Yesterday was the Monday to beat all Mondays. If it was an animal, it would be an angry cat peeing on my favorite book just to spite me. But I lived through it, and came out at the end with my faith in humanity in tact.
It started in the morning, when, for no good reason, I could feel myself getting wound up tight with anxiety. I’m not sure why, anxiety doesn’t like to make sense. I had a gym appointment at 11 am. At 9:30 am I was jittery and not even sure I could drive. I spent an hour mentally talking myself off the ledge, put on my big girl pants and gym shoes, and got myself out of the house. My trainer took mercy on me and just made me lift heavy stuff. I’m better at lifting heavy stuff than cardio – so the words “weight room” were the ones I wanted to hear. If he’d said “Let’s hit the stair machine then do burpees”, I would have probably turned and walked out. Or just look at him and said “No.” Maybe with a side of “Sweet lord of mercy, if you have any compassion for me, don’t make me get on that sadistic stair machine.”
But I got through the half hour of push ups and planks and weight lifting and did my thirty minutes of cardio on my favorite elliptical while blaring Florence + the Machine in my eardrums. And dang it all if I didn’t feel a massive improvement in my mood.
Which is why, when Maura got home from school, I told her we’d go to Target.
She loves Target. She calls it “store”. Store is her favorite place to go. She loves store. LOVES. Store has a Starbuck’s, we get treats, I am good with her getting books, we’ll pick out something fun – this trip, the fun part was to get new bedding, as we’re getting her a full size bed.
It started off great. She loves the new tiny car, was checking it all out as I drove. We got to Target to see another tiny car, only yellow, and commented on that. We went in, got Starbuck’s, picked out a cart, looked at books, where I let her choose two. Both “Frozen”. Hey Target, maybe expand your “space themed” learn to read books? Please?
Then I told her we needed to look for a phone holder for the tiny car. So we went through electronics, found none because those things are in the automotive section…which means going past the toy section. There was a stand off at backpacks, where she insisted she was going to get another Frozen backpack, and I said no. After five minutes of back and forth, but no meltdown, she finally put it back and we went and got through toys easily to the automotive section.
Maura wanted to go back to toys. I said no. She looked perturbed. I said “Hey, let’s go pick out a new blanket for your bed!”
And so we happily skipped over to bedding, where my control over the situation quickly unraveled.
I was looking at all the new Pillowfort bedding, trying to talk her into the one I thought she’d like most. “No!” she said, because across the aisle from the Pillowfort stuff was the Licensed Character stuff. She wanted the Frozen fleece throw. I tried to talk her over to my side of the aisle. She threw a fit. “NO!”
I sighed. “Okay, let’s maybe get this Frozen fleece throw instead.” It was cheaper.
I relented. “Let the girl get what she wants.” part of my brain told me.
Except she wanted the Frozen themed pillow dolls, which were almost exactly like the Frozen dolls we had at home. Then she wanted both Frozen fleece throws. Then she threw a fit when I said “Okay, I’m picking out blankets too.” and put the stuff I thought would go in her room nicely into the cart – with the Frozen fleece throw. Because it was on sale this week, and I was hoping to buy it on sale.
Now, before you think “Wow, what a demanding overlord of a mother” – let me point out that I was picking out stuff similar in style and in the same colors as Maura had picked out on her own. I was going with what she usually likes, partially because it would also go with her other bedroom items. I wasn’t out in left field making weird choices that didn’t reflect Maura.
Then, another mom came through the aisle. “Oh, look at this cute pillow” she said to her child, picking up the throw pillow Maura totally rejected five minutes before. “Shall we get this?”
The child hugged the pillow.
Maura freaked out. “Nooooo!” she screamed, dropping to the floor.
And I realized that all this was too much for Maura. I’d missed the signs. The power struggle over the backpack and the fleece blanket and the sudden need to blindly buy every Frozen-themed item in the store. Those all led to her collapsing on the floor, sobbing over a pillow she didn’t want.
So I got on the floor with her. I gave her hugs (deep pressure) and a tissue, and tried to talk her out of her meltdown. After five minutes, we were able to get up, and I decided we had to cut our losses and leave asap.
“Let’s go check out.”
I wasn’t sure Maura was going to go with me. But she did. She seemed over her meltdown. We got through the store, not stopping for anything…until we hit the girl’s clothing section. Which Maura hasn’t fit into in a year. And Maura usually understands.
But they had a big display of Frozen swimwear. Right at the front, by all the open check out lanes.
I started using another F word in my head.
Maura grabbed an XS swim shirt.
“Honey, that’s too small, it won’t fit you.”
She tried putting different Frozen bathing suits in the cart. I think she’d had it with stuff not being right for her. She wanted it, dammit, why wouldn’t it fit? Why didn’t this store, her beloved store, have this stuff in HER size? She would make that girl’s size 10 bathing suit fit her if it was the last thing she did!
I saw a check out lane that was open across from the display of Frozenwear and got in it. Calmly, I said “Come on Maura, you can’t get that, come here.”
We stared at each other across the aisle.
I sighed. “Honey, I can’t. Now come here.”
