Hot Mess

The good road and the road of difficulties, you have made me cross; and where they cross, the place is holy.” – Black Elk, Oglala Lakota Medicine Man

Yesterday morning I was feeling so optimistic about getting the kids out the door. It was a beautiful spring morning, I’d just had lovely quiet time meditating and writing. Then I got the kids up and I had my two-year-old son changed into his Superman costume for the day and breakfast on the table.

And then with 15 minutes to go we had a potty accident. Trying to recover from that, I didn’t give my 6-year-old daughter the 5 minute warning before she had to turn off her math game and get her shoes on. All of a sudden we were late, Mr. D was having a fit. I think it was mostly because he hadn’t eaten yet but probably a little because he had an accident and although I hadn’t said anything, he was attuned to my stress of being late. Miss O was upset because the pressure was on to get out the door. Our neighbor girl who carpools with us looked a little horrified as our hot mess unfolded.

I could find nothing to help my toddler calm down –  he didn’t want to sing or rock, he was resisting sitting in his car seat, screaming about going to school, there was no way to get him to eat and the pressure was on because we were going to make my daughter and her friend late to school if we didn’t leave NOW. All of a sudden, I went from my usual “it-will-all-work-out” state to being emotionally flooded.

I’ve seen different descriptions of the being flooded – but generally it seems to describe a feeling of strong emotions, release of adrenaline and cortisol in the body. For me it shows up as an inability to be creative and problem solve in the moment because the surge of emotion. I got the kids into the car – my daughter was fine after the initial grump that I was hurrying her – but I just couldn’t wait to drop my son at daycare because I was flummoxed.

After we dropped the girls at the elementary school, I still had no success in calming my son who was really upset. He didn’t want to listen to music or for me to talk. And while I still just wanted to drop him at daycare and make it someone else’s problem, this state was so unusual for my easy-going toddler I just couldn’t. In fact, I knew that not only he needed to calm down and heal from this moment – so did I.

I found myself driving to Home Depot which thankfully had small excavators and backhoes for rent sitting in their parking lot. I parked where he directed me to, scrambled into the back seat to be next to him and his curiosity for the construction equipment took over. Once he started doing something else, I could get him to eat and everything settled from there. We ended up having a lovely time at Home Depot. The great thing about kids is how quickly they heal and move on.

It reminded me how in the moment where we are flooded, doing something else until we can restore our balance is the only thing that works. I’ve heard Drs Julie and John Gottman suggest doing a crossword or going for a walk – anything but continuing a conversation that can’t go anywhere.

I’d say 90+% of the time, my little family operates according to plan and we all do great. But it’s in messy 10% that we find our resilience and healing, figuring it out one Home Depot parking lot at a time.

33 thoughts on “Hot Mess

  1. Thank you for sharing so openly, Wynne; I know that just reading this is going to help so many people experiencing similiar feelings–about attempting to do the best that we can in the moment.
    Raising children is one of the most rewarding (and yet challenging) experiences we may encounter. It draws out our apparent good and bad–to stay centered in everyone’s needs can seem to empty us. You’re doing a great job–great work.
    I know that a great deal of the apparent suffering experienced through “Art” was because of his rigid plans. When I let go of him and recognized true Self, everything improved. 🙏

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Art. And well said – doing the best we can in the moment. You are so right that raising kids is both rewarding and challenging. But thank goodness for all the lessons we learn through it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love reading about your exchanges with your children. It often makes me wonder what I would have been like as a mom, how I would have handled stressful situations. I really admire your parenting skills, Wynne… and this is a great reminder that distraction really does help in some situations. It gives us time to cool off and re-gather ourselves. Great post ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Grace! And of course you are a mom – to those two beautiful dogs! Distraction is a wonderful tool for sure – so that we can return and then re-gather (love how you used that word here)!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, the meltdowns. I remember them with the kids and also the grands, and honestly not with fondness. Sometimes, as long as I knew the child was safe from harm I simply had to sit silently or even walk into the next room. Doing more at the time would not have benefited anyone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well said, Deb. Doing more doesn’t benefit anyone. And I agree with your method of just being silent or walking away, assuming the kids are safe. If we’d had more time at home before school, I think we could have done that and it would have faded away more quickly but the balance of multiple kids makes it more tricky. Nonetheless, we get through, right?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh boy, the screaming and the crying usually is what undoes most parents! That’s when we’ll see the flashes of anger and even yelling. Kudos to you for recognizing your feelings and finding an alternate way of dealing with the situation! Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh those meltdown moments really do throw off your rhythm and can really rattle your emotions.

    I’m glad you found a very creative way to calm down your son and got a fun and innovative outing out of the experience! 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rattle your emotions is such a good way to describe it! I’m sure you’ve found many creative ways to find calm in your parenting journey. Thanks for commiserating!


    1. What a lovely comment, Julia! Yes, none of us escapes this life without messes of our own. I’m glad that mine “shine a light on the way out” as you so beautifully put it.


    1. And guess what – he wanted to go back on Friday when he wasn’t upset. He really likes going into the store and buying plants. I predict that I’m going to have a beautiful yard this summer at $1.98 per plant each visit… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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