It is hard to describe what I feel as a parent in the thick of one of my son’s meltdowns, but it is a dark place. Helplessness, hopelessness, fear, guilt, anger, and embarrassment. Not a good mix. I am writing this post to share with you, because it helps me to express these feelings and talk honestly about them, and it may help you to realize that you are not alone when a meltdown hits.
Last year, one of my students invited me to her community play, and when I am personally invited to events like this, I remember how much courage it took to invite an adult, how much it means to them, and I make every effort to go. Afterwards, this is what I wrote in my journal:
“Tonight, I paid almost $30 for The Boy and I to see a community play that I had been invited to by one of my students. The Boy has grown so much over the years in terms of his ability to behave well in these situations, that I didn’t have a second thought about it. And then the autism snuck up on me. Us. He began kicking the seat in front of us. Lightly, but I’m sure enough for the woman to feel it. Then the shoes came off, and then the hat started to fly. Not sure if there was an intermission or not, I made the decision to take him out. Easier said than done. It’s to the point that I cannot pick him up and carry him out. So he flopped. And I struggled to pick him up and leave. For what seemed like 2 hours, while the actors are trying to continue over The Boy’s full-throated screams and protests. I got him to a stage door, and a woman came over to deliver the hat and my purse which I had thrown aside to get my hands on him. An usher came over to let us know there was an exit door behind us (gee-thanks). I got him calmed enough to stand up and go through one set of doors. And then I realized we were missing his shoe. So we went out into the lobby, with me huffing and puffing like I’d just run a marathon. I asked an usher if she would retrieve his shoe after explaining the situation, which she did. And then we left.
I cried. Both of us screamed at each other. His allowance was revoked, and his bedtime backed up by a half hour, and objects were thrown in the car. Once home, he was ordered to go to bed, and refused. So I retreated to my bedroom and locked the door. He says he wants to live with his dad, and he is very afraid that I am going to tattle on him to his teacher, afraid that he will not be able to go on the field trip to Bounce House on Friday.”
It is a painful memory for me, because I handled it poorly from beginning to end. I didn’t give a thought to where our seats were, because I assumed he would be OK, which was my first mistake. (Actually, my first mistake was considering whether or not he wanted to go, and not considering leaving him home if that wasn’t the case!) I still debate about whether or not I should have taken the stand on the shoes being off. I think the fact that the people sitting next to us were older, and were already giving us looks when that debate came up influenced my decision, and it shouldn’t have. And I handled the consequences, the aftermath very poorly. But…
I am one person. I am not perfect. Stuff happens. All I can hope is that we learned something from it, and that these meltdowns are few and far between (which luckily, has been the case — I know others are not so lucky).
Care to share your worst meltdown story?