Public Meltdowns

Yes, I have a two-year-old. Yes, two-year-olds are developmentally prone to meltdowns. Yes, Gorilla, who is two, did not want to share, wanted his way and proceeded to have a meltdown. In public. Here’s what happened…

I took Girlie, Gorilla and the baby to the health department for an appointment. They each picked a toy to take, I had a couple of books and candy cane snacks. We’ve been to this particular office before and for an office that serves a bunch of kids, the waiting room is pitifully ill-equipped for children who have to wait. All they have is a little plastic picnic table. So I went prepared.

We got called back the first time, then back out to wait. We got called back the second time, then back out to wait. It was during this third time waiting that it happened. I made my appointment early to minimize the time at the office. When we got there, only a couple of other families were waiting. When we came back out the second time, the waiting room was full. Gorilla sat at the picnic table with 3 other kids and Girlie came by me. At some point, Gorilla got up to do something different and Girlie then sat at the picnic table.

Now, I have this rule that if you get up, your seat is fair game. I’m also the only mom who had toys available for her kids. So 3 kids at the table sitting nicely doing nothing. Girlie at the table sitting nicely with the “drawing board” (a generic magna doodle). Gorilla now by me. Baby getting fussy. Can you see it coming?

Then Gorilla notices that he no longer has the drawing board or the seat at the table and begins to push/pull/hit/kick Girlie to get it back. “First. First.” So, I’m holding the baby trying to pat him into non-fussiness while simultaneously pulling Gorilla away from Girlie. Meanwhile, an entire waiting room of mothers and their kids (and a grandmother or two I think) listened and watched as this meltdown happened.

Crying. Pushing. Kicking. Yelling. Pretty normal for a two-year-old that didn’t get their way. Don’t forget to add in the fussy baby too. I was on the floor next to the picnic table, holding the baby with my left arm and Gorilla with my right. I think the ladies behind me saw butt-crack. Oh well, that was the least of my concerns. Normally, when public meltdowns occur, I remove the child from the main room/area. Well, I didn’t have anyone to watch the other two, so that wasn’t an option. I couldn’t just pack everyone up and leave either, as I was still waiting on something from the office. So, we had to endure it. So did the rest of the waiting room.

Not one person offered to help though. Not that I expected them to take a fit-throwing 2-year-old, but maybe someone could’ve offered to hold the baby for a moment? Some mom’s did corral their kid away from the action, but still, couldn’t they see that I might have been a little overwhelmed?

All was finally well, and Gorilla then did a great job of sitting and sharing (for which he got HUGE praises). As I processed it all, what really struck me was the emotions that I had about it all. I felt judged, guilty, inadequate and somehow less. Why? Really, not one person there said anything to me directly or that I overheard that was negative. Nothing at all was said. I was imposing something on those other mothers that may not have been there. What were they most likely thinking? “Glad it’s not my kid doing that today!”

I handled it well. I kept my cool. I didn’t raise my voice, say mean things or swat a butt/hand. So why the guilt? Why the personal judgement? Why do we moms do this too ourselves? And why oh why don’t we offer a hand of understanding and help to another mother when she is dealing with something we’ve dealt with plenty of times? Why don’t we reach out?

This is not the first public meltdown I’ve dealt with and it won’t be the last. Someday, I’ll be past dealing with them and will only be an observer to someone else’s. What will I do? Will I smile in understanding? Will I think “I’m glad we’re past that stage!” Will I offer assistance?

When you see a child having a public meltdown, what are you thinking? More importantly, what do you do?

Published by Kris

Jesus follower, racing wife, mom of seven, United Methodist pastor... Trying to live a life worthy of my callings.

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