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  • Is the circus coming to town?

    Lest you begin to think that everything is always sunshine and roses here in the Martha households, let me tell you about today’s  afternoon in my house.

    My one year old, who is teething, woke up from her nap screaming. This isn’t all that unusual; what is unusual is that she continued to scream.


    Forty five minutes is a long time, people. She stopped for a little bit (half a minute or so) a couple of times, one time long enough for me to give her some medicine. Then she started right back up again, so I tried to get her to suck on a Pedialyte frozen pop, because that was the only appropriate cold thing I had on hand. She refused, and screamed some more.

    During this time, my ever inquisitive 3 year old came out from her rest time to see what was going on. She spotted the frozen pop and told me she wanted a popsicle. I informed her, over the ear-splitting screaming, that #1 we didn’t have any popsicles, and #2 she had refused lunch. She proceeded to ask for a lollipop, to which she got answer #2 again.

    A moment or so later, she started to scream.

    Now, she really dislikes it when her little sister screams, and so I thought maybe she was screaming because of that. But when she started kicking her legs (she was laying on the floor), I knew we were dealing with something else.

    Over all the screaming, I extracted the information that she was throwing a fit because : “you’re not listening to me and giving me what I want.”

    So I picked her up over my shoulder, schlepped her into my room, banging my head against the door frame in a failed attempt to keep her feet from hitting the fan (not any kind of euphemism- there’s a standing fan next to the door) , dumped her on my bed and closed the door on the way out.

    She screamed.

    The 1 year old screamed.

    I wanted to scream. (Both from the madness gripping my house and my hurting forehead. Door jambs are HARD!)

    Eventually everything calmed down, as all explosions must, I suppose. I count it an accomplishment that I didn’t run away from home and join the circus and I didn’t sell (or just plain give) my kids to said circus either. We ended up going for a walk and everyone is generally in good spirits now.

    So my question,  (if you’re still with me), is how do you nurture when you really just want to head for the hills? I’m talking theoretically, not what you would do in the particular circumstance I laid out above. Whether it’s with kids or with friends or family or significant others- how do you care for/ teach/ help the growth process in people that are making you slightly insane?

    Do you just take a time out and step back into the situation after a break? Are you one of those people blessed with inexhaustible patience? Do you pray for guidance? Read every book you can on the subject? Meditate? Just try make sure everyone comes out alive? Search the want ads for an available circus?

    5 Responses to “Is the circus coming to town?”

    1. Carolyn says:

      What a wild situation. Sometimes I “go the the balcony” in my mind when things get crazy – a calm place.

      A tip based in the Haim Ginott theories for relating to children – for the 3-year-old: Give her in fantasy what she can’t have in reality. In this case, you might say something like: “You saw your sister’s medicine and it made you think of a popsicle. It seems like you REALLY want a popsicle. I’m going to write that down: “Z. wants a popsicle”. Often more effective than reasoning with a small child when emotions are high. She knows you were listening if you wrote it down. Even if she can’t have a popsicle.

      If she asks again, repeat, “I wrote that down for later”. “Yes, I wrote that down for later”. Etc.

    2. Hilary says:

      I like that writing it down idea.
      I, however — do have a talk with them later. I tell them that screaming isn’t going to do anything. Or sometimes I’ll have a screaming fit when they won’t do something… and they realize how silly it is.
      However, when my kids are like that I’ve literally had the emotion that I want to slam their head in to the wall (mostly the 9 year old gives me those feelings now)… so I have to step away. I send my kids to their room for a cooling off quiet often. I come out and read some blogs.
      It works.

    3. Dottie Ferrara says:

      Everyone has moments like you are experiencing, and sometime they come around often, and sometimes you can go weeks without feeling this way, but when they do you can feel frustrated and helpless. With the responsibility of being a wife and mother it is natural that sometimes everyone and everything will try your patients, and you will reach the disappointing point of aggravation. You pride yourself in the fact that your are a strong, calm, and understanding mother/wife that can usually handle anything that comes along. The problem is that sometimes the mind and body just needs a break. It may be because your energy levels are low, your mental stress has reached a point of needing a rest, or your body isn’t as healthy as usual. Sometimes it may be simply that, it’s true, the people around you do not see how much you are giving of yourself and you need more understanding. That’s when your body and mind tells you that although you have tried to be Supergirl you are not, and now it’s time sort and regroup. No matter what has cause your frustration this may be a sign that you need to find a way to get it out of your system so you can relax again.

