what to do when you're screaming, blaming, or surprise crying

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A few days ago, I picked my kiddo up from camp, and I took her to get ice cream with friends. This was a plan that had been in the making for about a week, and she had been looking forward to it. A lot.

It was nothing short of miserable.

There was arguing. There were tears. There was ongoing drama over a cut flower in a plastic cup.

By the time we got in the car to go home, she was totally out of her frame. She screamed so loudly at me on the way home that people walking down the street turned their heads to see what was going on. We were in our car. With the windows up. And people on the sidewalk could hear her.

At home, she went to her room hollering that she never wanted to speak to me again. After she slammed around in there, crying, for about 10 minutes, I asked if we could talk. Too soon. She came out grudgingly, and we talked for about 90 seconds before she was back to screaming. Her little body was actually shaking with outrage. She went back to her room.

Soon, her dad got home, and he suggested that I go for a walk and he would check in on our daughter. Fine. I had just gotten down the driveway, and he called to me from the front door.

She was asleep. Asleep in all her clothes. Asleep with all the lights on. Asleep with no supper. Asleep before the sun went down. Shake-her-and-she-doesn’t-even-stir asleep.

She slept for more than 12 hours. Straight through.

So. You might be reading this and wondering how many deep breaths I had to take not to scream back at my child. (Seven hundred forty-six, give or take. I was on the razor’s edge.) Or you may be reading this and thinking that you would never let a child of yours act that way. (Okay.) Or you could be reading this and thinking my husband is wise to suggest that I go for a walk. (That’s true.)

But I bet that you are not reading this and feeling super shocked that my daughter desperately needed to sleep. I suspect the dominant reaction to that turn in the story is much like mine: “Oh. Of course, she needed to sleep. That explains it.”

Right! We’re not surprised because look at all these things she was doing:

She was crying over things that wouldn’t usually upset her.

She was feeling miserable doing something that would usually be fun.

She was protecting her territory.

She was yelling.

She was blaming the people around her for making her unhappy.

She was lashing out at the safest person she could find.

Hm.

This is a very good list.

For me. For grown-ups.

Just like my kid was expending a lot of energy in new and challenging situations at camp this week, you expend a lot of energy in your days, too, don’t you? Especially if something new and challenging (or old and worrying) is happening for you.

So maybe, if you’re surprise crying or feeling miserable or protecting your territory or yelling at your loved ones or blaming your colleagues or just being a real ass to the person who will love you anyway—maybe you could go to bed tonight. Early.

What if you didn’t stay up late to send emails? What if you don’t try to get in some you-time after the everyone else is asleep? What if tonight you don’t turn on the TV?

What if you don’t even try to apologize for your yelling or explain your irritability or report why you’re going to sleep now?

What if after the kids are down or the supper is eaten, you go straight in and brush your teeth? What if you set the dishwasher to go, put on your pajamas, and climb in your bed?

What if you go to sleep?

What if the next morning you wake up happy, make the beds without being asked, ask your mom to put your hair in pigtails and tell her you’re feeling really nervous about a situation at camp?

Or whatever the grown-up version of that might be.