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It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. The tantrum in a public space (yes YOUR child will do it one day!)
Nothing can prepare you for it. When it happens it catapults you into a limbo land of frustrated confusion.
What the hell do I do here?
There’s no point having a plan as nothing ever works.
The biggest causes of what I like to term a meltdown are tiredness and hunger, plus what we discovered in Bangkok, heat and crowds.
Sometimes it’s enough to make any adult meltdown.
Going to see the Emerald Buddha
Kalyra was excited to see the Emerald Buddha. She knows him as the man of peace who helps us remember to be kind.
She was also catching her breath to be visiting a REAL palace.
I was excited to. I want her to be exposed to different Gods and spiritual beliefs – not so she can necessarily subscribe to any one way, but so she can be open to learning and finding her own path.
It was a typically hot Bangkok day and since we had arrived the evening before we were not prepared for its stickiness.
We also hadn’t had a lot of sleep. Kalyra’s eyes sprang open at 4:30am. She can’t be awake on her own; it took her five minutes to deviate a plan that involved accidentally waking her sister.
Can you see disaster brewing in the cauldron?
We were all fairly chipper when we arrived to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew – The Temple of the Emerald Buddha – the MOST important temple in Thailand.
No one knows where the Emerald Buddha originally came from; he was discovered in the rubble of a crumbling Wat by the same name in Chiang Mai.
He was a little plastic statue no one paid attention to, until one day someone accidentally clipped its noise, revealing the precious jade underneath.
Yes. The Emerald Buddha is made of jade.
The mystery begins right there with him. The meltdown begins right at the in-pouring of tourists through the Palace gates.
Savannah began her tired whines. Kalyra’s grin soon turned to grimaces and her eyes glazed over with exhaustion and overwhelm.
“Oh I’m so hot in this,” Kalyra began wailing and pulling at the long dress I had thrown over her shorts and shirt.
Her 5 year old mind was not going to comprehend she had to suck up the uncomfortableness to wear clothes that showed respect to the Buddha and King.
I was struggling to overcome the same resistance. The heat and the extra clothes were suffocating. Our guide Tim told me that it was okay for her take off the dress and wear the shorts and shirts.
“We don’t worry about children. It’s more a rule to stop people trying to dress sexy. Little children don’t do this.”
We whipped the dress off and worked through the plan of averting meltdown madness.
The temple complex is stunning in design and intricacies, but it was almost impossible for me to absorb their beauty and meaning. The crowds got in the way, the heat and tiredness oppressed me and the children turned on my anxiety.
“When are we going to see the Buddha?”
“Get me outta here. I’m hot. I’m tired. I’m so thirsty.”
My calm requests for patience fell on deaf ears. The wails continued rising with each step forward.
“I don’t care about the statue I just want to see the Buddha! Oh when are we going to see the Buuuudddhhhaa?”
Mummy had the brilliant idea of letting her learn about the process of praying to the Buddha and perhaps having a go herself.
We watched as those praying to Buddha lit and placed a candle in the box, burned the incense and laid a lotus flower down before placing a gold leaf on the Buddha to ask for their deepest desire and give thanks.
She watched intently and decided she wanted to do the same.
The cauldron was bubbling and I nervously agreed, knowing this could potentially lead to disaster or be an enlightening experience.
The pot boiled over.
Lighting the candle and incense herself was going to be a little too dangerous so I said I could do that part while she watched.
She was not having this and threw herself on the floor with her best tantrum wails and tears right in front of the worshipping Thais.
“I wanna do that. I wanna light the candle. I wanna place the flower down. Why won’t you let me? Wahhhhhhh”
I wanted the floor to swallow me.
“Craig, get her out of here now”
He whipped her to the sedation room while I finished the ritual, asking Buddha for the strength I needed not to lose it myself (and silently praying the Thais weren’t praying to Buddha that the ground swallow up my family.)
Calm was restored for a short period while Daddy got her another lotus flower to place on the sacred space.
(NB – when in the most important temple in Thailand you are allowed to break the rules of things-you-said-you’d-never-do-as-a-parent and give in to your child’s wailing demands.)
While Kalyra prayed to the Buddha with reddened eyes and sniffling nose, I chased Savannah around the complex, trying to stop her tired legs from crash tackling the pavement and placate her frustrated wails. Her wiggles and screams to break free from my arms to stampede through the crowds possibly gained me the title of Mother-of-the-Year again. Twice in five minutes is not bad.
Kalyra however had refused to give the lotus flower to the Buddha, preferring that she keep it herself. By now she was composed so I agreed (again breaking parenting rules for whatever keeps you quiet right now in the most important temple in Thailand.)
It was time to walk inside the most sacred temple to see the Emerald Buddha. He sat high atop a throne.
She stared up for several minutes.
“Why is the Buddha so small? And green?”
He looked like a green frog with a regal shawl wrapped around it. You almost needed binoculars to see him properly.
I started to breathe again as her calm and inquisitive demeanor returned.
It remained for a further five minutes until we arrived in the important coronation room.
The wails and frustrated cries started up again. I picked her up and carried her out with her legs flying ninja kicks.
Stuck in that limbo land of confusion I tried all those dealing with tantrum strategies that are in the parenting handbook that doesn’t really exist.
I held her tightly and told her she was just tired all would be okay.
All things intensified.
I told her if she didn’t start behaving I would take her back to the hotel.
The cries turned to screams.
I said “You won’t’ be able to come on holidays anymore if this is how you behave. You’ll have to stay at home.”
Her mouth opened wide and she gasped. “How could you say that?”
Exactly, how could I? I was a tired, frustrated, hot, anxious mother who was struggling to deal with the parenting issues no one tells you how to deal with.
I started second guessing every decision I’d made. Was I a fool to think we could travel to Thailand? This was only day 1. The girls were way too young to deal with such a different country.
I began losing it. I wanted to lie on the floor and kick out my frustrations and cry.
What was I to do?
I remembered the Emerald Buddha I stood in front of only minutes before. I quietly asked him to give me the strength to get through this day and be a better parent.
I let her go and told her she could go back in and find her daddy.
Tim suggested we leave and have some lunch for a well-earned break for the girls.
“They are tired and it is too busy here for them.”
I nearly hugged her.
We left, sat by the river, and calm returned.
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Have you experienced children meltdowns on holidays before?
Please share and make me feel better.