Brings Back Memories

Every once in a while (due to cruddy scheduling in my opinion) our local hockey team will have a Wednesday night game.  The boys have been dying to go to one of these mid-week games all year (why is beyond me) but since they generally have school the next day they don’t get to.  Well since they were on spring break last week and we had a Wednesday night game I decided it would be a great time to finally let them see just how unspectacular hockey is in the middle of the week.

There wasn’t anything too unusual about taking the boys to the game beyond what day of the week it was.  I’ve taken them to Friday night games before, so they have some experience with being up early for school and then staying up late for the hockey game.  But on this particular night they were wound up tighter than a pair of corks.  I attributed much of the boisterous energy to the excitement of having a full week off school, and didn’t think about the fact that they were probably still recovering from our horrendous road trip (seeing as we’d only been back home for 2 days at that point).

Still, even with them being overly energetic it wasn’t too bad of an evening.  We went to dinner before the game, and got through the meal with no incidents (well unless you count me telling them to quit talking and eat 100,000 times…which I don’t because that’s an every day thing).  The boys were also told that we weren’t going to be getting any special treats at the game that night since they’d just gone to a game the week before and gotten stuff at that one.

As the game started I was pretty happy with how things were going.  A little frazzled, yes, but still pretty happy.  The advantage to going to a game in the middle of the week is that there are lots of people who don’t go.  So, while I’m sure the revenue isn’t great for the hockey team, there are a lot of open seats and it isn’t quite so croweded on the concourse.  This also meant that the seats behind us weren’t being used.  Brendan has been begging me all year to let him sit in the second row (in fact he actually wanted me to buy his season ticket in that row despite the fact that mine is in the first row). I thought this would be a great opportunity to allow him to sit back there and not be a bother to anyone.  And since all 10 seats in the row were empty I let both boys move back there.

In my head I was thinking with that much room there was no way they could fight over who gets to sit where, and there was no reason for them to feel like they were sitting on top of one another since they could put a seat (or two or three) in between them.  Boy was that a mistake.  Within minutes the boys were fighting over one of the stupidest things you could ever imagine.  They were using their hands to push down the seats of the chairs around them, and as they were only sitting one seat apart, both of their hands were one one seat and they were fighting over the rights to push it down.

Thinking this would be easy to fix, my first advice to them was to share the seat.  They both wanted it pushed down, so why not work together to accomplish the task?  Right.  I must have been in a parallel universe where my children actually understand the term “share.”  Back in reality they continued to bicker over the seat.  Second solution:  ask Brendan to let Cameron have the debated seat.  Cameron was sitting on the end of the row, meaning that this was the only seat within his reach to push down.  Brendan on the other hand had one on each side of him.  My logic was this would give them both a single seat to push down therefore solving the problem.  Wrong again.  (my track record wasn’t looking too good for the evening)

Finally i suggested that Brendan move down an additional seat putting 2 seats between them.  Again, my thought was that this would simply solve the problem.  The boys would have enough seats in between them that they could each have their own seat to push down and nobody would be bothering the other.  Under normal circumstances I think this may have worked.  But with the failed road trip so fresh in his mind, and the impending spring break putting a cramp into his regular routine, Brendan wasn’t having a normal night.

And this meant that the unthinkable happened.  He had a meltdown right there in the middle of the arena.  Now most of the time Brendan is your typical 9 year old.  He is generally well behaved in public, uses his manners, and obeys the adults he’s with.  Occasionally, as with anyone of that age, he acts up in the store or at dinner or where ever it is we happen to be.  But the behavior he exhibits at those times is normal for a pre-adolescent child.

True meltdowns in public are extremely rare, and I dread them.  Once Brendan gets rolling into a meltdown there is no reasoning with him.  He will set his mind to whatever it is that he wants at that moment and almost nothing will deter him from that course.  When I saw the signs of the impending meltdown coming on I did what I could to deter it.  I tried to get him to move back into my row and sit next to me so I could get him focused back on the game.  But no luck.  He insisted that the seat he was sitting in was warm and that he didn’t want to move down into a cold seat.

