Meltdowns and Moments

2014-10-21 19.43.05

There’s a lot of little boy in Char these days but his fading toddlerhood is grasping tightly and asserting itself. He’s resisting a change that is as inevitable as it is terrifying as it is exciting. With every transition like this parts of him pass to history and parts of us do as well. While the resistance can be annoying, we all get it. We understand more than he knows. We abhor the idea of him being independent in all the ways we are diligently training him to be. We’re at the ‘finishing school’ stage of toddlerdom. We are working to teach him courtesy, niceties, the expected behavior of polite society. As a conscientious objector to such responsibility he is reverting to earlier tools of resistance, such as crying, yelling, aggressively resisting direction, stamping feet and crying louder.

The kid is in an epic phase of melting down. He has the toddler equivalent of senioritis. He’s resisting the change that he wants. Now that it’s upon him he’s freaking out. When I think of it this way I’m able to have some more patience. He doesn’t want to be acting this way either. He just is discovering that big parts of life are not controlled by him and he doesn’t believe that the way life should be.

He’s taken to hurting us to test the limits of his powers. To explore the darker side of life. He is fond of telling me my status in his eyes upon seeing me. “I don’t like you, daddy.’ He’s even said he hates us. He’s four and we are the safe space to explore these things, so I tell him that that’s fine, but that I’m still the grown up and he has to obey me because I’m in charge. I tell him that mommy and I and his teachers are in charge because we know how to keep him safe. To which he says, having heard who the hell knows what, ‘but daddy, I don’t like you.’

But here’s the thing, Charlie. In the way that you mean it, that I’m doing something that makes you unhappy or uncomfortable, even though it’s what must be done, in that exact same way, I don’t like you right now. In fact, when I see you, changing into a boy, leaving behind most of your toddler ways, and for the final time putting down all of what was you as my precious little baby, I too don’t like you for doing it. Were I as in tune and in touch with my emotions as you are, and lacking all of the niceties of adulthood, I’d have an epic tear spewing meltdown too. I may not be thinking it when I’m pulling my hair out trying to convince you to take your medicine or brush your teeth, but you are beginning the long walk away from me. You’re simple need to grow up is chipping away at your need for me. And once you’ve had that feeling, the feeling I still have for you, feelings that are ever so slightly less necessary with every tiny milestone you cross, I am sad and wistful. Sometimes I yell and shout and try desperately to hold on to every inch of my influence and necessity, because, and this is where I’m with you my melting down boy, the second I was given that gift of being your daddy I’ve treasured every difficult, painful, joyful, hysterical, maddening and delightful aspect of it and I know that I’m never going to have any of it back. I’m going to grow, and our relationship will morph into other things, but I’m never going to rock you to sleep in a swaddle ever again. I’m not going to change another one of your diapers. I won’t be buying you stuffed animals at Thruway rest stops and delighting in catching you in the rear view mirror, snuggling your buddy until you fall asleep. More things will be added, but now begins the subtractions. You are growing up, and for that I’m mad at you. Don’t mistake me, I’m proud of you, thrilled for you, impressed by you and awed by you and everything you do, even the tough and challenging stuff. Its just that I’m also sad. And when I realize what that portends, I’m even a little mad.

Baby boy, Char
Baby boy, Char

Life is full of change and transitions and they often are as painful as they are exciting. This won’t be the last time you are made uncomfortable by change. That’s okay. The changes are okay and so is the discomfort. The discomfort and the resistance are signs that we continue to move through life, accepting challenges, some of our choosing and many that are thrust upon us. While it may not be pleasant all the time, change is the one constant. Everything changes all the time. Resisting the change, being uncomfortable and even angry at the change makes you human. Keep changing, keep resisting, keep fighting and keep crying. It’s the road to where you’re going. It’s a road with beautiful and tragic changes and sometimes it’s hard to know which is which until it’s over. But keep changing, stay curious, keep that fire that so infuriates the people that fear the changes as much as you do and don’t be afraid to be afraid. Without the changes and the fears and the failures you’ll never get to where you’re going. But once you get there, and for me that’s here, with you and your brother and mommy, you’ll appreciate every fall and every wrong turn that got you to precisely where you were meant to be.

Author: joejmedler

Joe Medler lives in New Jersey with his wife, who is universally understood to be far too good for him, and his two young sons, who are far too smart for him. His work has been featured on MamaLode, The Original Bunker Punks and Sammiches and Psych Meds. You can find more of his work at and follow him on Facebook at

12 thoughts on “Meltdowns and Moments”

  1. Oh Joe I can’t stop crying right now!!!! Some much beauty and truth in your words. You described so eloquently the dance I’m doing with my almost 4 year old. He pushes, I pull back and give him more independence. With his special needs we celebrate each victory he has with sleeping through the night, potty training, and using his words when he’s angry then expressing himself with his teeth and fists. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful journey so eloquently. 😃❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, so much. I don’t know if you know this, but my entire adult life has been spent working with people with special needs. When I was a kid our first babysitter had an intellectual/developmental disability. Congratulations on your many successes…. you have a lucky boy! And thank you so much for your continued kindnesses… Watching him need even this tiny bit less from us is a challenge, yet we know there’s so much more ahead!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re so welcome Joe! I didn’t know that about you but I know why you were led to that role of being a mentor and teacher. It’s your big, beautiful, giving heart. I’m so glad our paths have crossed and I learn so much more about myself as a parent when I read your stories. 😊


  2. Reblogged this on jsack1's Blog and commented:
    I want to share this amazing Dad who writes so beautifully and eloquently. All his stories touch my heart, and tickle my funny bone but this one reached right down into my brokenness and lifted me up. Thank you Developing Dad for being my angel wings. ❤️


  3. I remember those times. Its a challenge for everyone, you realize they are growing up, and developing their personality that they may keep until puberty. Crazy thing is, it isn’t over either, they go through this again at that stage too, and that one is scarier than this, for both of you. So I feel for you because it’s a mourning process almost, but in a good way, just challenging. Great post!


    1. I totally get that the next one is scarier. Of course it is… that’s the one where real world consequences can destroy you. My mom has made reference to a conversation she had with a friend about my brother during his precarious early adulthood and she said, you can’t know who they’re going to be until they’re 40.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. But I have to say, it all hits like a ton of bricks… feels less like insight and more like an existential fear of my own decay. Or something. Okay, off to the cry coma…


  4. There really is a mourning period for each phase of childhood, as our kids move on to the next. Not everyone is lucky enough to understand that as it’s happening. You are blessed in recognizing each stage, and your kids are blessed because you will evolve into each new era of childhood as it happens:) Thank God they never really stop needing us:)


  5. So much truth in this.
    “In the way that you mean it, that I’m doing something that makes you unhappy or uncomfortable, even though it’s what must be done, in that exact same way, I don’t like you right now.”
    And much nicer than just saying, “Holy swear word, kid! Did you have meth for breakfast? Are you turning into the Hulk? You’re acting like a giant [redacted] today.”


  6. Thanks for helping me understand my newly-turned 4 year old better! He wants to move on up in the world, but he really still needs to get out his uncivilized, I muted emotions. “Finishing school”. I like that .


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