Multiple Meltdowns

Just last night, Hubby and I were commenting on how great the kids’ behavior has been the past few days. We had spent pretty much the entire day yesterday on a massive housecleaning and organization spree, including rearranging furniture, and the kids were great. It was the first weekend day in months that we never left the house, and Babyboy and Babygirl were (mostly) nice to each other, ate well, and cooperated with toy reorganization and storage. Babyboy insisted on riding on whatever piece of furniture we were moving: Whooeeee! He yelled while we slid the ottoman, easy chair, and couch. Babygirl fell asleep super-early and basically slept through to today.

It was lovely.

It didn’t last.

Today, we wanted to do something fun for the kids. So we skipped church and motivated to get to the Science Museum, which they love. When I asked them if they’d want to go, they both screamed “Yaaaaay!” and danced around. Eating breakfast and getting dressed were the usual challenge, but we managed to pack lunches for the kids (my brilliant tactic, to avoid the overpriced museum cafeteria food), replenish the diaper bag, and get out the door.

We arrived just after opening, and before the summer crowd. There was no line for the Butterfly Garden, and Babygirl and I spent a good thirty minutes in that tropical sunroom, surrounded by lush flora and thousands of very active butterflies. One alighted on my shoulder, to her astonishment and delight. A Painted Lady had just emerging from its chrysalis, and she kept wanting to see, again and again.

Meantime, Babyboy  was refusing to come in, though the Butterfly area also features the large bugs and frogs he likes to see, ucky creatures, like Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches and Thorny Devils, and black and yellow poison dart frogs… he likes to point and say , Ewwwwww!

But today, he was running from exhibit to exhibit, settling finally for awhile on a solar power experiment, not for rotating the panels to different angles of the light to see how many volts were generated, but rather, to pretend to write in the grid of the graph paper provided. He pretended it was a calendar, that he was doing “work”.

Hubby kept trying to entice him back to the Garden, since I was in there and we had tickets, and Babyboy finally left the grid. But then he got distracted by an exhibit featuring ping-pong balls, how different types of slope effect rolling speed. He rolled and rolled those ping-pong balls, and was doing great, until another kids came along, and then, we had meltdown #1.

His typical meltdown: He screams loudly and shrilly and yells “NO NO NO NO” like someone’s trying to kidnap him, and rolls on the ground, flailing and kicking, or bucks like a horse, making it hard to catch him. I’m not sure how Hubby got him out of that first one, but they eventually ended up in the Garden with us, for about three minutes.

Then we were off again. Babyboy is always entranced by the large kinetic sculpture, and sits examining it from all angles for at least twenty minutes, every time we come.  Billiard balls are lifted by a chain-and-wires mechanism and deposited into an electric-company-style pinball- machine-type contraption. It dings and bonks and whirs and he loves it.

Meantime, Babygirl was both fascinated and frightened by a live animal demonstration featuring a (very large) opposum, and all was going OK. But meantime, the place was filling up with busloads of tourists from all over and everyone in and around Boston with their entire families.

Our last stop is always the toddler/ preschool  playroom area, which features multiple hands-on learning exhibits, like examining animal skeletons and fur pelts; pretending to be bees in a beehive or birds in a tree. Babyboy usually gravitates towards the building blocks, magnetic toys and ping-pong ball chute construction (not sure how to describe that one). Babygirl loves the animal masks and book corner, and the snakes in their terrariums.

But we couldn’t quite get there. Babygirl tripped and had a mini-meltdown on the way. Then, as we walked past the cafeteria, Babyboy smelled something. Macaroni and cheese! He yelled. I need macaroni and cheese!

It wasn’t even 11 a.m., they had both eaten pancakes for breakfast, and I had packed their lunches, but he was obstinate. We had another full-on rolling around and flailing meltdown, this with multiple kids and families walking past and staring. Hubby and I shrugged and gave in, what the heck, get the kid some mac and cheese.

So we did. We bought the food and sat down. And then Babygirl, who wanted to get to the play area, started running to escape, ignoring me, flailing when I picked her up and dragged her back. We only had one membership card with us, and if I went to the play area with her, Hubby and Babyboy wouldn’t be able to get in. Or, at least, it would make things complicated. We considered trying it and then, as Babyboy was done eating (he actually put away a fair amount of Wolfgang Puck mac and cheese), we decided to pack it up and move on anyways.

But, then Babyboy wanted pineapple. He had seen it in the salad bar, and he could not be dissuaded. Another screeching fit. The tour group that had just filed in stared. So, I got up to get him pineapple. As I was at the salad bar, I heard more screeching and howling. Hubby was carrying him towards me. He was yelling, howling, hitting, in the most terrible way, like he was in pain… He wanted to scoop the pineapple into the bowl himself. Sobbing, screaming: I. Want. To. Do. It. Mommy. So I let him.

