Sometimes as parents we mess up. Despite everything we know, everything we’ve learned about raising our kids, we make a mistake. Last night I did just that…
I was in the middle of eating my dinner when Tommy asked for a 3rd helping of ice-cream. I told him it had finished, that he could have some tomorrow, and he ran back into the kitchen screaming.
Tommy has developed a scream that is incredibly loud, high pitched, and lasts as long as he can exhale. It goes right through your head. He uses it to protest about anything and everything, and can come completely out of the blue.
He did this 3 or 4 times, running back out to ask for more, then running off screaming uncontrollably every time I didn’t give in. Now at this stage you might call this a tantrum, however with Tommy they often lead to meltdowns, and last night was no exception.
Soon there were chairs overturned, the table slammed, and lots of spitting. Somehow, even though I didn’t think it was possible, the screaming got louder. I snapped, grabbed him to stop him from running off and shouted at him. I can’t remember what but probably something along the lines of “Tommy, stop it, calm down!”
Ask anyone who’s able to tell you what a meltdown feels like, and being shouted at to ‘calm down’ is probably one of the least helpful things you can do.
It escalated even more as he ran around screaming causing more chaos. Angry at him (and probably more angry at myself) I held him still and shouted again. And surprise surprise it didn’t make him stop. All it did was make me feel worse about how I was handling it, and Tommy even more anxious.
About 20 minutes after it first started, and a lot of screaming and tears, he started to calm down. He then spent the next half hour in my arms being carried around the kitchen so he could look into every cupboard, whilst I named every single item in there, over and over. When there was a word that he liked he pulled me close so I could whisper it into his ear. This repetition seemed to help him calm down, make sense of the world again.
And just like that the meltdown was over. We spent some time looking at books, I cuddled him and said sorry, and then he went off to bed.
Sharing our stories with you lovely people I receive a lot of comments about what a great dad I am, and it always means a lot to receive them. I like to think I’m a good dad, but it’s also true that tonight I fucked up. I know that shouting at Tommy when he’s in that state is probably the worst thing I can do, but I still did it.
Last night I made a mistake, just like I’ve made many mistakes over the last 9 years, trying to figure out how best to parent these 2 amazing little boys. When this has happened before I probably would have got down on myself and beat myself up about what happened, but what good does that do?
I know I shouldn’t shout at Tommy, I really never wanted to. But in that moment when he’s screaming so loud it almost feels like the natural thing to do. It’s an instinctive reaction that happens before you even have a chance to think about it.
I’m not perfect, I’m sure one day Tommy will push my buttons again and I might shout at him. Being a dad to 2 autistic boys who have such challenging needs is incredibly tough at times, but that’s no excuse.
So just like every other mistake I’ve made I’ll do my best to learn from it and put it right. Tomorrow I’ll try again to be a better dad, the best I can be. And in the end that’s all we can ever do ❤️