It’s just a phase, right?

Please say yes even if you’re lying. Please say yes even if you’re judging me.

Last night after I got home from picking my kids up from aftercare at school, I sat in my minivan and cried. So defeated. So embarrassed. So ashamed. So… sad.

Audrey’s behavior at school drop off and pick up has been deteriorating day by day and last night’s pick up was some of the best work I’ve seen from her – which is saying something.

Granted, it’s a huge transition for her. She only turned three in May and she’s gone from a small child care center where she’s been since age 16 weeks full of familiar and trusted faces to a large elementary school with nearly zero familiar faces. She’s in a new classroom with new teachers, new friends, new rules, new structure. It’s been very difficult for her. I just… I didn’t expect it to be this difficult.

Tuesday morning at drop off she screamed and thrashed in her teacher’s arms as I promised I’d see her after school and sulked down the hallway to the lobby where I could still hear her. Screaming. Not crying or whining. I’m talking fingers-slammed-in-a-car-door screaming. After relaying that information along with the very similar situation at pick up that night, my husband suggested that he drop the girls off Wednesday to give me a break. Her teacher also mentioned (we’ve been emailing and she’s amazing. She assured me that Audrey is getting there and it’s a slower process for some kids and she’ll be great.) that many kids do better when their dads drop them off. It’s not a viable long term option, but if it gave me a morning of reprieve, I’d take it.

Tom reported back that there were some sad tears, but no screaming so I felt better going into aftercare last night to get them. She greeted me with a smile and then ran over to color a picture. I told the girls it was time to wrap up and get going and Audrey protested that she was DRAWING A PICTURE, MOM. Her teacher mentioned that she could take it home and finish there and I agreed. Audrey responded by throwing her uncapped marker at me (which hit me in the leg and left a lovely blue line down my khakis) and collapsing to the floor in a heap of thrashing tears.

Big sighs all around. I knew it was only going to get worse. I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. She wouldn’t stand up, let alone walk. She wouldn’t “let” me carry her, so I had to hold her like a football as she kicked and screamed, “LET ME GO!!!” out of the room, through the hallway, past many other students and teachers, her backpack and Olivia dragging somewhere behind me.  Out the door, across the parking lot – still screaming and writhing around – into the minivan where the screaming continued and the kicking started. In my face, my arms, my chest – this little ninja was NOT going quietly into that good car seat.

Ten minutes later I get her secured and she is still screaming, “GET ME OUT OF HEEEERE!!!!” and begging for her treat. I bring graham crackers and milk for the 25 minute ride home and at that point I wasn’t feeling particularly generous so I told her when she could calm down and apologize, she could have it. More screaming. More thrashing. More demanding .

By this time, Olivia is yelling at me to give her the snacks. That if I just give her the snacks she’ll stop crying. That the crying is all my fault. Then she starts crying. Now both are crying and everyone hates me and all I wanted to do was pick up my beautiful little girls, give them a nice snack and chat about their days on the ride home while listening to their favorite music.

Instead, I lose it and yell at both of them.

By the time we get home, we are all crying. I get Audrey into the house and go back for Liv. I pick her up, look into her eyes and tell her how sorry I am that I yelled at her. How sorry I am that I can’t explain how Audrey needs to mind me and she can’t just get everything she wants to make her stop crying – her five-year-old self doesn’t understand that by doing that I’m just encouraging the behavior. She just knows that her sister is upset and I’m not fixing it.

She wiped my tears and said, “Mommy, it’s okay. You are beautiful. Do you need a snuggle?”


I know it’s a lot for her to process all at once. I know she’s overwhelmed and tired and a bit scared and maybe even a little lonely. But, trapped in the car with the screaming after being punched and feeling humiliated and sweating through your clothes and being blamed for the whole thing? It’s hard to remember all that.

17 thoughts on “It’s just a phase, right?

  1. So sorry you’re having this much – there have been a lot of changes for her in the past months…But hairspray takes inks and markers out of cloth. 😉 Hugs and empathy.

