Meltdowns usually go like this: she screams, hits, kicks, cries…it often escalates into what seems like an out-of-body experience. Then there’s me, attempting to stand firm, hold my ground. I don’t want to lose it (though sometimes I do) and try really hard to appear like I’m in control of the situation. I’m the parent, after all, and there are times when she doesn’t have a choice but to listen; I like to think I’m fair, but sometimes she doesn’t have a choice…right? But she’s four, and I’m figuring this out as I go, and these meltdowns with their big emotions tend to bring out the worst in both of us and expose our weaknesses.

A few days ago, the situation was no different. Another day, another meltdown. I was struggling to retain control of the situation, but could predict her extreme reaction when I was about to put my foot down, draw the line; we were already disconnected, and keeping her at arms length so she couldn’t lash out and so I could appear to stand strong wasn’t working. It never does.

Suddenly, without really realizing what I was doing, I scooped up the distraught child in front of me and held her tight. Before I knew what I was doing, my body fell back into its old rhythm – I was repeating the bounce-rock that used to lull her as an infant, shushing softly into her ear. I didn’t think about pulling rank; I simply pulled her close.

She fought against me for a second, surprised I was reaching for her, but with my gentle shushing she almost immediately wrapped her flailing limbs around my body and put her head on my shoulder and settled in. Just like she used to when she was a baby and was in need of some comfort.

When had I stopped meeting her needs by simply holding her close?

When did I start choosing control over comfort?

Haven’t I learned this by now, that what works best for her and me is connection, not ultimatums?

My baby…my baby.

It was a turning point for me in my parenting. A reminder to trust my instincts, and remember the deep connection that has brought us to where we are. A reminder that she is still so young, and still needs me, and that, for me and her, responding with love always feels better than reacting with anger. Even when we are both feeling out of control, there’s an opportunity to still reinforce how much we are connected. I’m vowing to do better at showing her that. After all, she will always be my baby, I will always be her mommy, and I will always be there for her.