anatomy of a meltdown: the easter egg dyeing edition

This morning we dyed Easter eggs with natural food dyes, made from onion skins and turmeric. It was a lovely morning. Two Saturdays in a row now we’ve been doing crafty fun things as a family.

The best friend arrived after lunch for a playdate and sleepover.


So my child proceeds to do what he does in these situations. He gets loud, rambunctious, and super silly.

I do what I do, especially because he and his friend are sitting at the table, his friend eating a snack. I ask him to calm down. Please calm down. Calm your body. Stop grabbing this or that.


I leave the room. I return. Apple juice is all over the table.

I ask him to clean up the juice – he had knocked over his friend’s cup. He sort of does, in a silly way.

I react. Calm, but forceful. I take away the remaining juice (his) and give it to his friend. I clean up the rest of the mess.

My child starts to melt down and scream. Works himself up to hyperventilating. Because I took away his juice.

It probably wasn’t fair of me. But I was mad. Not listening, not helping. Juice gone. I’m pretty sure that since I didn’t set up the consequence before hand, I was just being spiteful.

But once he began threatening to never calm down until I caved, the line was drawn in the sand.

I held on. Like it was a hurricane. Held onto him. Stuck with my “no.” No juice until tomorrow. You weren’t listening, the juice spilled, this is the consequence. No. No, you don’t get to be mean until you get juice. That’s not how this works.

He’s shrieking, shaking, face red. I’m NEVER GOING TO BE HAPPY AGAIN! I will never be nice to ANYONE if you don’t give me JUICE!!!

The storm continued. The friend hung back on the sidelines, looked at some books on a bookshelf. At one point Scott took Jonah to the backyard, while the friend showed me the Lego figures he’d brought for them to play with.

I’m holding on even as I’m losing hope. This other kid was JUST dropped off. Am I really going to have to end the playdate and take him home? The friend and I try to entice Jonah back inside with the figures. Jonah won’t go because he knows his friend made the coolest figure for himself.

I am sitting on a bench in the backyard in the sun, holding my child, rocking him, and explaining that he is being a bully. It is not okay to stay mad until you force your parents to give you juice and it is not okay to force your friend to let you play with the coolest figure.

You can take turns.

No, he says, you can’t take turns because the voices will be different.

Logical. But still…

I persist, rocking, hugging, explaining, calm but forceful. This is bullying behavior and it is not okay. You don’t want to be a bully. Every kid always wants the best toy for themselves. You have your favorite toys that you don’t want to share. You all do this with each other.

New idea:

I ask him if he would like some iced fizzy water. That always makes me feel better when I’m upset, I say.

Do you want to make the fizzy? (We have a Sodastream.) He assents.

The boy, the iced fizzy, and I return to his bedroom, where his friend and my husband are making more lego action figures out of spare parts, repairing others.

Now I am in the other room, typing to the sounds of boys playing happily.

And here are the pictures of the natural-food-dye Easter eggs we made this morning:

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