A few days ago, my daughter lost it.
I’ve never seen her so off-kilter. It was like something inside shattered, and she was simultaneously struggling to put herself back together while tearing through the pieces.
She was a mess.
But I’ll admit… I was a mess too.
Last week was a whirlwind of chaos and commotion in our house.
It was one of those weeks where each day was met with mounting challenge.
The typical headache of preparing to host Easter dinner for our family was weighted down with the attempt to renovate her bedroom before the weekend festivities. The additional stress of having to find a new car when our old-reliable broke down tipped the scales.
While these problems were small in a world with great issue, they seemed large in a life with little issue. And they threw us all.
I can’t remember what it was that set her off. Maybe me asking her to pick up while she was in the middle of playing. Or it could have been when I reprimanded her for snapping at her cousin. It doesn’t matter. It could have been anything. This girl was set to fly off the handle any minute, all she needed was a little push… I shoved.
I could’ve been gentler, but my irritation was quicker than my empathy.
I shoved and watched her tumble beyond the point of reason. There was no pulling her back. She spat out words that my kindhearted little girl wouldn’t dream of uttering in her right mind. She flailed her arms with ferocious intent when I came near. Her eyes went Wild, and there was no taming her.
While I’ll always advocate for allowing your Wild to run free, I’m well aware that it can take you to places that aren’t always harmonious. The thing about our Wild is that it is, by nature, unruly. Sometimes it runs us out of our mind. This particular episode was much like The Hulk. My little one tapped a into a place that knows no courtesy, no boundaries, no control.
At one point, mid-tantrum, my daughter’s face softened, just for a moment for her to say, “I don’t know why I’m acting like this…” before The Hulk took over again. It broke my heart to see her so lost in her emotions. Especially knowing that though I may not have been the root issue, I was responsible for setting her off.
When we’re tired, emotionally spent, or hurt we become vulnerable. Add to this a challenge from an external force, and we feel cornered. It’s instinctual to lash out, to protect with every ounce of voice and motion we can muster. It’s hard enough for us as adults to handle mood swings, imagine it as a child.
I wish I could tell you that I discovered a magic trick to stop the tantrum, but I’m not sure there’s any one way resolve this type of outburst. I’ve given my children a list of exercises to practice when they lose their temper. My daughter usually works well with deliberate deep breathing. My son used to need to take a lap around the block. And they both benefit from ‘walking away’ whether it’s up to a bedroom or outside to be alone. While these have worked well at one time or another, they’re not always guaranteed.
Sometimes we lose it. Sometimes we get lost in it. Life isn’t easy, and whether the issue is a major catastrophe or minor hiccup, we can find ourselves completely overwhelmed by wild emotion.
I wondered if I could’ve avoided this outburst had I been more careful with my words, but I think she just had something pent up that needed to be released. There was nothing I could do once it started. All that I could offer was an open set of arms when she finally settled enough to receive them. A moment to embrace her, to let her know that no matter how far she falls over the edge, I will always be there when she comes back.
I’ve yet to perfect this parenting thing. I’m always learning, always adjusting, and I have to keep an open mind that my kids are doing the same. It’s human nature to get lost in emotion, I just hope my children grow to realize that when the world falls to pieces, they will always have a place to make them feel whole again.