cuddlesPrincess Ella somehow stumbled out of the wrong side of the bed this morning and from that moment till the time I walked out on her in the classroom, she continued to push buttons. And I’m not talking about her school uniform.

She didn’t want to wear a jumper. She didn’t want me to take her to school. She didn’t want just one cupcake in her lunchbox. If only she didn’t want to whinge.

The breaking point came when, in the middle of the classroom, she clung to my leg and told me she didn’t want me to leave – 15 times. There were no tears. No melodrama. Just quiet, “stay here so I can whinge some more’’ type of stuff.

So, I gently pulled her off me, told her I was leaving and walked out. As I got to the corner, I peered back to see what she was doing, only to see her standing in the middle of the classroom, head bowed and bottom lip dropped. Breaks. My. Heart.

A day earlier Nathalie from Easy Peasy Kids had posted Do you ever want to run away? and suddenly every word rang true. I wanted to be lying on the beach, good book in one hand, a glass of sav blanc in the other. And probably some hot guy fanning me with one of those giant branch thingys. Unless, of course, you’re busy, Brad. And then George, you’ll do.

Instead, I headed home and posted this on Facebook and Twitter:

“ Ella had a meltdown at school this morning (wanted her dad to take her, didn’t want to get dressed, wanted two cupcakes in her lunch etc etc). In the end, I had to walk out of the classroom. I’m feeling like the worst parent in the world right now. All virtual hugs accepted (bar sleazy, old men).’’

If you’ve ever wondered the worth of social media, here’s just a taste of why it matters for this mum in particular:

@RozBatson: Hope you feel better soon. Motherhood is all about guilt isnt it…. I am sure you did the right thing/only thing you could. :-))

@Sar_Wah: I’m sure you did what you had to do, the teacher would be well used to dealing with those situations & Ella will learn from it.

@katepickle: oh that is the hardest thing.. here’s hoping she was fine after you left and has a great day

Seana Smith – Author: Hugs, hugs, hugs… all part of the tricky business of settling into school, setting boundaries etc etc Best thing to leave to experts and walk away but so awful at the time!!

Casey: Oh dear! It is just awful how we beat ourselves up when we know they are struggling isn’t it? Big virtual hugs to you. Feeling yuck about it just means you are a loving, caring Mum – you are great! Xoxo

Anita: Big hugs – as a school teacher (on family leave) I can almost guarantee that within 10 minutes of you leaving she would have been fine! Teachers deal with that sort of thing often and are good at the art of distraction! Xx

Michelle: I just left my son crying at kinder I know how you feel and it’s not a nice feeling

Beyond the Bump: huge hugs, if it makes you feel any better I’m in line for worlds worst mum today, had to walk out of kindy leaving Dex on the floor screaming because I forgot it was red day and dressed him all in blue. I feel so terrible that I forgot. I’m sure your little miss was fine just after you left.

Angela: Big hug from me too Kel. I had been warned by a girlfriend that has 4 girls that a meltdown at some stage is very likely!! I’m sure Grace’s is just around the corner. You are a wonderful mum and I’m sure when you go to pick her up today she will bursting to tell you all the fantastic things she did today!!! Thinking of you xx

Diana: Hugs x100. Some days are just like that. Eat as much chocolate or cupcakes as you need to.

How can you not feel better after all that? And there was more.


The day did get better. After I picked her up from school at 3pm, we headed for babyccinos and a chat. The root of the problem is not school. She loves going to school. It’s that she wants her Dad to take her to school. She agreed it can happen sometimes, but there’s only so many times he can tell the boss he was caught in traffic (he is the boss. And we live in Tassie – there is no traffic).

Oh, and apparently her friend had chalk cake and can she have chalk cake in her lunchbox next week? Ah, shortcake maybe?

We’re now friends again and all is well with the world. Apart from the fact the wrinkly old people sitting next to us in the cafe “shouldn’t talk with their mouths full, Mum. It’s rude’’. Manners, indeed.

Have you experienced THE school meltdown? How did you cope?

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22 Responses to How to survive your child’s school meltdown

  1. Barb says:

    What a lovely read, wish I could find more time to enjoy your posts they always make me feel so much better about my parenting (or lack of) skills. Ellie’s tanty school days are over but she chucked a few wowsers in her time. Picked her up in my arms while she kicked and screamed like a wild animal and walked her right on out while she continued to spew poison….not a great look. Keep up the awesome work Kel, really love it x

    • Kel says:

      Oh Barb, hearing you on the “time” issue. I wish I had more time to blog these days. I guess that’s what we get for being WAHMs, hey!
      And thanks for the nice feedback too. So good to hear it resonates with other people – and that I’m not alone. 🙂

  2. As a teacher myself sounds like you did the right thing. I have had parents breakdown and cry along with their kids and parents who peer through the window or knock on the window and wave or blow kisses to their children and lots more but these things don’t help.

    Kids need to learn that sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to and thats what your little Ella learned today.

