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  • Writer's pictureCindy

Meltdown Night

So as you’re aware, this post was supposed to show up yesterday (Monday)… But as things sometimes go, we needed to be a little flexible.

Sunday night Nolan had a meltdown. While that in and of itself isn’t necessarily noteworthy, the size and magnitude of this particular meltdown was pretty epic. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time he had a meltdown like this.

I’m thinking this was the perfect storm of a number of things…

· His belly wasn’t 100%... Not only did he have a can of his favorite chicken tortilla soup (which is always poop waiting to happen for him— we try to plan accordingly) he also had way too many grape tomatoes while no one was looking. Note to self: hide tomatoes instead of eggs this year for Easter… He’ll be way more motivated to find them (assuming the cats don’t get weird about hidden tomatoes first).

· The weather has been a little bit all over lately… In the past two weeks we went from a low of 18 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit—calm down the rest of the world) to a high of 46 degrees. I mean, it’s a good thing because at this time of year we need a little hope for spring around here, but it’s still a dramatic change.

· It was a full moon. Go ahead and laugh, but it really does make a difference. I don’t understand how or why, but it does.

· Nolan hadn’t slept well all week. Between that and the amount he’s eating, I’m betting he’s working on a growth spurt.

Regardless of the cause, it was rough. As much as we wanted to help him calm down, anything we offered only escalated his behaviors. I can’t say exactly how long the yelling, crying, self-injurious behaviors and overall aggression towards anyone and anything in the house went on, but I know it was over two hours.

As Nolan has grown, matured, and learned to navigate our world, he’s definitely had fewer meltdowns. Part of that probably comes from the fact that with the improved communication that he’s worked on so hard, he doesn’t have to deal with as much frustration. I mean, let’s face it—if no one ever had the slightest clue what I wanted or needed, I’d be frustrated.

But it reminded me a lot of his younger days.

I remember a period of a year or two between just before Nolan was diagnosed and around the time we found a pediatric neurologist to help us with his sleep issues. Back then, sleep was elusive in our household while meltdowns and aggression were commonplace.

Every time we would see a doctor and ask about sleep we were always told the same things… Make sure you have a good bedtime routine and that it’s clear that the day is ending and sleep time is beginning. Let him cry it out and eventually he would learn how bedtime works.

Sometmes he crashed eventually...

And perhaps that is true for the majority of children, but it was not the case for our Nolan.

Finally a behavioralist told us (for once) that this was not, in fact, our fault—Nolan just isn’t wired like other kids. We knew that, but it was nice that someone finally told us that it applies to sleep too. She’s the one who referred us to the neurologist, and for that she will always be a personal hero of mine.

I remember countless hours spent in Nolan’s room at night trying to help him settle in. When I tried to leave him alone to put himself to sleep (as had been suggested by his pediatrician and others), he would just get more and more worked up. He would cry and scream so hard and so long that he sometimes would end up hoarse. He would jump and kick, scream and bite, and it was obvious to me that he wasn’t safe in that state alone.

So I took to staying with him in his room until he was asleep. Sometimes he just needed me to sit on the end of his bed. Other times he wanted me to hold him while I stood in his room and rocked back and forth (what we affectionately refer to as the Bobee Dance in my family—you know the one that mothers instinctively do with their small children). Eventually, my then-giant toddler would wear me out before I wore him out, and we would need to find other means of calming.

Mostly I remember sitting on his bedroom floor with my back against the door waiting for Kirk to come home from work and feeling very helpless. The cry-it-out proponents made it clear (at least in my mind) that it was my fault Nolan wasn’t sleeping. It was my responsibility to make sure he stayed in his room at bedtime. And since he’d outgrown his crib, I had no other option to physically keep him in his room.

But I remember sitting on that hardwood floor for hours until my butt was numb, and sometimes I even fell asleep leaning against that door. But he would often get out of bed angry and aggressive, and I was in his way. As small as a three-year-old is (even a large one like Nolan), you might not expect him to have much impact… But more often than not, when he was finally asleep for the night I would leave the dark of his room to inspect myself in the bathroom mirror grateful to not be bleeding or find my glasses (or worse—my nose) broken.

But even in those darkest of nights, I found moments of comfort—and I hope he did too. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pick him up or hold him forever (though honestly I milked that as long as I could… I think the last time I picked him up he was almost 100 pounds and his feet barely made it off the floor). I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold his curly little head against my shoulder and cheek to offer every ounce of calming I had for much more of his life.

I cherished what I could, and I dodged the headbutts to the best of my ability when I couldn’t.

So as much as that meltdown was hard to watch Nolan go through, it reminded me of those days. And yes, it reminded me of the dark and helpless feelings that so many of those nights brought.

But it also reminded me of a time when my giant, smelly, “too cool for you, Mom” teenager was a tiny, sometimes-snuggly boy. Plus it reminded me of just how far we’ve come—how much he’s learned and grown and matured.

And as much as I wish he didn’t have to go through the kind of meltdown that he did on Sunday night, I’m grateful for the reminders.

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