Massive Meltdown at the Park

An explosive moment in public provided a hard reminder about kindness and letting go.

I’ve written on numerous occasions about raising our six-year-old son who has great potential and a challenging prognosis of at-risk FASD.

These challenges include explosive outbursts, impulsivity and emotional regulation.

Managing these moments feel especially difficult during these hard days of virtual schooling.

Thankfully, about two weeks ago, he made a new friend, a six-year-old from outside of the City who is staying with his Grandma during the week, who is helping him with virtual schooling.

The two of them have been playing very well. Now that the days are getting longer, it’s been nice to take T outside to play. Let him run ragged, so he can go to bed faster is how I look at it.

The nuclear meltdown happened last Thursday.

As with these unexpected moments, it came out of nowhere.

T wanted to be pushed on the swing. As he often does, he asked in a loud demanding way.

I told him to ask nicely or I was not going to push him.

Out came the grumpy T. “Shut up,” he said.

I reminded him to use nice words.

“Do you want me to slap you?” He said.

Planned ignoring from me.

So he upped the ante. “Do you want me to punch you?”

I gave him one last warning to talk nicely or we were going to go home.

So he got off the swing and shoved the swing towards me.

I said softly to the Grandma of T’s new friend. “I’m sorry, but we’re going home now.”

The thing with managing T’s behaviour is that you have to follow through with your warnings.

So T erupted like a volcano.

Loud screaming, crying, fell to the floor. If you only heard what was going on without any visual cues, you’d think a child was being murdered.

I picked him up, this kid that was now half my height, and carried him kicking and protesting out of the park – defeaning screams and all.

It was the longest three minute walk home.

I felt the heavy gaze of every parent and child in the park. I felt like eyes were looking out the windows of homes on the street.

When I got home, I dropped T to the ground. I was trembling and my voice was shaking.

I told him how embarrassing his behaviour was – and I told the hubby to take over, because I was done with him for the day.

As a special needs parent, you learn to live through these moments. But they are nonetheless draining.

It ruined my long weekend; I had taken Friday off work as a mental health day and to take T out for a hike after school.

I spent the day in my room with myself. I did the bare minimum with T that day, because I was so upset.

But beyond the anger and embarrassment, what I really felt and was having a hard time processing was the sadness.

It was a sobering reminder that despite the many positive and amazing gains T had made, there is always this specter of his prognosis.

Specifically, it reminded me of the lifelong struggles he will likely have.

One of my big emotional triggers is around the worry of how T’s behavioral challenges will impact his social life as he progresses through childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

He is a very bright, funny, caring and sweet boy. This is the majority of our experience. But all it takes is a moment like this to tarnish his impression on others.

I find this the hardest part to cope with.

To put it frankly, this was an incredibly deflating experience.

We always try to teach T that if you fall down, get up and try again.

That really is what special needs parenting is all about – whether we like it or not!

And that’s what the hubby and I did – after about three days of my pure grumpiness.

I told the hubby I don’t think I could face the Grandma. She probably wouldn’t want her grandchild to play with T again.

But we had to try. Because we can’t live our lives in constant fear of judgment or looking like we’re screwing up in public.

Yesterday night, we took T out. We had a very good day in school and were optimistic we were not going to have a repeat episode.

T and the boy played so well together and even included another girl in their game.

The Grandma asked if he’s feeling better. I told her about T’s prognosis and background.

Being a retired high school teacher, she knew about FASD. She then disclosed one of her other grandchildren has autism and she shared her experience with supporting him.

Then she added that she thought the hubby and I were doing a great job.

I know she was trying to be kind, as she’s only just met us, but it was nonetheless such a reassuring thing to hear.

We walked home together afterwards with T running far ahead of us.

She asked me if he was going to be ok.

I joked that if someone abducted T from the streets, they’d be paying me to take him back.

This evening was a wonderful reminder that there are no coincidences in life and that we were meant to have the moments that we have – even these explosive embarrassing moments – and you meet the people you’re supposed to meet, like this Grandma and her grandson.

It was also a good reminder to always exercise kindness with yourself.

As T got out of his bath that evening, I wrapped his towel around him and I gave him a big long tight hug.

And I finally let go and felt the heaviness of the past few days fall off my shoulders.

22 thoughts on “Massive Meltdown at the Park

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I do find it valuable to share to help others who may be going through a similar journey, as others have done for me as well.

      And thank you for your posts. I know you haven’t enabled commenting on your posts so just want use this space to thank you for sharing your valuable and inspiring lessons too!

      I recall you mentioning on one of yours posts that you worked with special needs children, so I can see that empathy and strength in your posts too!

  1. As someone who has meltdowns, due to a neurological disability, this made me feel even guiltier for all of the weekends and special days I’ve ruined. As an adult, I refuse to go to many family events because I am scared that my behavior will ruin the day. When people say they want me there, I don’t believe them, because how can they want me there when I’m so embarrassing? Even though I understand that it is my brain that is broken, not necessarily me, I have been lectured at and told how I ruin things since I was younger than T.
    Does T have any idea of how his brain works? Did he, in fact, have the spoons to speak nicely – to process what you were asking, to figure out what nicely is, to remember what neuro typicals want your face and body and voice to do when they ask you to speak nicely?
    More importantly, will he find this blog some day and think, my dad really did what was best for me, I really learned a lesson, or will he just feel terrible for ruining your weekend? The internet is forever. I’m glad that blogs weren’t a thing when I was growing up.

