Archive | 11:59 PM

Happiness Project Update 10: Parenthood … Where Everyone Has a Meltdown

18 Aug

You take a deep breath, grind your teeth, and rub your head in the hopes that the universe sends you a truck-load of patience and some Advil for the rest.

This is the meltdown process.

But all you really do after all that grinding is increase the chances of fracturing, loosening, or losing your teeth and eventually setting yourself up for dentures by the age of fifty. Not to mention adding wrinkles to your already aging forehead from all that rubbing.

This is the life of a parent during the meltdown crisis. It can be caused by anything, but the primary culprits are hunger and sleepiness. Any parent that tells you their kids never do this is just lying and trying to make themselves look Parent magazine-worthy. Those smiley faces on the cover of magazines … yeah those parents suffer the meltdown process too. You can’t airbrush that out.

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But other than turning to massive amounts of chocolate, apparently acknowledging feelings  are important. In The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin talks about these parent self-help books. I’m not big on those parent advice books with unrealistic scenarios that give unpractical advice. I prefer the Judd Apatow method myself. But she did happen to mention a couple of items I thought were noteworthy.

Instead of getting sassy with my kid about whining ,or dismissing his four-year old feelings about yet another set of Thomas the Train Tracks thus extending the attitude and sadness, I should just acknowledge his feelings and things would probably settle down a lot faster.

I was doubtful of this Brady-BunchPartridge Family mentality, but it surprisingly worked.

“…much of children’s frustration comes not from being forced to do this or that but rather from the sheer fact that they’re being ignored.”

There are a few methods she mentions to help the acknowledgement-factor and possibly decrease future therapy for your kid.

“Write it Down.”

Seeing how my son has noticed my daily lists and that I often write things down on paper or the computer, he’s become aware that writing things down is important. So when he suggested “Mom I don’t like baby sister smashing my Lightning McQueen, she should have her own race cars. She can smash them.”

Instead of ignoring him and telling him for the 100th time that she’s just a baby and she didn’t mean it. I stood up and announced: “I think I should write that down … that sounds like a good idea.”

He smiled and picked up his car.


I was unaware of the power of writing it down. I have used that many times this week. However I have also tried to master rephrasing the word “no.” Apparently kids hear that a lot, and in truth they need to hear it sometimes. But putting a positive spin on “no” can sometimes make the task so much easier. Instead of “No we can’t go to the golf course right now,” I use “It’s pretty hot outside why don’t we play in the pool first and then go to the golf course when it’s cooler.”

That one was pretty sweet. Watching Mad Men and Donald Draper can help you with your word magic.

Rubin suggests two other notes that I found helpful. “Wave my magic wand,” as in if I had a magic wand I’d make Go Diego, Go! appear right now instead of saying you need to understand the cable is out.

And last but not least “admitting that a task is difficult.” Just because I find it easy to make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night doesn’t mean it’s easy for my four-year to wake up and do it himself. Sometimes Pull-Ups Training Underwear are still necessary.

As a parent did these things make me happy? Well … it provided a less stressful environment and that made me happy. But  in truth I can’t always write everything down. I will have to say no loudly from time to time. The magic wand does not always exist when disaster strikes and I’ve only had four hours of sleep. And, learning to cowboy up and mastering a task is important, especially when it involves urine. Meltdowns will happen, and there will be attitude adjustments that simply need a time-out and a ban from Lightning McQueen race cars.

This is parenthood.

And even though some of Rubin’s parent tips currently work with my four-year old at this time, once he hits his junior high school and high school status I might have to resort to my substitute teacher methods, because teenagers are a whole new breed.