Minivan Meltdown. Do you know what I’m talking about? I’m gonna guess you do, but just in case…let me paint you a picture. You’ve just successfully finished your last errand of the day (and when I say successfully, I mean everyone has survived and you got most of your shopping list covered). You have single handedly corralled your littles into their car seats, and unloaded the last of your shopping bags. Everyone is buckled in, you hit the road and just as you are patting yourself on the back for a productive afternoon out, someone absolutely loses their mind. It could be you, but most likely, it’s one of those angel faces in the back seat. They might be too hot. Maybe they saw a park out the window, and you had the nerve to keep driving. They might be too cold or too tired. They might have decided wearing shoes is a barbaric form of torture. Maybe they’ve dropped their sippy cup, and it’s landed about 2 inches out of the reach of your finger tips as you contort and stretch your entire body from the driver’s seat to the floor board of your vehicle’s third row seating. (Yeah….you’re going to feel those muscles tomorrow.)
There’s something about a minivan meltdown that is so much more stressful than a meltdown that happens anywhere else. Everything is louder. It’s suddenly 1,000 degrees, and claustrophobia sets in. At this point, you’re trying everything you can think of to soothe, comfort and calm your child(ren). You’ve tried reasoning with them, their favorite songs have been played, and you’ve made ridiculous faces in the rear view mirror. At this point, you weigh your options. Sometimes, if it’s a quick trip home, you keep driving. Sometimes, you take the nearest exit to regroup. No matter how many times I experience these inevitable moments of motherhood, I have the same recurring thoughts and doubts. (One of them being, “This is the 21st century. The future is now – why are we not being teleported home?”) But most of them address parenting as a whole. I feel tired and worn. I question my ability to remain patient (and admittedly, sometimes, that ability flies out the window before we ever make it home). I wonder if I’m doing this “right”. I vow to never again make 3 stops in one afternoon (but, of course, I will). I say a prayer for peace for everyone in the van, and I wait for the ride to be over.
Like most trials of parenting, I know this too shall pass. I know someday I will look into the rear view mirror and miss the car seats. I will look down at the floor board, and there will be no more dropped cheerios. I will turn on the radio, and not hear the soundtrack to Frozen. My daughter will grow up, and stop asking to hold my hand from the back seat, and my arm will be able to comfortably stay on the arm rest. While all of this sounds like a dream in the middle of a minivan meltdown, and I’m sure it will be counted as a sweet reward of parenting “big kids” in the future, I have to remind myself continually that they’re only little for a little. I’ll never be as needed as I am today, and this meltdown won’t last forever. Even when a tantrum gets the best of me and I lose my temper and raise my voice, it gives me a chance to show my kids that everyone makes mistakes and needs forgiveness. And then we’re home. We make it, and the ride is over.
I’m not going to tell you to enjoy the moment the next time your toddler is screaming because you had the audacity to pass by a park, or to give thanks for this season in your life as your child cries in the back seat. That’s crazy, totally impossible, and completely obnoxious to hear. I’m just going to tell you that you’re not alone. (In fact, there is probably a toddler in the next lane doing the same thing.) You aren’t the only mom to run out of ideas before you ran out of road. You’re doing the best you can, and it won’t last forever. So pull into your driveway. Kiss the ground (if you feel so lead). Take a deep cleansing breath, slide open that side door, and hold that baby (toddler or child!) until you both feel better. You’ve made it, and you’re doing just fine.