All through this the boys were continuing to bicker about the seat.  Just as things were about to go from bad to worse, Cameron caught on to Brendan’s upcoming meltdown.  It amazes me how well my 4 year old does at picking up on that.  The minute he saw Brendan was going to freak out, he took his hand off the chair and said, “That’s okay mommy.  Brendan can have it.  I don’t need a chair to push down.”  I wish I’d had the opportunity to go and kiss my sweet boy at the time.  But unfortunately he noticed the mood a little too late, and his concession was not enough to keep Brendan from losing control.

Before he could make too much of a scene I took Brendan by the arm and forced him up the steps to the concourse.  I saw the eyes of those around us boring into me as we walked and I feared what they were thinking.  But what else could I do?  Once on the concourse I took Brendan to as secluded a corner as I could to have this meltdown.  As soon as I released his arm he let out a howl and began screaming at me.  The tears flowed and a string of non-sensical accusations and rhetorical questions followed.

I was being unfair, Cameron always gets his own way, I never let Brendan do anything fun, why couldn’t we go back to our seats so he could watch the game, didn’t I understand that his seat was getting cold, how dare I think I could make him do anything he didn’t want to, the tirade went on and on and on.  People began moving to get a better look at the scene unfolding in our little corner of the concourse.  The more people stared the more self conscious I became.

The truth is, this scene playing out at the arena was dredging up some very bad memories for me.  Brendan has always been prone to meltdowns like this, and back when he was a toddler they happened much more frequently and a lot of times they happened in public.  At the time I was able to get through them by telling myself that all toddlers act like this and nobody would think twice about my screaming toddler versus somebody elses.

Well, when Brendan was 3, I went on a roadtrip to go to one of my cousin’s weddings.  Matt wasn’t able to get off work so Brendan and an extremely morning sick me (I was pregnant with Cameron at the time) carpooled with my parents to the wedding.  Despite the 14 hour trip, Brendan did very well on the drive up, and was well behaved all through the first couple of days of the trip.

On the day of the wedding we had a lot going on, and by the time we got to the reception that evening he’d had his fill.  It didn’t help that dinner was being served later than his tiny stomach was used to and I’m sure hunger and boredom factored into this meltdown.  But whatever the reason right in the middle of this fancy dinner, he threw an epic fit (though I can no longer remember what the fit was about).

My standard solution at the time was to take him into a bathroom stall and let him scream himself out.  It worked fairly well, as it got him away from the commotion and allowed him to work out his frustrations.  In the confines of the small stall he’d flail about and would on occasion his me in the arms or legs.  Yes I know I shouldn’t allow my child to hit me and get away with it, but at times like these I had bigger things to worry about than my 3 year old hitting me.

Well on this occasion one of the guests at the wedding heard the screams of rage coming out of my 3 year old and heard the sounds of skin being smacked.  She assumed that I was in the stall beating my son, and threatened to take him away from me.  I was never so scared or so embarrased in my whole life.  Nothing I could say through the door convinced this woman that I was in fact NOT beating my son, and she would not leave me alone.  I wouldn’t open the stall door because I was still trying to get Brendan calmed down.  Thankfully my sister in law happend to be in the bathroom at the same time and got my mom.

My mom got the woman to finally leave us alone and helped me to get Brendan calmed down.  I’ve never before (or ever again) been accused of beating one of my children.  But any time I am in a similar situation where Brendan is out of control in public my mind travels back to that reception hall bathroom and I panic.  I feel like every move I make with any of my kids is being scrutinized by every person around me, and their judging my ability to effectively parent my children.

Back at the arena, I was desperately hoping to resolve this meltdown before someone came over to intervene.  So I pulled out the last weapon in my aresenal.  Since I’d carpooled to the game I couldn’t just pack up the kids and leave, so I used my cell phone to call my husband.  For whatever reason talking to Matt on the phone will 9 times out of 10 help Brendan to start coming down from a meltdown.  We don’t understand why that works because if he’s having a meltdown at home while Matt’s at home, nothing Matt says or does brings him out of it any faster.

I figured Matt would either successfully calm him down, or pack up the baby and come to pick us up.  Thankfully the former worked, and within minutes we were able to go down and enjoy the remainder of the hockey game.  Here’s hoping his public meltdowns remain few and far between.

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