I feel like some moms completely overuse the term “meltdown” to describe any situation when their child does not behave perfectly. It’s a bit overly dramatic, if you ask me. But sometimes, there’s no other way to describe it. Last week, there was a complete and utter meltdown in my family. Except it wasn’t my son — it was me.
I’ve been preparing myself for my grand return to work, and one of the biggest hurdles is the commute. Since moving to Manhattan, I always loved the ease and efficiency of the subway. That was before I had one kid strapped to my front and another strapped to a stroller. So I decided to do a test run by picking up my son from daycare with my daughter in tow.
I was already a bit frazzled before even getting on the subway. My son had decided to play hide and seek at daycare and could only be coaxed into the stroller by giving him a piece of candy. This resulted in him wanting — you guessed it — more candy. At the same time, the baby, who would have been fine had the daycare pick-up gone more smoothly, decided that she wanted to eat. Immediately.
There I was, sandwiched between “more candy, Mommy” and the blood-curdling scream of a hungry baby. I could feel the anger of our fellow New Yorkers jammed into the subway car with us. In utter desperation, I simultaneously pulled out the candy and my boob to satiate both kids. I then forced my way out of the cramped car and waited, pitifully, for a stranger to help me lug the stroller up the stairs. Meanwhile, the chorus sang “Candy!” “Waaaa!” “Candy!” “Waaaa!”
What am I doing?!
The flood gates opened and my emotions spiraled out of control. The more I cried, the worse the situation became. My son completely shut down, refusing to get out of the stroller, walk, or, basically, do anything.
Doesn’t he see me crying? Yes. Doesn’t he understand why and want to help? No.
It wasn’t until after I relayed the day’s events to good friend in full animated detail that I got rational about the situation. “Toddlers can’t feel empathy,” my friend said. “And your son was probably acting out because of fear.”
Huh. That would have been good to know.
I had unrealistic expectations of my almost-perfect two-year-old, coupled with my own anxieties of the dreaded commute. The thought of having to do this every day twice a day was making any hiccup in my test-run seem like an insurmountable obstacle that I was powerless to overcome. But really, I just need to take a deep breath, plan a bit better next time, and take it one packed train ride at a time.
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy from here on out, but I’m hoping it will at least get easier. If a month from now it’s still not working, I can explore other options. At least step one is pretty simple: Feed my kids before getting onto the train.
About Sabrina Clark.