Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween meltdown.

My oldest daughter L, 5.5 years has never eaten 5 servings of candy before bedtime until tonight. She also has never had an emotional meltdown of this proportion, ever. Coincidence? I don't think so.
The meltdown got started as I was putting M to bed. L and T were playing in the bathtub. I could hear that they were having way too much fun and I suspected water was flying everywhere. As I put M down I heard mommy address the troops.
"Alright, that's it. L in your room, T in your room. You are going to bed by yourselves tonight!"
L was furious.
"I want daddy! I want to go in to T's room with daddy."
I was working on T's reading with him in his room. He was making progress reading his first short book when L burst into the room: "Mom said I could come in if you said it was OK."
"It is fine L, if you can listen while T reads his book."
L immediately jumped up next to T. It is tough to get T to concentrate on a book, so I was a little frustrated when L began sounding out the letters for T. T became frustrated and threw the book across the room.
"L, I asked you to listen while T reads his book."
That was too much constructive criticism for L to bear.
That was another fine instance of daddy speaking without thinking. As the words were coming out of my mouth I knew she was in no state to handle them.
I let her cry for 30 seconds and then spoke:
"L, this behavior is keeping T awake. I will count to 60. When I am done counting you need to have calmed down."
I began counting. By 10 she had stopped crying. At 30 I tried to rub her back, but she pushed my hand away. By 60 we were all ready to brush the sugar film off of our teeth.
I loaded up the toothbrushes and L demanded that she get her teeth brushed first. T was right next to me so I ignored her request and started scrubbing T's teeth. Again this injustice was too much for L to bear.
"Daddy you're not nice! I wanted to go first!"
I knew nothing that I could say was going to help at this point. Luckily my wife arrived and swept L off into her room.
I told T about 3 minutes of his bedtime story. Tonight he wanted to be a gingerbread man. He and all his friends became the fastest creatures on earth. "Faster than a cheetah?" asked T.
"Yeah, faster than a cheetah." They were just finishing a game of freeze tag in gingerbread land when mommy came in.
"L wants you." J muttered.
I went into L's room and there she was with her arms outstretched waiting for a hug. I gave her a huge hug and squeezed her firmly for 2 full minutes. When I let go we talked about Trick or Treating, the neighbor's costumes and anything else we could think of. It was as if she had been exorcised. I stayed for 10 minutes and kissed her goodnight. She went to bed without further incident.
When L gets into those moods I try to remember a time when I was younger and was really upset. The time that I remember most clearly is when my favorite football team the Dallas Cowboys lost to the 49rs in the NFC championship game. I cried for 2 hours and was generally inconsolable. I threw many things around the living room as well. When I see L in that state I remember exactly how I felt when I was in her shoes. I hug her, but I also try to give her healthy alternatives to channel her feelings. The counting drill was one effective drill. Getting away and getting some quiet time to yourself is another method that works for me.

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