Managing the Meltdowns: My Toddler’s and My Own

Toddler meltdown

It was pretty close to a perfect Saturday morning.

The sun was out, but it wasn’t too hot. Perfect for running errands.

I got us both ready for the day, both wearing matching jean jackets. And I had to admit, I thought we looked pretty dang cute. Instagram-worthy.

As I reviewed the list of errands in my head while driving out of the neighborhood, I thought to myself — this “mommy and me” morning was off to a great start!

I was on cloud nine and nothing was going to bring me down.

Or, so I thought.

The Meltdown

We hadn’t been in HomeGoods, our first stop, for more than five minutes when I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy errand.

Nothing could distract my daughter as she fussed in the seat of the shopping cart.

Snacks, singing, toys from her diaper bag, random non-breakable items from the shelves, Cocomelon on my phone.

Nothing.

I even tried to hold her while pushing the cart full of of pillows, wall décor, and outdoor toys.

All she wanted to do was walk and she wasn’t going to stop crying, screaming, and throwing items at me until she got her way.

Trying to Stay Strong

Generally when my daughter has meltdowns, I’m out of there.

I was that mom who didn’t bring her baby anywhere when she was a newborn because I was terrified she’d cry and wouldn’t stop.

But I had all that stuff in my cart. I thought to myself, “Keep calm and get through it. She’ll find a way to figure it out. Breathe.”

I continued my mission to grab everything on the list, but I felt the other customers’ eyes on us. It was like everyone was thinking,“Why is this toddler still in here. Take her out.”

And I didn’t blame them, my daughter was starting to annoy me too.

Now they very well could have been giving me looks of sympathy (or not thinking about us at all), but to me, their glances felt heavy. I was starting to sweat and my patience was wavering, fast.

I decided, that’s it — we’re leaving! I ditched my cart, with everything in it, grabbed my daughter (still wailing at that point), and walked to the car in defeat.

The Darn Jacket

As I buckled her in, frustrated tears streaming down my face, I realized her jean jacket (yes, that Instagram-worthy jean jacket I was loving on less than an hour prior) was still in the cart.

So, HomeGoods round two.

We headed back to the store to find our abandoned cart. I took this as a sign from God that my home really needed those discounted pillows and whatever else I had managed to toss in there.

In the checkout line, I tried to communicate with my daughter that we were almost done. That after mommy paid for the items, we’d go to the park so she could run around. Then we’d go get a smoothie because she loves smoothies and more importantly, mom really —desperately — needed an iced coffee.

The reasoning didn’t register with her. She wanted out of that cart to roam so badly. She continued fussing and we received more looks from the other, more relaxed, Saturday morning shoppers.

Mom’s Meltdown

The second I got in my driver’s seat after buckling her in, I lost it. I rose my voice at my daughter.

I don’t even remember what I said, but I’m sure I didn’t acknowledge her feelings and help her through her meltdown like I should have.

Fortunately, whatever I said was pretty funny to her.

As she giggled in her car seat, I wanted to scream inside, but I couldn’t help but laugh.

What the heck had just happened, and why did I lose my cool?  

I know my daughter doesn’t developmentally understand that she can’t roam around HomeGoods at nearly 19 months and that when mom says no, it means no.

I know she’s not a bad kid and that tantrums are going to happen.

But why did this meltdown bother me so much? Why was I so frustrated?

Selfishly, I really wanted to get through that list of mine and feel productive. I wanted to do it with my daughter on what was supposed to be our perfect “mommy and me” Saturday morning. I wanted it to be like any other time we ran errands.

But it wasn’t.

And I had to understand that’s okay.

What I’ve Learned

I’ve replayed that Saturday morning in my head more often than I’d like.

Probably because I was embarrassed and most of all, angry with myself that my patience failed me over something so silly. Damn pillows!

I know I’m not a bad mom, but I sure felt like one that morning.

I also know it won’t be the only time I lose my cool.

Fortunately, I know I’m not alone because being a mom is the best, yet most challenging, role most of us will ever have.  

If you find yourself with withering patience, take a deep breath.

Apologize if you need to, but always remember, you’re doing a great job and your child is unbelievably lucky to have you as their mother.

And for information on how to deal with those meltdowns, check out our post Reinforcing the Positive: How Praise Can Transform Difficult Behavior.
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Hannah lives in Fargo with her husband, Tyler, and their daughter, Harper (October 2020). She was raised in East Grand Forks and spent most of her time growing up playing soccer, figure skating, and babysitting her cousins. She attended NDSU (Go Bison!) and earned her degree in Management Communication with a minor in Public Relations. After graduation, Hannah met her husband when he graciously offered to help her sweaty-self move a couch into her apartment in Bismarck. The rest was history! A few years later, after many trips across the Midwest to see each other, friends and family, Hannah and Tyler ended up in Fargo. Hannah currently serves as the Senior Marketing Specialist at a credit union in town and while she thoroughly loves her job, her favorite part of the day is picking up her daughter from daycare. When she’s not hanging out at home with Tyler and Harper, she enjoys reading, working out, golfing (when weather permits) and spending way too much time shopping. She’ll never turn down a margarita, fried pickles or a competitive card game with her large extended family.

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