Portrait of a Meltdown

I’m laying on the bed with both of my kids fast asleep. We’ve been here for about an hour and a half while they both took turns crying.

Actually screaming. And the older one did some kicking.

It started out as a fun morning at the park, but I overbooked our schedule which makes me feel tense. I’m not as patient then with three year old explorations and questions. On days like this, my mind wanders far away, distracted with adult worries. I start feeling the clock ticking in my mind on all of my responsibilities while they are blissfully unaware of it.

Then when they’re both needing some extra time, extra patience, extra explaining, I don’t have it because I’m stretched too thin.

It creates a bad cycle of tension with me just wanting them both to cooperate with my agenda for once and them both just wanting me to stop stressing and be their mommy.

So when rest time comes, I start having visions of my book and a coffee pot, but the reality is that we’ve got STUFF to deal with. They both need to offload the tension from the day and thankfully they persist until I create a safe place for them to do it.

At first I really fight it. Inside I am desperate for the crying to stop and for everyone to just quit needing me. I know that I am the adult here but I don’t always want to be. I’m mad at myself for letting the morning get chaotic and frustrated that my stress affects them.

Then I remember: I am human, I can have a hard time too.

I repeat a little mantra I learned: this is a moment of struggle. Struggle is a part of life. I can be kind to myself in this moment.

I try to mother myself a little and say, “It’s ok Leah. You’re trying your best. You’re right where you need to be.”

Then it clicks for me. That is all they need too.

I stop wishing their hurt away and just let it be. I take turns holding them and saying, “it’s ok, Mama is here.” I talk to the three year old about the moments I got frustrated and spoke sharply. I tell him, “you don’t like it when Mama talks to you like that.”

He stops the whining and writhing around long enough to open one soulful eye and look right at me.

I pick up the baby and snuggle her close. I feed her again and don’t feel guilty that there isn’t two of me and that sometimes one has to cry while I’m tending to the other.

They both melt into the comfort a little. Sweet feisty baby unclenches her tiny fists and relaxes. Tender three year old makes himself a blanket nest and falls asleep.

Afterward I tiptoe around the house and smile at the aftermath of our chaos; abandoned lunch plates, smashed crayons, a suitcase I had packed that became a fort instead.

It all looks comical to me now and almost sweet. My acceptance helps me see it in a different light for awhile.

I know this will happen again. There will be more tears, more mornings where I didn’t get our routine quite right, times when I forgot to refuel my own heart before beginning a day of mothering.

But in this moment I know we’ll be ok and I try to make a mental road map of what it feels like.

Maybe next time I can read that map and help us find our way there a little sooner. Or maybe not, maybe I’ll get lost again and have to forge a new path. But in my heart, I hope I can know that all the paths lead us home.



21 thoughts on “Portrait of a Meltdown

  1. Thank you for always being honest about motherhood. It’s beautiful and amazing, but it is hard. I feel like you know exactly what I am experiencing as a new mother. Thank you for that, thank you for being so honest and genuine.

    • Thank you so much for your comment Christy! I do know what you are experiencing as a new mom. Well, maybe not your exact story, but I know that it is a tough transition and that while you’re in the middle of it, your life can feel totally crazy. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about being a new mom sometime and dedicate it to you! You are doing good, good work.

  2. i love this. over and over i love this. you are lovely with words, and i have come back to this post more than once to remind myself that i, too, have forged paths through similar territory, and to follow them or forge new ones instead of turning around in circles trying to figure out which direction to go. love you mama. thank you for putting your wise words so eloquently ❤

  3. How beautiful. Very inspiring. I so often have exactly these kinds of evenings/days with my two (similar age), but I don’t often stop to realise that it is okay to let them cry and just cuddle cuddle and cuddle them more, that they need to release their own frustrations. As you say, I just want them to stop needing me so I can go and be by myself. I will try and remember this post next time it happens!

  4. Leah,

    There is a zen like quality in your posting. Very tender yet poignant. Being able to reflect in the moment adds fullness to one’s life. And self compassion is something we can all use. It starts from within. Thank you for sharing.

  5. So, I’m almost in tears reading this. I only have 1 two-year-old, but she’s definitely spirited. Sometimes I see mother’s of toddlers in public places and the kids are simply being still and shy and they stay that way for the majority of an hour or more and I wonder, “what am I doing wrong that MY kid simply wants to run wild and free?” then I remember: she’s just different. She’s not unusual by any means and there’s nothing wrong with her. Just give her some attention! so I’m glad I’m not the only one who goes through moments.

  6. I can’t help but notice the natural poetry that flows in your writing.

    On days like this, my mind wanders far away,
    distracted with adult worries.
    I stop wishing their hurt away
    and just let it be
    I smile at the aftermath of our chaos
    make a mental road map
    and…find our way

    I love it. I’m a fan. 🙂 ~ Bill

  7. I find your writing so insightful, honest and sweet. I’m in an earlier stage of life, as my fiance and I are preparing for marriage this Spring. It is wonderful to look ahead and see the honest to goodness reality of marriage and motherhood. thanks

    • Thank you for reading! I’m glad you could get a glimpse of reality, or at least the way it looks through my eyes :). The work of family life has been my biggest challenge and also the most immense gift. I wish the same for you! Blessings!

  8. I love this post. You so well captured the highs and lows and often mundaneness of parenting. I certainly have had my days where I had an Agenda and know the frustration of little ones who didn’t share my agenda. A beautiful lesson in finding our way in those moments and days. I just found your blog through 5 kids and read everything on it… I loved it and will be following. Thanks!

  9. Just discovered your sight. You are a lovely writer. There is so much space between your sentences – room for thinking, for remembering what it was like when my little ones were that age, wishing I could do it all over again and be better at it.

  10. I just discovered your blog and am in love with it! Your prose is beautiful and raw. This post took me back to the early years of my childrens lives, how I wish I’d just let the meltdowns take place once in a while. As a mom of a 20,14, and 10 year old I’ve learned a lot. These days the meltdowns take place with this mom letting it happen and then hugging and loving on them in the end. It’s a wonderful place to have come to, understanding that these times are a release and very neccessary to the foward progression of our lives. Thank you for sharing with all of us. I will be back for more 🙂

  11. I was led her by a link from Facebook to your “7 year marriage” post and stumbled over this one too. You explain things with such eloquence, and I love that. But, most importantly you explain it in a way that others can relate to and say “Thank you! That is exactly how I feel but can’t express it in the same way!” So…Thanks!

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