How Do You Stop a Ticking Time Bomb?

by Elena on June 7, 2011 in parenting

She was tired. There had been of course THE kindergarten graduation, which was a culmination of months of practice. There had been singing with the junior choir at temple. There was the arrival of her Nonni. There was the “you are free to swim” announcement from the ENT. There was a soccer game. It had been a busy few days, with lots of excitement, emotion, and fanfare.

And then there was…a meltdown.

Of EPIC proportions.

As if a time bomb had been ticking, tick tock, tick tock….waiting for just the right moment to go off.

On Saturday afternoon, Principessa was preparing to leave for her annual sojourn with her Nonni to bridge the time where she is out of school and I am still working. Bags were packed. Toys were stowed. The DS was charged. This trip was even more exciting because apart from spending time ruling the roost in Norfolk, she would travel south to Florida to see her baby cousin. She was looking forward it…or so we thought.

As the moment came to get into the car, I gave her a hug. That was probably my first mistake. She would not let go. At first it was playful. But before I knew what had happened, there were big wet tears welling in her little eyes. There was a tight grip on my arm.

To her credit, she did follow me outside. But then…it was as if her feet were cemented in the driveway. There was no movement. There was however noise, screeching wails, coupled with gulping sounds.

It was like a scene you might see in a movie, where a child is being taken from a parent. The desperate face. The terror. The heart wrenching “don’t leave me.”

I managed to get her inside the car. Buckled in her booster seat with her hand attempting to claw its way into my shoulder. Then there was the arm bracing movement, putting her hands up to stop me from closing the door.

The problem of course was that all this emotion, this over the top epic meltdown, was stinging me at my core. As if someone was slowly turning the water valve in my eyes, my tears started to drip. I tried to hide my face. Her seeing me cry would not help. But seriously, you would have thought that I was abandoning my child.

I wasn’t of course. She was going off to a spend a lovely two weeks with her cherished Nonni. Two weeks of fun and sun and promises of fins if she practiced her swimming. But in that moment, it was all I could do to get that door closed.

I did eventually. It hurt to close the door and walk away. As the car drove away, I retreated to Principessa’s room and shed enough of my own private tears to fill a small lake.

It turns out that Principessa was exhausted. Soon after getting in the car, she fell asleep. For three hours. Which is great as far as explaining away her behavior, but not for taking away the scar I have permanently etched in my brain from watching her pathetic little face become distorted from anguish.

The good news is that of course she is fine. There was never any doubt about her having a grand time.  And my onslaught of tears can be explained away by monthly hormones. (phew, I would not have wanted to seem like the overly emotional type!) :)

But in the meantime, I have to hope that none of my neighbors were watching with a phone in their hand ready to call child protective services. I am pretty sure that there is nothing I could have done.  The tick tock of emotions had started long before the final eruption.  And once the fuse was lit, there was no putting it out.

I guess now I wait.  For the time bomb to explode again one day in the future.  Hopefully this time I will be prepared with some artillery or kleenex or something.




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Frelle June 7, 2011 at 12:04 am


Thank you for sharing this with us. Your tender heart and way with words helped me soften a little tonight. Thank you.

Stephanie June 7, 2011 at 12:23 am


It is so hard on the heart when they have that “the world is ending face”.

TwoWishes Tara June 7, 2011 at 12:57 am

Oy, I feel your pain. Our girl is only 2, and so attached to me that she had that kind of meltdown today when I left to WALK THE DOG. They need to learn bit by bit to live their own lives, but why must it be so painful for both sides at so many steps in the process???

Also, I’m not sure whether this is my first comment here, but I’ve been clicking over from Twitter forever now, and particularly love your Reclaiming Me series. You may have felt less-than-whole in deciding to begin that series, but to someone even farther in the trenches (terrible twos, SAHM, disabling illness), your successes in athletics and blogging (and I’m sure many other things, but those are the two I know about, ha) are totally impressive and inspirational. You’re a rockstar!

C.Mom June 7, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Thank you so much! I am so glad you have enjoyed the reclaiming me series and have found them inspiring. I am not sure about being a rockstar (I kind of feel like Rocket should give me a lot more jewels before I can be called a rockstar, he he)…but I appreciate it. :) (Rocket, reading over my shoulder, says that Principessa can find some good rocks for me). boo him.

Jack June 7, 2011 at 8:24 pm

It is hard. I have been down that road with the kids and it just tugs at the heart strings- but sometimes it is harder on us than them.

MommyMatter June 7, 2011 at 9:21 pm

I experienced this exact same thing the last time I left my son. Ended up taking me an extra 2 hours to leave. I don’t like breaking his heart or having him think Mommy is leaving forever, and he was staying at his Grama’s whom he always has sleep overs with so it wasn’t a new thing.

Children become much more in tune to emotions as they get older, which definitely sends my emotions for a whirl. Damn kids!

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