I came across this website the other day and got a really good laugh out of it. It’s a collection of photos of kids crying with the parent captioning why exactly their child is crying. If you’re a parent you can definitely relate to these moments, if you don’t have kids it might confuse the heck out of you.
The website shows photos of kids crying about the most random of things – “she dropped a receipt we got at the gas station”, “I won’t let him eat styrofoam” and “I broke the cheese in half”. To a logical outsider it appears that these children are having meltdowns over nothing, and you’ve probably encountered this first hand while out shopping and you see a child having a meltdown in the middle of the store and the parent doesn’t look too concerned.
As big people (adults), we have big problems – money worries, job worries, you know those things that keep us up at night sometimes. In comparison what do kids have to worry about? Eating? Sleeping? Playing with toys? And yet they can fall apart in a single moment when things don’t go their way.
It’s always hard to put ourselves in other people’s shoes – but when we do that it gives us their perspective and can help us understand their point of view better, so hopefully we can relate and have a better understanding of how they feel. So stop for a moment and think about a meltdown moment from a kid’s perspective.
In the photo with the girl who “she dropped a receipt we got at the gas station”. That girl’s name is Anna, and she started off today having a pretty good day. She woke up and had her favorite cereal, got on her favorite outfit and prepared for the day ahead. Mom was going to take her to see the ocean, somewhere she had been begging to go for months. Anna had seen the ocean before on TV, it was bright blue with tons of whales, fish and dolphins – her favorite. It was going to be a long 3 hour car ride, but after bathroom breaks it would end up being almost 4 hours total. Rain was in the forecast, and since mom had to take a vacation day off of work which she had requested a month in advance, so cancelling the trip just wasn’t going to be an option. They left home at about 9am and finally got there at 1pm, stopping only for bathroom breaks and gas hoping to beat the rain. It was about 12pm when they stopped for gas and Anna was starting to get antsy at this time, so when mom got back in the car she handed her the gas receipt as a distraction. What mom didn’t know is that although to her it was just another piece of paper, to Anna it was something that she would cherish the rest of the trip there as it kept her occupied. The receipt had letters and numbers on it and she was making a game out of trying to match them on the receipt.
They finally arrived at their destination just as it was beginning to sprinkle, but despite the weather Anna’s Mom decided they were going to have a good time no matter what. As they exited the car and started walking down the boardwalk to the ocean, Anna clung tight to the receipt in her hand, the excitement of what she was about to see was almost unbearable. As they walked, Anna excitedly looked either way to catch a glimpse of the sealife that she had seen on TV. But she didn’t see anything of interest. Where were the whales? The fish? The dolphins? So she asked her mom, who replied “Keep looking” – so Anna started looking around…but still nothing. As she turned once again towards the ocean, there it was, a whale! Her hands reached up high and opened up in excitement, letting the now worn receipt slip away into the wind. When Anna realized what had happened, she started crying and as mom tried to console her, it just got worse. After a long car ride, no lunch, and not being able to properly communicate why she was so upset her tears turned into sobs, which turned into uncontrollable crying and eventually a full meltdown. She wasn’t trying to cause a scene, she was just trying to figure out someway to make herself feel better and to make sense of it all.
The photo you see is her mom carrying her back to the car, away from the whales, away from the ocean, away from the receipt none of which made the situation any better. Unknowing onlookers made some comments, some of the understanding “been there done that”, others wondering how any parent could allow their child have a meltdown like that.
Perspective, right? Can you understand now why Anna was so upset? Why her mom didn’t seem too concerned? She had taken the day off thinking they would have this great day together and bonding time, and it ended on such a sour note.
Well the truth of it is that the story of Anna above is not a true story, but it very well could be. As parents, we have to learn to relate to our kids on their level. We can’t expect them to always behave, to understand why they can’t eat styrofoam or why we broke their cheese in half(to make it easier to eat). They aren’t adults, and on so many levels, and especially an emotional level, we can’t expect adult behavior from children.
When it comes to kids, even the small things are BIG things. They live a life that is at our mercy – we tell them when to eat, when to sleep and how to behave. They often want to do things that are out of their physical capabilities, or things that might be harmful or that just don’t make sense. It’s our job to teach them how to deal with the situations that life deals them and how to react when things don’t go their way. And sometimes, they’re not even old enough to understand, and that’s ok, and that is when we as parents need to realize that it’s age appropriate behavior, and WE need to let it go.
So the next time you get frustrated that your child is having a meltdown over what you think is nothing, or you see a random kid writhing on the floor in the supermarket for what appears to be no reason – take a moment to look at it from the child’s perspective. They’re not trying to be a nuisance, they might just need a snack, someone to understand or even maybe just a hug.