Home > Communication, Love, Parenting > do you still love me

do you still love me

Some days, you have fun making your five-year-old’s first short films with him.

Some days, the very same five-year-old who was just snuggling and giggling with you snaps without warning when you say it’s time to turn off the TV.

He shouts at you. He doesn’t want you or Daddy to read him a book.

Well, then, it’s time to go to bed.

No! I want you to read to me!

Okay, then, I’ll read to you.

No! Not you! Mommy!

How about you ask nicely?

Read to me right now!

There’s nothing nice about that.

Read me a book! Now!

I’ll give you one more chance to ask nicely, and then you go to bed without a story.

You have to read me a book right now!

No. You’re out of chances for tonight. It’s off to bed with you, no story.

Please will you read me a story?

No. You missed your chance tonight.

Then come the sobs and howls and screams as if you’ve just exiled him, and you’re left sitting in the middle of the maelstrom wondering at what exact moment the evening turned. You haven’t seen this kind of meltdown from him for a couple of years, before he got long and lean and started using words like “belligerent” and “precocious.” Before he could write his own words.

And the howling rages on for five minutes, and then ten, when it awakens the littlest one, and then another ten beyond that, so that you eventually shout–something you swore you’d never do, not even on the worst of days–that he needs to rein it in. Right now, so the baby can go back to bed instead of howling in his own distress at what must sound to him like the cacophony of doomsday.

And then your husband’s trying to calm him in the bathroom, but the five-year-old is still howling as if the world is ending.

DO YOU STILL LOVE ME?! he shrieks.

YES! But you need to calm down! you shout back as you close the door, wondering how on earth such a peaceful evening turned so rapidly into … this.

When the shrieking subsides more than 35 minutes later, you want to curl up in bed and sleep until the year 9015.

But chances are you’ll wake up tomorrow, and chances are the storm will be as if ancient history.

The very same creature who raged at you will hug you tight with a chipper good morning,

and you’ll remember: Guiding him through that is part of getting to experience this.

  1. jottlings
    June 1, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    Well done at being firm. I would find that hard to do.

    • June 1, 2015 at 8:14 pm

      My time volunteering with dogs hard-wired me to reward the good behavior and not do so with the bad behavior, which would be the same as encouraging them to do whatever less-desirable thing they’d just done. Same as when volunteering before, it has good results over the long haul, but not always immediately. I just try looking toward tomorrow, knowing I won’t feel as dejected and terrible then as I do now.

      • jottlings
        June 1, 2015 at 8:17 pm

        Very interesting. Some types of behavior therapy are based on that model. But not all.

        • June 1, 2015 at 8:21 pm

          Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is–simplistically put–guided by the principle that “neurons that fire together wire together.” That which is rewarded is strengthened, and repeated, which is why you want to encourage and strengthen the quieter, more peaceful things, the better to welcome them backer quicker and more frequently. I do not want to strengthen the “scream louder, get more” connection. Tomorrow, more positive rewards for many sweetnesses.

  2. June 1, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    Been through that. Painful. Makes the happy, joyful parts that much more precious, though. 🙂

    • June 1, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      It’s true! Instead of taking for granted that everything will usually be roses, this is a good reminder to appreciate the roses. Growing up is hard. There’s so much to explore and learn and feel. The good news is I now have experience with a 35-minute tantrum, whereas before I’d only gotten up to 10 or 15. Now I know with complete clarity a couple of directions I won’t go next time. And I’ll remember to hold his little hand in mine, with reverence for its sweet weight and implicit reflection of love.

      Thanks for commenting, by the way. I usually like to post about the less awesome moments waaaay after they’ve happened, but that sanitizes them. I posted this preparing to be told “suck more, wait don’t,” so … thank you for your much gentler, more affirming response. ♥

  3. June 1, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Ooof, I’ve only got a three year old, but, boy, she’s there a lot these days. I think sometimes it’s those days where we’ve been especially tender, so I let the couch cuddles, popcorn eating, and hairbraiding go on too long, so the over-tired creature from the black lagoon surfaces and replaces the sweet girl that had been brushing my hair a moment before… Those nights, we end up reading “How do Dinosaurs Act When They’re Mad?” over and over… You are an amazing and patient mom, so kudos! ❤

    • June 1, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      LOL! I read this to Anthony. “Yeah, pretty much! That’s exactly what happened tonight.” From snuggles to hage in the blink of an eye, explained!

      I’m thinking we should invest in a copy of this dinosaurs book, because hoo-boy, are these rough moments handled better with (a) awareness they’re possible (how could I forget!) and (b) a plan. This sounds like the beginning of a plan, as does starting bedtime a little earlier when special events have thrown off our usual sleep schedule.

      I love you. I’m so glad for sisters, and getting to see you and Mads being very loving, inspiring, very human moms. I’m hopeful for us. I’m hopeful for our kids. I’m especially hopeful the next generation has friends in each other as deep and enduring as do their parents. ♥

    • June 1, 2015 at 9:28 pm


      • June 1, 2015 at 9:54 pm

        I love it, too! I see a little better how you left Facebook. I may shut down my page and just post stuff here, because, well, it’s so much easier to keep up with other writers. I’ll keep my personal page, of course, but no point having a writing page, really, when WordPress lets you know so easily when folks have commented.

