By Heidi Hamm
Most of the time I am a good parent. I do all the things a good parent does. I am loving and patient and kind. I listen to my kids’ stories, laugh at their jokes and smile sweetly while they spend ten minutes zipping up their own coats because, “Mommy, I can do it myself!”
But I admit it. There have been moments. Moments that I wish I could rewind and do over. Moments when no amount of deep belly breathing, closing my eyes and visualizing myself sipping a margarita on a beach in paradise, or swigging down Ashwagandha tea have stopped me from slipping over the edge into temporary insanity.
Unless you are a Zen-infused master guru who has discovered the path to enlightenment and everlasting peace, a day will come when you, too, will lose your cool. In front of your kids. At least once. A day when you are beyond late for school drop-off, the dog has thrown up all over the carpet and your normally sweet, loving angels have turned into raving lunatics hell-bent on taking each other down. And how you deal with your foray into the dark depths of a parenting meltdown may have more of an impact on your kids than how you act during the good times.
After you scrape yourself up off the floor, emerge from hiding in the closet where you have been scarfing down chocolate chips, or uncurl yourself from the fetal position you adopted while rocking back and forth in the corner, here are some tips I’ve learned for post-meltdown recovery.
Acknowledge what happened.
Unless you are Yoda and are capable of Jedi mind tricks, your kids are well aware that you just lost your marbles. Talk about what led up to your meltdown. If the kids played a part, which let’s face it, they most likely did, enlighten them on how their actions have an impact on the world around them, and you. I know, they’ll likely be shocked to learn that the world was not created specifically for their own pleasure, but it won’t damage them permanently. Avoid playing the blame game. That doesn’t benefit anyone.
Apologize for your reaction.
While anger and frustration are normal human emotions, yelling is not okay. When you behave badly, you say you’re sorry. Take responsibility for your actions and admit that you should have handled the situation differently. Work together to come up with strategies on how you can all avoid this from happening again in the future. Like, perhaps instead of threatening to drown your little brother’s favorite teddy bear in the toilet, you should just ask him to pass you the Cheerios. Just saying.
Hug it out.
Smother them in kisses. Touch soothes the soul. Reinforce that you love them. Actions speak louder than words but words matter, too. Say, “I love you.”
Accept that you are human and make mistakes.
Forgive yourself. One of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is showing them how to love themselves. How? By loving yourself. By giving yourself a break and accepting the fact that you are, gasp, human. So as much as you may want to call yourself an idiot or the worst parent in the world, resist the urge for negative self-talk.
Learn from your actions.
It is moments like these that push you to grow. To seek better coping mechanisms and to be better parents. A large part of parenting is modeling behavior that you want your kids to have, like always hanging the toilet paper roll in the ‘over’ position. If you can learn how to deal with your emotions without completely losing it, they can, too.
Guilt can be a catalyst for change but it can be destructive if you grab it by the horns and hold it tight. Take a page out of Frozen and let it go. Have that glass of wine, eat that double chocolate tub of ice cream you have hidden away in the deep freeze and know that tomorrow is a new day.
There will always be moments when your superhero cape slips off and your cool facade falters. Moments you are not proud of. Moments that you hope will not live in your children’s memories forever. Moments when your kids will witness you as a mere mortal who doesn’t always have it together. That’s okay. It’s normal. So next time you are drowning in meltdown madness and wondering how you will pay for the years of therapy you fear you just inflicted on your children, remember, what matters most is not that you lost it but how you deal with the aftermath.
image credit: Tina Franklin / Flickr
About the Author
Heidi Hamm is a writer, wife and mom of 6-year-old twin boys with the alter egos of the Hulk and Spiderman and their 8-year-old sister, who is in training to rule a small (or large) country someday. She has been published on Sammiches and Psych Meds, Scary Mommy and Mamalode. You can also find her on Facebook.