s weekend and as usual when I picked up my children at 3:30pm, they were unrecognizable, bedraggled, pathetic imps. Not my usual behaved and shining stars. Today instead of falling into an irrational rage I just wanted to cry, so we headed to Purity for some quiet “nice treat” aka “sugar time”. Works every time for at least a few hours of happy contentment for all 😉

  2. Oh, Melanie! We’ve also used Purity in a pinch — most recently when we promised that we could spend the afternoon bowling, only to find that the whole alley was filled with league bowlers and there was no room with us. We distracted our incredibly disappointed kidlets with a trip to Purity, and we all live happily ever after … for about an hour. 🙂

  3. Melody Says:

    Just this afternoon I collected every single one of my kids toys that were spread from wall to wall in their room, put them in a giant contractor bag, and told them they MIGHT get them back by next winter. Whoa, this is one Mama who is sick of cleaning up, stepping, and tripping on toys!

  4. Kristina Says:

    When it rains it pours right? Ahh sheesh. I can completely relate and it seems for me everything is good…..until everything is bad….very very bad. I also do think the occasional mommy freak out is totally okay and even necessary. In my opinion kids do benefit from seeing how mommy is a thinking feeling human too AND true strength is in the way you put yourself back together, which we always do because we are mommies and there is no “mental health day”, yeah know? For me, mommy and/or kid melt downs are inevitable, but how I reconnect with them and move on is a powerful tool in building a honest relationship with my kids. I see it as “natural consequences” in this imperfect world. You drive me to insanity, this is what life is like in insanity-ville, hope you like it, welcome! Not so much. Enjoy the upswing Meryl, I am sure you are due for one…and now the kids probably want it too since they really don’t ACTUALLY want you to remain in the fetal position. Who would take them for ice cream?? 🙂

  5. Loving the sharing and supportiveness, ladies! Keep it coming!

  6. Melissa Says:

    The day after Christmas, my kids were so out of control, I got a big plastic bin out of the garage, scooped up all their new toys, filled said bin with the toys, put the bin on the front steps and made a fake phone call to Santa to ask him to come back to get all the toys. Needless to say, the kids were on their best behavior for the rest of Christmas break!

  7. casey Says:

    I was also known to use Purity to cheer up a grumpy law student or two… 🙂

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