        Love you and keep up the good work! Also, the Dinosaur books are amazing: “How Do Dinosaurs Play with their Friends?” is also one of my favorites. And “How do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs?” We got the latter one because someone thinks at 40 pounds she can hurtle up to our aging dogs and jump on their backs… The pictures are just priceless. In the book, it’s a big T-Rex getting ready to get on the back of a little Boston Terrier, and the Boston Terrier looks very worried.

  4. June 2, 2015 at 12:49 am

    Aahh, the bedtime meltdown. I am quite familiar.

  5. Paul
    June 2, 2015 at 3:57 am

    The behavior changes can be very quick and violent. But you know children have to deal with so much without the knowledge or experience to process what are sometimes very complex situations. It’s a wonder that they are .ever stable and quiet. There is a program on TV here called “Mayday” – it runs in 40 or 50 countries, many languages and is called by other names. It is mostly about plane crashes and the investigations into the cause. They do a very real reenactment , including conversations of survivors, etc. One show popped to mind when I read your post. There was a little girl of about 6 on a flight and the plane crashed. Only a few people survived out of hundreds who were aboard. The little girl’s parents were missing immediately after the crash. A fellow female passenger sees the little girl wandering the still burning wreckage that was so mangled it couldn’t even be identified as a plane. The woman befriends the little girl, gets her out of the wreckage and they were sitting talking while they awaited help. Both were scratched and banged up – nothing serious or broken but covered with blood from multiple scrapes and scratches and their clothes were torn and filthy. The little girl turned to the woman and said: ” I don’t know what to do. This is my first plane crash.”

    All the things we automatically categorize along with appropriate responses, are completely new and unknown to children. As much as there are pleasant surprises I am sure there are also very many unpleasant surprises as well. I would go nuts in a situation like that.

    It sounds like you handed it very well Deborah. I had a long term relationship with a woman who had two kids from a previous marriage but they were a bit older when we got together. So all I can do is offer empathy, but no useful tips. 😀

  6. Deb
    June 2, 2015 at 5:18 am

    No knowing what sets them off sometimes, is there? And really so little you can do in the moment because it seems that everything escalates the tirade. Coping is a learned skill and you are a great parent who will achieve skill mastery with your little ones with your consistency and love. 🙂

  7. June 2, 2015 at 6:26 am

    I HATE the “do you still love me” or the “daddy used to love me” game that my kids play – especially my daughter. There was a time that I wouldn’t give my daughter candy at a party, because she asked for it by sticking out her hand & saying “candy now,” despite not having eaten anything substantial for dinner.

    She went to my wife, crying, saying “Daddy used to love me, but now he doesn’t.”

  8. June 2, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Ah, the toxic melt-down. I think it scares them more than it does us, that they are capable of such rage and passion. It’s tough to walk that line, but it sounds like you’re walking it – to make sure he knows HE is loved, no matter what, but that doesn’t mean his BEHAVIOR is always loved. Keeps it interesting, hmm?

  9. NotAPunkRocker
    June 2, 2015 at 8:09 am

    These moods, too, shall pass.

  10. June 3, 2015 at 5:54 am

    I absolutely love that you stood your ground. As a mother to 4 (come July, there will be 5) little kiddos, I understand first hand how easy it is to want to give in so that we don’t have to listen to the whining and screaming. So Kudos to you!!!

  11. June 3, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    This really brought back some memories of my own son. I’m not exaggerating when I say he was the Tasmanian Devil of meltdowns. When he was really little (toddler) he’d kick, hit, slap and yes, even bite! I thought I must be the worst mom in the world. Took every ounce of patience for me some days just to get through it without cracking. Now that same little boy is a very loving, incredibly sweet and compassionate almost-13 year old. Looks like we both got through those times just fine (whew!) and you will too.

  12. June 11, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Oh goodness. Sometimes I think how *terrible* it is to be a child and not yet have developed the cognitive capacity to filter your emotions! Considering how much trouble we as adults can have — to imagine the same emotional range but with a need to express every feeling as you have it? Yeesh! Childhood’s not looking so good to me at this range…

    Though mandatory daily naps for all is a concept I could surely get behind.

    • June 11, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      I gave it a bunch of thought over the next few days and realized it makes so much sense that his emotions are running high. Everything is in a state of flux. It’s exciting, but it’s scary, too.

      We’ve had a few more minor incidents since–all near bedtime, when tiredness makes everything a little more irritating!–but the adults have happily managed to defuse the situation with love, patience, and reminders about how privileges are earned (and lost).

      What you say is so spot on. The fact this is so rare for Li’l D astonishes me. I love how he usually just tells me he’s sad, or nervous, or scared, and why.

  1. June 14, 2015 at 4:21 am

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