I am the first to admit that I didn’t understand my child’s intense reactions to what seemed to me to be every day things.
Her meltdowns were often and seemingly traumatic! Vacuuming was impossible, as I mentioned before. Washing her hair was mutual torture! As she would play happily in the tub, I would think “NOW would be a good time! She’s in a really good mood and I’m sure she remembers that she’s safe and there’s nothing to worry about.” My thought process was just as skewed as hers when it came time to wash her hair.
Routine was EVERYTHING. She had her daddy and I trained well before we even realized we were. We were slaves to our little dictator, but if it meant one less melt down, it seemed worth it to leave by 6:30pm any time we were out, so we could be sure we were home by 7pm for bath, story time and bed. She just never got the memo that something called SLEEP is supposed to happen when story time is over and the lights are out.
She never took to a pacifier or a blanket or a stuffed animal. She took to me. I was her security blanket. I was at her beck and call because once the meltdown began, I was powerless to help her and witnessing her meltdown was (and still is) traumatic. If there was anything I could do to stop a meltdown before it started, I was on top of it.
When she was very young and she actually happened to drift off to sleep and take a nap, it was inevitable that she would wake up with a meltdown. She wouldn’t let me touch her or she would cry even louder! I couldn’t leave the room or she would choke on her cries and possibly vomit. I could only stand there, helpless to help her. I just had to wait until the meltdown was over – which seemed like F-O-R-E-V-E-R! But, eventually it would end and we would go on with our day.
Escalators!!! Oh boy! Did you realize that elevators or stairs are so very inconveniently located? I realize going up or down escalators is intimidating. Heck, my heart starts beating a little faster whenever it’s time to take that last step. I kept thinking that my daughter would eventually get over it if we repeated it enough. (Kind of just like the hair washing thing). We took the stairs whenever possible, but sometimes it just isn’t possible! For instance, flying and having to layover and catch another flight in not enough time,(even in non meltdown mode), and there is an escalator right in front of you and not an elevator in sight. Of course, there MUST be an elevator nearby! Why on earth would they put the elevator a 5 minutes walk from the escalator and with no sign to find it?! Why indeed?!!!
Reading Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic, by Mary Sheedy Kurchinka, changed my life!!! I remember reading this book and after just the first few pages being super excited because they understood! Mary Sheedy Kurchinka got it! She got what the pediatrician didn’t. She understood what nobody else in my life at that time understood.
She gave me a very different lens through which to view my child. And what a beautiful lens it was! She taught me to communicate effectively with my, then 3 year old, daughter. Whereas before, when she made a poor choice and was sent into timeout where a heart wrenching scene would undoubtedly occur, I was now equipped with new knowledge and understanding of how my child’s brain works. That instead of assuming she knew what she did to deserve a timeout, to actually take the time to explain to her why what she did was not acceptable and to warn her that if she did it again, she would go to timeout. Everyone thought I was crazy to entertain even the thought that a three year old could understand logic, much less the fact that I chose to try it anyway. Boy, am I glad I did! The results were instantaneous! She tested me often, as children do. The difference was what happened after being sent to timeout. She now understood the why of being in timeout and NOT EVEN ONCE did she have a meltdown during timeout after that!
My family, who were never there to witness the meltdowns, thought I was spoiling her, which made me angry because they couldn’t see how unique and different their granddaughter was. At least not then.
My daughter absolutely adored (and still adores) her grandparents. She loved visiting Omi’s house and playing in the yard or feeding the chickens! My mom couldn’t understand our limits on sugar consumption and what it did to my daughter, because the aftermath would always come later – while she was at home. We couldn’t listen or watch the news because my daughter ALWAYS paid attention! I remember driving home from Omi’s house right when we heard about the tsunami that hit Indonesia in 2004 and the devastation it caused. My daughter couldn’t sleep that night because she was sure that we too, would be hit by a tsunami and killed! She was four and didn’t understand that we live in Colorado and that it was physically impossible that a tsunami would hit us.
We were quickly on our way to becoming experts at avoiding possible scenarios that could bring on a meltdown. What we didn’t realize then, was how “avoiding” would effect her later years.