I realize that she has been screaming for a few minutes now.
That’s not true. I don’t know how long she’s been screaming. The screaming stops the fabric of time. My attempting to comfort her has no effect.
I give her a moment to work out her feelings for herself as she will eventually learn to do. I try my tricks.
ABCDEFG…..*screaming*……(then in the same tune)…… Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…..*screaming*
“Can you point to what you want?”, I ask. But I missed the window for communication. We must reach deeper into the bag of tricks for bigger tactics.
“Where’s your brother?”, I ask her.
That gets her attention. She knows that her brother is like her. One of the little people in the house. Must stick with him. Where is he?
“Should we find him? Where’s your brother?”
She starts to look around. She points in random directions.
Sunboy joins us and talks to her in a baby voice, “It’s okay, little baby”. He pats her head. How did he become so nurturing? It calms her. A distraction. Admittedly a cheap trick, but I’ll take it.
She’s moved on. Let’s hear it for siblings! I cautiously take a deep breath.
Thankfully, Flowergirl does not have many tantrums and even fewer complete meltdowns. We are fortunate that she has a sunny disposition and communicates well for her age. We are not immune, however.
When faced with a toddler tantrum or meltdown, a protective shell immediately envelops me. I earned that shell through many a tantrum when Sunboy was going through this phase. The shell enables me to be calmly present for my child during a wild, screaming tantrum when the scope of it moves beyond their ability to communicate using either words or signs. I keep my cool by sequestering the part of me that wants to run away inside of a deep shell. Ahhh….it’s much quieter in here. The screaming rolls right off. Well, most of it rolls off. Let’s be honest, this is an epic one.
From within my shell, I can see she’s still screaming, but I can still parent her. I can stay right here and wait for her to finish. Release her frustration of being relatively powerless in this big world while I keep my sanity. Love as expressed by the staying, even if ignoring the tantrum is part of my bag of tricks. Even when she’s unbearable. In the end, a parent makes it through a toddler meltdown only because time continues to move forward, even if we do not know how much time has passed.
Surviving a toddler meltdown is like surviving an ocean wave. Nothing to do except let it wash over you. My protective toddler tantrum shell is a buoy to keep me from being overly tousled. At least most of the time.
Added after publishing: I’ve received a few comments from readers indicating that not everyone survives tantrums and meltdowns in this way. I’ve attempted to describe what I do to create my “shell” in the comments. I’ve never really thought about this before, but I think it’s a type of meditation.
My question to you is, if you do not have a protective shell, how do you survive tantrums? Please share!