There is a scene in the film “Parenthood” where Steve Martin’s son is having a meltdown. His son has dropped a fly ball and is inconsolable. As Steve watches his son he envisions him as a young man atop a campus tower with a rifle in his hands yelling to his father, “YOU MADE ME PLAY SECOND BASE!”
I often reflect on this particular moment in the film as I watch one or combinations of my children having a complete meltdown. During these moments I am convinced I have completely screwed them up and will be responsible for unspeakable horrors they will inflict upon society in their formidable years if not sooner. I often see therapy bills (for all of us) and notes from my neighbors saying “I told you they’d end up on a milk carton!”
It’s so easy during those moments to give in and offer them whatever they want. The seriousness of their despair most certainly must be genuine and the extreme nature of their outburst and thrashing about is without question the devil himself having completely taken over their little earthly bodies. HERE!!! Take the cookie, TAKE THE COOKIE! TAKE THE BOX! And yes … YES … your brother is a stupid head HE IS!
The madness begins to creep into your own skull and before you know it you begin to speak their language in the exact same tone. But stick to your guns I say. HOLD IT TOGETHER MAN! Stay strong despite every urge you have to stoop to their level. For I guarantee you; it may not be tomorrow, or perhaps even this week, but a moment of grandeur awaits you.
I recently witnessed one such moment with my own two eyes. In our case it wasn’t soon after and ugly outburst that involved two of my children fighting over something very important. I believe it was who got to use the blue cup. Anyway, one of these children who would quickly have a complete collapse and become inconsolable upon the slightest uncomfortable moment, found the strength within to push the anger aside and move on. It was glorious and the elation I felt within as I watched my child handle a stressful moment with grace and poise, then brush it aside and attack the moment with a smile, was unlike anything thing I’d ever experienced. Who knows what event caused this mental revelation? Who cares? Chances are it was the culmination of efforts put forth by his mom, myself, his teachers and most likely his very own friends. Whatever it was it worked. The kid found his mental footing and that’s all that mattered.
Most importantly, upon witnessing this developmental victory, we all stopped and praised the effort and accomplishment. It was a family moment. Everyone recognized the hurdle being cleared and cheered in their own way. It really was remarkable. Will the same hurdle rear its ugly head again? No doubt. I’ve been jumping over the same ones for 45 years. But to see the recognition in a child’s eyes that they can overcome it. That they can handle a stressful situation with maturity and grace. The pride is unmistakable and a moment of power.
I’m still reveling in it actually. Because it feels like a corner has been turned. I really hope it sticks because it was such a gratifying moment in time. One that told me my kids are growing up and maybe I am too.
Amendment: One word I’m adding after posting: should you ever truly feel yourself losing control to the point that you feel you may raise a hand to one of your kids. For the love of God man, STOP! Call someone for relief. Don’t be afraid to say to someone, “I need a hand.” I thank the good Lord I’ve never reached that point, but I can appreciate how quickly things can escalate, especially when you’re a single parent with what feels like no relief valve. Please make a mental note, to promise yourself that should you ever reach that point, that you’ll have the presence of mind to stop and walk outside for a moment and take a breathe and if possible get someone to help you get past it. That one moment will indeed pass so let it pass with as much dignity as you can muster. You’ll love yourself for doing it.