    Disclaimer: I have a 18months old so I may very well go on to be one of those parents who peer through the window and cry when dropping their baby off at school
    Julia Kuku Couture Invitations recently posted..Heart Stamped wrapping paper – Kids CraftMy Profile

    • Kel says:

      Julia, that’s so nice to hear. Thank you, thank you. It makes me feel better that I’m on the right track with what I’m doing. I guess a lot of this I’ve learnt from childcare too, especially those tough early days when there were lots of tears. It’s made transitioning to school so much easier!
      And having a little laugh at your disclaimer. Too funny! 😉

  3. Lisa Wood says:

    They sure know how to push our buttons…did they an ebook at birth that taught them how to make us feel like the worst mums? I sure have experienced this with all of them – and its a case of trying to be kind but at the same time walking out! The teachers are good at coping with young ones when they are not keen to go to school.

    The best part is they usually have a great day, and cant wait to go back the next day!

    Funny how I can tell what my boys moods are going to be like as soon as they get out of bed 🙂

    Lisa Wood recently posted..Over The Last Few WeeksMy Profile

    • Kel says:

      So glad to hear your experiences are the same, Lisa. It’s very reassuring, especially from someone who’s been at this mothering gig a bit longer than me!
      And I really want to get hold of a copy of that ebook so I can burn it! 😉

  4. Alicia says:

    Glad to hear it all worked out for you guys.

    My son is in Year one this year so he’s this is his third year at school and he still has on average 3-4 days like this per week. He says he loves school but he wants to be with me.

    We have tried and continue to try different approaches. It seems as though what works on one day won’t work the next but we will get there in the end.
    Alicia recently posted..Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    • Kel says:

      Oh Alicia, I really feel for you. That’s tough. I really do hope it works itself out for you soon though. You’re obviously doing everything you can in continuing to try different approaches with him. Lets hope the cycle is broken soon. xx

  5. I love how you went for a baby chino and a chat and gave your little Ella the opportunity to tell you what she is feeling. So often we think it is one thing upsetting them when in fact it is the total opposite.

    You did great! And to now know what the meltdown was all about gives you an indicator of where she is at.

    Great job mummy! xx
    the parenting files recently posted..kite flying loveMy Profile

    • Kel says:

      Oh, thanks so much. That feedback means a lot. Sometimes you just never know if you’re doing the right thing or not. I’ve learnt a few tricks along the way, but you still have those doubt moments. xx

  6. Darling Kellie,having been a prep teacher most kids bounce back very quickly whilst poor mum feels shocking all day. You did beautifully in your afternoon chat with Ella, you must send me the recipe to chalk cake yum x

  7. When my son was in kindy he wore the sports uniform on a day he should have been in normal uniform. Meltdown doesn’t really describe his reaction when he discovered he was the odd one out. And this was back in the day before Twitter, I only had the sidelong glances from hovering mothers to go by.

    I caved and took him home to change.
    Mum of Adult Kids recently posted..Wordless Wednesday. Err… Summer?My Profile

    • Kel says:

      Oh no, you poor thing. I probably would have done the same thing.
      I must admit, when Ella was at childcare, she turned up in her day clothes on PJ Day. She didn’t care at all – thankfully! Things would probably be a little different now if it happened again. 🙂

  8. Seana Smith says:

    Kel, what a great way to turn a negative into a positive, this post will be of great help to mums and dads for a long, long time. It’s fantastic for people to read that this happens to everybody, and so true that the kids bounce back MUCH faster than we parents.
    Seana Smith recently posted..Our Fave Salad In The Whole Wide WorldMy Profile

    • Kel says:

      Thank you so much, Seana. That’s so nice of you to say. I really hope you’re right and it does help others. From the comments here, on Facebook and Twitter, it’s been nice to talk about it openly and honestly with other mums. Sometimes we get caught up in the “why is this happening to me?”, when in fact it’s happening to other mothers around us too. xx

  9. Di-licious says:

    A wonderful real life account from the frontline of motherhood Kel – thanks for sharing the result as well. I agree with everyone else – you handled it really well.

    Di x

    PS: I’m chuffed to see my comment included too – a lot of the world’s problems could be solved with the help of cupcakes! 🙂
    Di-licious recently posted..What’s in the freezer? FREE printable chartMy Profile

    • Kel says:

      Thanks Di. That’s nice to hear.
      And always love getting your feedback. And totally agree. Very grateful for actually having a stash of cupcakes this week too! LOL! 🙂

  10. kirri says:

    My twins have a meltdown every second day somewhere between the trip from the classroom to the car. Some days I smile, placate and manage the sitch with more patience than I knew I had and other days, I lose all grace and face!

    Least you know we are all in it together x
    kirri recently posted..Seven excuses mums like to use for putting themselves last (and a few retorts).My Profile

    • Kel says:

      So true, Kirri. One of the benefits of living in this day and age is being able to share your real feelings online. I’m sure generations before kept a lot of what was really going on behind the scenes to themselves.
      Hoping the twins’ meltdowns start declining for you soon. x

  11. SquiggleMum says:

    It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? When I was a grade one teacher I’d look at that mum with the kid-having-a-meltdown and think, “Just go already! She’ll be fine in 2 minutes!”

    Somehow, when that grade one kid-having-a-meltdown is wrapped around my own leg…. well, it’s a whole new experience. And it hurts. Even if she will be fine in 2 minutes.
    SquiggleMum recently posted..I Know The PlanMy Profile

    • Kel says:

      Hehe! I can just imagine!
      That’s actually reassuring to hear, Cath. You’re never really sure if you’re doing the right thing or not and if others have that same feeling that follows. Happy to report it was a one off moment – she’s been all smiles at school drop off since.

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