  2. I FEEL YOU. We went through a phase (and I’m going to be honest, it was a LONG one) of this kind of struggle. I know exactly how you feel. I carried her kicking and screaming. I cried in the car too. I really does get better. Every once in a while we have drama like this still, though not day-care related, and I got through the same emotions again, but it’s isolated incidents now, definitely not all the time. It’s easier to deal with and move on now. When it’s constant you never get to bounce back and that is so draining. Just hang in there. You’re not alone!

  3. It does get better. I promise. Keep on keeping on, you’re doing a great job. Have you tried a timer for leaving school? She gets to color for 2 minutes before you leave? Not sure if it would work, just a suggestion. I’ve also tried the no talking for a few minutes in the car to calm everyone (especially mom) down after a long day.

  4. Been there, more than once. I am not sure that I would call it a phase, per se. Some kids are more emotional than others and have a difficult time with transitions. My son is very much like that, and part of the process of learning to parent him is accepting that he is not going to be easy. He has worked with a therapist (he’s in 5th grade now), but he does not have any mental health conditions or diagnoses – he’s just a very emotional kid who has struggled with managing it. I have found a lot of great advice in the book Parenting with Love and Logic, and I highly recommend it.

    A difficult drop off is one thing – not much you really can do except have faith in the teachers that they will care for and support your daughter. But on the pick up – I would just cheerfully walk away – “oh, too bad you don’t want to come with mommy. Ok, then, I’m going to leave.” They you walk out. It will help teach her that when you arrive, it’s time to go. How far you take it depends on you – maybe you leave all the way and send dad when he gets home (assuming it’s not too late) or maybe you just go out to the car for a bit to let her think about it. (You can let the teachers know in advance what you plan so they don’t think you’re crazy.) My guess is that she will come running after you so you won’t get very far anyway.

  5. I have been there more than once when my girl was that age. Something that made a very large difference for us both was reading the posts on strong-willed children, which I found on The description fit my girl to a T. Based on that, I could change my approach so that, even though she still had tantrums for awhile, I felt better about my reaction, and it didn’t escalate. Hang in there!

  6. Thank you! I’m in tears right now because it’s like you’ve been spying on my life. Two boys ages 5 and 3, the 3 year old now in a new magnet school after the same day care since 12 weeks. I have no advice because I’m right there with you. Trying to read books on positive discipline (got tons of theory but still not sure how to put it into action in these situations) and not call DCFS on myself for being a terrible mom. All I can say is you are not alone. You are not alone. { hugs }

  7. I am so sorry & also have a 3 year old who’s having a rough time with the transition. I get it & have been in tears dealing with some rough days too. Deep breaths are good advice for all of us. But I echo much of what you are saying. I do also try talking to my daughter when she is calm & don’t want to reward those meltdowns. I look forward to the phase ending & some peace for everyone ! Good luck!

  8. Hmm you wrote Audrey throughout this post but I think you meant Abby.
    The worst is when other parents just stand there looking sorry for you. Seriously stop looking with your mouth hanging open and HELP, WILL YA?!! Hate.

  9. This hits home for me BIG TIIIIME. This is hard, hard, hard, and HORRIBLE. All I want is to have a snack with the kids and hear about their lovely days but this has been our reality lately, too, more or less. Hugs. It has to get better…right? At least we aren’t alone.

  10. One other thing….when she is calm enough try talking to her and explain you understand things are different and maybe a little hard and would she like that snuggle instead of fighting?

  11. Okay, so I have totally lived this. I wish I could say once or twice, but unfortunately it has been more than that. You know what I can tell you? YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it is a phase. I’m going through it again now with my lovely Katelyn. The beginning of the year transition is a hard one. Do not despair. Let’s be honest these changes are hard on us too. You are doing all the right things. Be kind to are just a person too.
    Oh, and regarding that snack….I’ve found there is a definite balance between getting them a snack (as so many of our meltdowns are food/rest related) and having them understand nasty doesn’t cut it. Might I suggest try the you don’t get a snack if you can’t be civil for a few days and if it isn’t improving change to you get the snack but something else goes, like playtime or video or whatever she gets immediately upon arriving home.
    Good luck and huge misty-eyed hugs.

  12. This post makes me want to give you the biggest hug ever. I’m so sorry for the way this transition has been going and hope that it turns around as soon as possible. If you still lived near me I’d drop off another bottle of wine. Hugs Steph. xoxo

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