A few nights ago, one of my children had a complete and total meltdown. Screaming. Crying. Yelling for their dad, who was not available, working from home in the closed office. (Dad is the stay-at-home parent during the days, and the highly preferred parent in my family!) Wringing their hands, clenching them into fists, yelling at the top of their lungs.
If I had walked into this household for the first time, not knowing us or anything about us—or, if I had been feeling threatened or alerted or on the edge myself mentally—I might not have noticed:
Nothing was thrown.
Nobody was hit.
Nobody was kicked.
Nobody was scratched.
I did not have to intervene to stop any of these things from happening. For the first meltdown in years and years, my child expressed their anger and rage and frustration and disappointment through an out-of-control voice…but in-control hands and feet. That has never happened before.
If I only measured progress by perfection, I wouldn’t be able to recognize this for what it is.
Regulation. Moving from explosively hitting and throwing objects to screaming and wringing hands is regulation.
It’s regulation that did not come from punishment or fear. It came from growth and maturity and development and me (and their dad!) being their external self-regulation and their co-regulator for years when they haven’t been able to.
And ongoingly we will continue to be so when they are not able to again, because the circumstances will not always be the same, the brain will not always be able to access the same actions and coping tools… but it’s a step.
It’s a step.