    1. Hi Kate, thank you for sharing your comment. I’m sorry that this post has upset you. I always try to write honestly from the perspective of a parent and it certainly is not my intention to upset or make others feel guilty.

      T is very young still and has not a formal diagnosis. When the time comes, we will certainly share with him in an age appropriate way about his condition and to continue to help him navigate life as positively as he can.

      I can only speak from my perspective and experience. I know that children like T, and we’ve experienced this with him, can learn. They just need a different approach and lots of repetition.

      For me, it wasn’t so much that he ruined my weekend, it was more the sadness of the incident that ruined it for me. It reminded me of the challenges that he will face as throughout his life. Life, unfortunately, is not fair. Not everyone will be understanding or patient or compassionate.

      We try to be honest with T about our feelings. If we are mad, upset or annoyed, we tell him so and we tell him why. But we always try to remind him that regardless of how we’re feeling, we always love him.

      This approach has so far worked for us and it’s how we’re going to try to move forward.

      It’s a very hard road for sure. Lots of lessons learned through mistakes. But as his parent, we only know one way to go… and that is to try to keep moving forward. We never let an incident such as the one at the park stop us from giving T the best life as possible and it is something we try to teach him from a young age. He will have many setbacks in his life, because of his condition. It’s not fair, we know, but it is the way that it is. And to try to encourage him to keep moving forward despite these setbacks.

      Thanks again for commenting. I really appreciate hearing a different perspective! And I am sorry again if this post had triggered negative feelings for you.

  2. I used to work at a bookstore. I saw many a parent carry their screaming child out of the store, surfboard style, while the child attached to every display on the way like velcro. And I just want to say that those of us with experience with kids understand– it’s probably embarrassing, but it happens, and good people understand, so don’t feel too embarrassed 🙂

    I’m glad for the happy ending to this post!

    1. Thank you, Yari! It ended up just being a minor blip in the grand scheme. More to come in the future, I’m sure. 🤣 But very thankful for good and understanding people like yourself and the grandma!

  3. So sorry about the massive meltdown. It felt like I was there with you too. As a parent I could relate to how you are feeling. I admire your great love, kindness, patience and understanding. Never easy to be a parent but it’s the best blessing there is. Thank you for sharing your story and T. Hope this coming weekend will be better , more fun and relaxing. Take care. 🙏

    1. Thank you!

      It was a hard moment for sure but thankfully so many happy and positive moments overpower these harder ones. 😊

      I share these moments as a way to help advocate and to provide reassurance for other parents who may going through similar challenges.

      The good news is, as you noted, the weekend is almost here. Sunny skies and warm weather and so far a really good nature T are on the horizon.

      I hope you have a great one too!

  4. Oh Ab I am so sorry you felt like that. You are right, I think you were meant to meet the grandma. On a bright note, thank goodness T was upset with you and not the other boy. You understood how to handle T and the other boy wouldn’t have. Now they still want to play together.

    1. That’s for sure! In the grand scheme, it was a minor blip and we’ve moved on. These public meltdowns thankfully don’t happen often but they sure knock the wind out of you when they do!

  5. Oh, those moments are hard. And the wounding and worrying that come with them equally so. I hope you feel the love of not only your husband but the community of parents and grandparents through all of them because there is no growth without struggle (for kids and parents) but that doesn’t make it any easier!

    1. Thank you, Wayne. The post meltdown moments are almost worse than the actual meltdowns, for sure. But they do feel like easier to get through but no less annoying!

  6. Sorry to hear about T’s massive meltdown and that it ruined your weekend. I’d say you earned your mental health day that you took off on Friday! It’s hard to always stay positive and cheery and sometimes we just need some alone time to deal. I’m glad you returned to the park. It’s kind of funny that because of T’s meltdown you were able to connect more with this Grandma. Hopefully this weekend will be better.

    1. Thank you, L. I was grumpy for most of the weekend but we did have many moments of levity and fun as well – and going for walks – so it wasn’t all bad. 😊 Yes, the connection with the Grandma through the meltdown was a blessing. Things always work out for the best.

      And yes, looking forward to the weekend! It’s almost here. Have a good one too.

  7. Ugh. I have lived through a few of those meltdowns and – to be frank – they suck. It was always hard to keep in mind that I was their elected safe place. Whatever big emotion they have inside that they couldn’t find words for was coming out on me as I was (am) their safe place. But there is no way I ever saw that compliment when I was carrying a screaming, kicking child off the playground. I am happy that the grandmother was so understanding and really, kudos to you for following through. That’s a hard thing to do too. Glad it all worked out!

    1. Thanks Robyn. They really do suck don’t they? They get easier to deal with but no less annoying and upsetting.

      I think your comment about the elected safe space is so accurate. I certainly don’t see it as blessing 🤣 but it helps explain the behaviours.

      The thing that kills me is a few minutes after we get home, he’s back to his sweet and cheerful self. I was so upset afterwards for like 3 days. 🤣

    1. Thank you, Juliette! It doesn’t feel like it on some days but after some distance, we feel good about how it’s all going. 😊 Thank you for the nice comment!

  8. I have so much respect for you and your husband Ab. It can’t be easy for. You clearly care deeply. I do believe your struggles will be worth it. T will understand just how lucky he is to have you both. He will be far better placed to navigate his way through life because of you. It is our struggles that define us. Wishing you well Ab 🙏

    1. Thank you, AP! It was a rough moment for sure – not the first, and surely not the last. They do get easier but no less annoying and upsetting. 🤣 The week is already going well. Hope yours is too!

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