I’m a big fan of, and practice, gentle and attachment parenting. It just makes loads of sense to me, as a mum who tries to get back to basics and parent instinctively. We are mammals, after all.
As Biggest gets older, I find myself delving into the sites, blogs and Facebook pages of gentle and respectful parenting authors and teachers for guidance on how to deal with what at her age can be not so flowing to respond to, namely tantrums and meltdowns.
With Biggest, I’ve been more than lucky, in that she only really started having proper tantrums after she turned 2 and her speech by this time was developed to a point where we were having full conversations, so I found it within my relative comfort zone to be able to communicate on her level in the midst of a tantrum. I understood her and she understood me.
The words, yes. Not always the reasons behind them.
I know that tantrums, and particularly meltdowns, are often really about something completely unrelated to what triggered the instance and usually link to some big emotion about something else which they are unable to verbalise because they’re not sure what it is they’re really feeling.
Ok. So far, so good.
All of this being said, it doesn’t change that melting pot of feelings we have inside, as mothers, when a meltdown is triggered. We feel sad, guilty, hurt, angry, frustrated, exhausted. And we have to curb all of that, swallow it down and breathe calmness into the air around our child as she comes down from the peak of her own emotions. And we don’t always succeed.
I took to the sites, blogs and Facebook pages I admire so much for some insight on how to deal with our own emotions as we try to help them with theirs. The first one was a little smug. Like, you really need to ask that question? Yes, yes I do. You can’t take tantrums, and what they say during them, personally. They can’t rationalise and so taking their behaviour personally is irrational in itself! OK, yes, I see your point.
The next one had an air of…you know when you’re young, like in your early twenties, and you’re at work with someone with much more experience than you who just LOVES to condescend to you because you’re young and everything you do is naive, whether it actually is or not? The little giggle of pity with a sigh and an eye roll? Yeah, that. You’re taking their behaviour personally! You’re thinking, ‘how could they behave towards me in such a way when all I do is love them?’! You can’t take it personally because if you do you’ll have missed a chance to help them with their emotions.
Ok, stop. Now, I know this is all completely true and rational. I know that, in remembering my child’s meltdown isn’t a declaration that they hate me, I will be able to better help them. But a little empathy please?
When I see a friend’s toddler breaking their heart in a meltdown and refusing to let their mum pick them up to cuddle them, THEN I am seeing how meltdowns shouldn’t be taken personally because I have enough emotional distance to be able to. When it is my child, I KNOW I shouldn’t take it personally, but sometimes I DO, OK?! You are asking me to turn away from that electrifying, all consuming tsunami that is the bond between a mother and child and BE RATIONAL. Motherhood has not made me rational. Motherhood has made me primal. And sometimes that looks like holding it together for just long enough to get to the bathroom to have a sob about how much I’ve failed my daughter in her last meltdown.
It’s ok to take things from your kids personally sometimes. I’d think it pretty weird if you didn’t.
You can read my poem, The Tale of Mother, about motherhood and meltdowns, here.