By now, we know when it is coming. All the telltale signs are there and I feel a weird sense of impending doom mixed with a calm reassurance that it will be over soon (well, in about 90 minutes).
When toddlers have tantrums, their chubby little fists beat against the floor, high pitched wailing screams make you unable to focus on anything else and their peachy wee faces go puce with rage. These tantrums often pass with some artful distraction or a promise of cake.
Well, having an eight year old in tantrum or ‘meltdown’ mode is not quite so cute. Our bright, articulate, funny daughter is still loved by us in the middle of a meltdown but my goodness it is hard at that moment to like her.
For years we just thought she was wilful (for wilful read tyrannical and dictatorial) as some feisty children can be, but that is when we were naively under the illusion that “of course there was nothing wrong with her” and we just needed to be firmer.
Now we know better, now we know that even though it looks like she is just being a right old pain in the bum, something much more serious is going on. She is basically at boiling point.
She will have behaved beautifully at school, burying the confusion she feels and saving it all up to share with us. Why? Because she knows we will love her unconditionally even when we see her at her worst.
There is a pattern we have come to know and tolerate. Is usually starts with a bit of general grumpiness or sometimes like the flick of a switch it is upon us (Jekyll & Hyde without the pause for a potion to be consumed). Then comes the ‘winding up’ stage where she will pretty much pick a fight with us, accuse us of smelling/hating her/ being mean just in the attempt to get a rise out of us (I have learned over many exhausting years to bite my tongue but hey, I am human and every once in a while I need to head out the door for a moonlit walk or furiously rearrange cupboards). We often leave the room at this point and let her shout at the ceiling for a bit. Then, when she finally allows us back in the room to offer comfort, comes the ‘truth’ stage where she actually tells us what is going on. Nine times out of 10 it is something confusing that took place during the day, someone being mean, someone not being true to their word, the fact she got less in a test than someone else. Then comes the ‘comfort’ stage where all she needs is a hug and stroke of her hair. By this point she is exhausted, drained, very snotty and teary and resigned to that fact that the furious storm has passed. Sleep comes pretty soon after that but it normally takes over an hour to get to this point.
So, if someone you work next to looks a bit knackered and shell-shocked in the morning, be nice to them as they may be going though what we are going through.