As the woman in front of me was buying 57 individual socks or something, I had time to wait it out. Except Maura refused. Finally I realized we just had to get out of the store. I parked the cart, grabbed my jacket and our garbage and walked towards the garbage cans.
Maura followed me.
I relaxed a little. We were going to get out.
Maura realized we were about to leave without getting anything.
Cue Super Meltdown, in front of all the check out lanes.
I could see heads turning out of the corner of my eyes. “Ignore everyone, focus on her” I instructed myself. I went into tunnel vision mode, as the only thing that mattered right now was helping my daughter pull out of the meltdown. I tried to get her to use words. I tried to patiently stand out of the way. I tried offering to get her a drink. I gave her a tissue when she asked. She would calm down, even get up on her feet at times, only to collapse back into the meltdown. I told her we’d get the stuff if she just calmed down, she could pick out a bottle of water, it would be okay.
I pulled out my phone and for the first time in ever, called my husband.
“Where are you?”
Shit. Too far away to get over here to help. Because my thought was, if I could get her to just sit against the wall, Josh could come in and help me move her. But he was 45 minutes away from us.
I was on my own.
I had hit new territory. I was on my own and I couldn’t move my daughter, who was gripped by a meltdown. She wasn’t behaving badly, she wasn’t doing this on purpose. Maura was just spiraling, and I was useless to stop it.
“Hey, how about we go to the bathroom?” I begged, hoping that maybe a change of scenery would help. It was ten feet away, closer than the exit doors.
And then….a woman passed by us. Others had passed by us, we were in full view of all the check out lanes, and on the way towards the exits. But this woman paused, smiled down at Maura. “Hey! Do you want to ride in my cart?”
I actually laughed. “There’s no way we’d get her in there, she’s too big.” I said.
“We could give it a try.” this super-friendly woman who had stopped to help offered.
Maura started screaming louder.
“Ooops, sorry.” the woman said.
“It’s okay.” I said, grateful that someone had approached us and tried to help.
And that woman’s gesture – and I guess my reaction to it – suddenly started a chain of reactions around us. A Target employee came up to us. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Do you have a wheelchair? Maybe if I can get her out of the store?”
“No, we don’t.”
An older gentleman who reminded me of Maura’s bus driver stopped. “Hey there! What’s all this about honey?” he asked Maura. “You need to stop giving your poor mom a hard time!”
I laughed, but at the same time, I started to tear up.
“Does she like popcorn? I can get her popcorn.” the Target employee said.
Another woman suddenly came up to us. “Can she have M&M’s?” she said, pulling a fun sized package out of her purse.
At this point, Maura was on her feet, her mood changing.
“That’s a good girl.” the older gentleman said. “Good job.”
I said yes to the M&M’s. Maura squealed, and I saw more heads turn, but in a moment of shared relief. “I have a seven year old, she’s like your daughter.” The M&M woman said.
I told Maura to say thank you, and she did, and then offered a hug, which the M&M woman happily took.
“She’s just realized I can’t move her anymore…” I babbled.
The Target employee arrived with a bag of popcorn and a blue Icee. “Can she have this too?” he asked.
I shrugged and laughed as I wiped tears. “Sure, I guess.”
Maura was now out of her spiral. She turned, clutching the items given to her. “Cart?”
“Okay, let’s get our cart.”
Thank God it was still there. I pointed to the self-check out lanes and said “Let’s go there!” Maura followed me. I checked us out faster than humanly possible. I may have trampled old people on the way out as I was working very hard to get Maura out of the store before another meltdown occurred – either on her part or mine. Because at that point, sitting on the floor and having a good cry seemed like a good idea.
But neither of us did that. We got back to our car.
We had sat there in the store for a good ten minutes, with her spiraling through a meltdown like she’s not had in a long time. I don’t know what triggered it, but I do know that the kindness of strangers helped us through it. That one person stopping caused a chain reaction of help, help when I desperately needed it. We had spread some disability awareness through Target that day, but in return we were shown a lot of human decency and solidarity. I allowed myself to be open to that help. I hopefully will be able to pay that forward to another parent in similar need.
“We got out of the store.” I texted my husband.
“So I can stop packing up?” he replied. Because even though he was 45 minutes away, he was trying to leave to get to us.
When he got home, Maura and I were watching SpongeBob. I might have been a bit fetal. Maura was finishing the bag of popcorn. I gave Josh the run down on what happened.
“So I take it you didn’t manage to get anything for dinner because of all this.” Josh asked.
“Want to go to the store with me to get some?” he asked me.
“Store! I love store!” Maura stated.
“Eff that.” my husband said under his breath.
And I laughed.
I wrote this post as I let Maura sleep in. Because, well, I was tired after all that, she must be exhausted. She woke up and still didn’t want to go to school. My Spidey senses tingled. I took her temperature. The girl’s officially home from school sick.
Which totally explains the meltdown she couldn’t snap out of. She was fighting off getting sick. And lost. Poor kid. I was trying to get her to make bedding decisions and she was feeling cruddy probably (but not full-blown feverish yet, I took her temperature last night and it was still normal.) Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go sing along with “Frozen”.