      I learned that it helps a great deal to talk about it. I don’t mean just to say, “Oh my, this has been a bad day and I feel like running away.” I mean let it all hang out, and cry and complain, and talk about all the “poor me” you can come up with. All those hidden things that make you feel bad. I don’t talk to just anyone. I try to reach out to someone that I trust. Someone that I know will not judge me. If that doesn’t work I simply reach out and talk to God. It’s a healing process and God is the best of the healers. The way I do this is… I turn on music in my bathroom and take a nice warm shower. Hopefully no one can hear me. I talk and I cry at first only to myself. Talk and cry! I then confirm that I am sorry that I can’t seem to handle life at this moment, and then I just let out all my frustration, fear, weakness, sorrow, selfishness, and hurt feelings I can think of. I go deep into my heart and I sob and sob. Then I talk to God. In my heart I know God will understand and will help me. It’s okay there is no shame in being human.

      After I sobbed and complained to the point that there are no more tears I start counting my blessings. I talk to myself about what I need to do from this point on to make things easier. I then promise myself that I will not let this little breakdown stand in my way of being the best person I can be. I talk to myself and confirm what I already know, ” I will be the best person I can be, not comparing myself to any others, and always remember that I am loved and that I am important. After this I am tired and if possible I take a nap. When I awake I am a new and energetic person.

      I don’t know if this was what your were asking about, but honestly this what I do when I am frustrated. Am I a little crazy? Probably so. With four children and no husband I had to find something that worked. I still use this when times are bad, but not as often as when I was young.


    4. Maryanne says:

      Dottie, thank you. Just, thank you. I love you more than I have words to express. You are an amazing mom, and an inspiration to me. I seriously just want to give you a hug right now.

      Carolyn, thanks so much for your suggestion. I’ve used that technique before, and it has worked- in the madness of the moment it’s hard to remember though. I need to reread that book. Thanks for reminding me!

      Hilary, I love that you admit you sometimes want to slam their heads into the wall. I think everyone feels that (or whatever their version is) and hardly anyone ever admits it. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. :)

    5. Julie says:

      I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, consider myself the best cope-er. But I wanted to let you know that I TOTALLY understand you day. My third child, Kyra, has in many ways exceeded the “trying” quotient of my ADHD son. Hard to do. She has been through many phases that I thought I wouldn’t survive. (I can laugh about most at the moment. Not all.) One very memorable one was a phase that lasted for some amount of months when she would cry – bloody-murder, top-of-her lungs, SCREAM – cry for at least an hour EVERY TIME she woke up from a nap. Nothing could be done with her. Nothing. (I have witnesses!!) I had to learn to walk away. And there were days I couldn’t face it and decided that an over-extended, exhausted,cranky Kyra was better than a screaming Kyra. (She was maybe 18 months old.)

      On the larger subject…when things get so bad that I am getting angry with whichever miscreant is causing the ruckus, I again step away. I only takes a few moments of being in another room for my heart to melt and I realize that I can’t let them cry alone. Or I can accept in that moment that nothing is gonna happen if I don’t do it. I have to fix it. (Milk thrown over the entire kitchen, or perhaps that rotten butterscotch pudding that splashed us all…)

      For some of the older ones…my ADHD son is often confined to a love seat while I sit close by. (Usually until meds kick in.) In that space he can’t do much damage and I can breath a sigh of relief knowing he is in sight.

      Here are a few other techniques that are probably not kosher, but help. If one starts throwing a fit, I start commenting that it is a sad/pathetic fit. “Come on – you need to really scream! You better lay down and kick the floor! If you’re gonna throw a fit, make it a good one!” They often start to see their own behavior as silly, or at least we start laughing. Especially if I imitate what a good fit REALLY looks like. In the same vein, I have resorted to the “punishment” of…say…chasing them around with a squirt bottle. OR I sometimes scream. Really. Let it out. Go outside. Or not. Scream! Let them scream with you. Again, when it is over, there is often giggles.

      I also catalog all of my bad day to tell my poor husband about it. And sometimes blog it too. It is amazing how often it is more funny than anything else when it is being retold. Sebastian fell off the couch recently, and he happened to do it head first (and even paused there a moment with his feet sticking straight up before he flopped over) which was horrible when it happened, but my husband and I were both giggling that night when I told him.

      There appears to be a theme. Try to make it funny.

      And there is always bribery. I know that somewhere, someone, decided to tell everyone the bribery was a sign of the worst parent. But lets be honest. Bribery is how it works. If we sleep, we are no longer tired. If we exercise we lose weight and get stronger. If you go to work, you get paid. If we are righteous, we go to Heaven. I have made my peace with bribery. “If you all stop fighting and clean this room like I told you, we will be able to go to the park.” “If you eat your lunch you can have a treat.”

      There are also days that I give myself permission to get lost in a novel. Not completely – since nobody dies or starves – but enough to feel like a vacation from my own life.

      And if all else fails, there are much worse things than losing it and crying in front of the kids. I have seen the most cantankerous of toddlers forget their troubles to comfort Mommy.