He ate it all. Babygirl continued to flip out and try to escape. We endured. We finally got them out of the caf and into the kiddie play area. Things went reasonably well for awhile, longer than we planned to be there anyways, and then Babygirl, due for a nap, pretty much went into an hourlong temper tantrum. Nothing would do, she wanted juicy, she didn’t want juicy, she wanted to be carried, she wanted to walk… We had to flee.

She screamed, cried and beat on me all the long walk back to the car. We figured she’d fall asleep on the way home, but, no. I rocked her and rocked her and she eventually went down…

Once home, Hubby and I tried to diagnose the meltdowns. We decided Babygirl was just tired, and Babyboy had been overstimulated. We figured that Babyboy would be calmer once home, and that the noise and crowds of the Science Museum on a summer Sunday was just a bad call.

But he was in a strangely aggressive mood all day. When we asked him if he had a dirty diaper, he got up and silently head-butted hubby, with all his little strength, causing coffee to splash all over. I thought we handled this pretty well: a stern admonishment- No! Bad Boy! We do not head-butt Daddy! was met with tears and I want Nana!, but then all was forgiven when he told Daddy he was sorry.

Later, he doused Babygirl with the water hose, and when Hubby turned it off, he went after Hubby with it, trying to whip him. It was odd. Not his usual. He was also uncharacteristically unsettled, jumping around on the couch, even doing headstands and somersaults on it, which I have never seen, during his favorite cartoons.

We had some decent moments: Babyboy rode around the block on his new big-boy bicycle (with training wheels), and Babygirl and I built a lego castle. But, overally, the day was full of moments like the above, and more. Bedtime was pretty bad.

Yesterday, everyone was thankfully calm and content. Today, everyone was inexplicably unhappy. Full of outbursts and tantrums and flailing and crying, for whatever reason.. .Babyboy’s diaper rash bothering him maybe? Neither of them sleeping enough in general? Maybe they’re both gluten- sensitive? Maybe there’s too much sugar in their diets? Who knows, but we will have to keep studying these outbursts, with the goal of avoiding them the next time.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Multiple Meltdowns

  1. Jay

    Sounds like he was really hungry – is he entering a growth spurt? Our most challenging behavioral episodes seemed (in retrospect) to herald either a growth spurt or a developmental leap…no fun to live through. Sounds like you weathered a tough day really well.

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  2. You know, that might be right.. Despite pancakes for breakfast and cheddar bunnies in the car, I think our 4-year-old was starving! This morning he’s totally fine… Thanks for reading!

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  3. Also, while it’s worth figuring it out to the degree you can, to a large degree tantrums are solved by tincture of time. The kids get bigger, so they naturally get more resilient. They can handle the sleep and food being slightly less than perfect. It’ll get better even if you never feel like you’ve figured it out. My kids are older, and my husband and I retrospectively decided that, for example, nothing we analyzed or did actually got our kids to sleep through the night; it just took time. We had so many different theories, they actually contradicted each other in the end. I needed to keep thinking and trying things or I would have gone crazy, and perhaps some of it helped. But an awful lot of it requires just plain growing up. (My mom’s favorite way to put it in perspective: “Well, he probably won’t still be doing it when he leaves for college.”)

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  4. Jay

    Did I understand correctly from MOM that he’s autistic? if that’s the case, then you may need to do more to figure out the cause of meltdowns than those of us with neurotypical kids end up doing. He may not “grow out of it” in the same way. Plus we have all those diagnostics skills that we can’t help but use :)

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    • Thanks, Lara and Jay; I think what you both are saying is relevant and applicable… Babyboy IS autistic, and we do need to stop and think and “diagnose” a bit more, on both his and ours’ behavioral issues! But I also agree that patience and time and stepping back to see the big picture can be useful… Too often we get caught up in the stress of a bad moment, and it can be useful to be able to breathe and remember that his childhood will be millions of moments….

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    • Yes. But, he’s still only 4. Paying attention, doing some problem solving, is great. But parents feel such pressure these days to get kids to do stuff, and be on certain developmental timelines, at such young ages. And especially when a kid has a developmental diagnosis — it’s easy to worry that the kid is having issues related to the diagnosis, when it may be just his age. It has helped me a lot to step back when my kid is doing something frustrating, and say, “how much is this bothering me as a problem I need to fix right now, and how much is some part of my brain worried that he will refuse to do homework in high school because he refuses in first grade?” Usually when I back off a bit, the pressure on me and my kids goes down, we take our time, and whatever problem-solving is actually necessary goes a lot more smoothly.

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  5. taking deep breaths and weathering the storm…i admire the way you float on the sea of difficult and beautiful moments, without getting submerged.

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