One Breath Away




I was just one breath away from becoming a statistic as a parent. Ok, this might be a little dramatic, but it was touch and go there for a minute.  

WARNING: I’m about to out myself in a big way. This is my most vulnerable post to date.

It was a very rough night. Well, it was a pretty rough week in general but tonight…

….a little background on the week:

  1. My son started preschool on Monday. It is a huge adjustment for all of us. Our entire routine is different.  I’m not sure if he is grieving his old daycare but he certainly has a big adjustment to go through.  There have been a lot of tears (mainly him, a few from me).
  2. My husband left for – in my opinion – the hardest business trip of the year Tuesday and won’t be back until late Sunday night if he makes the last flight out. It is the hardest because he is super busy and hard to reach and it’s a long trip. Also, the timing this year could pretty much not be worse. He is a very hands-on dad and we are all very aware when he is gone. 
  3. I have a 4-month-old daughter who is…let’s just call her… a lot of work (translation: I love her and thank God for her every day but if she was first she might have been an only).
  4. Yesterday is my late night at work and it took a village of pick-up drivers and babysitters. I got home after bedtime and was quite worried and exhausted about all the change this week on these little minds.

So did I mention I have to get up an hour earlier between the new schedule and doing double duty, and I don’t sleep great when the Hubs is away?

Ok, tonight.  

Tonight my daughter was screaming often and without the ability to be consoled until she decided she was done. This usually happened at its greatest duration and highest volume in the car…with no escape. My son was testing boundaries at a level I have never seen him do before.

SIDE NOTE: This may have been at a very common 2.5-year-old level but he is my easy child and for him, it was off the charts.  If this was/is common level in your household, I commend you, I pray for you and…just wow.

He would not listen or stay in time out and I said: “If you do not stay against that wall we are going home immediately.” And he did not. This meant apologizing to my parents, gathering all our things, buckling in the crying baby, checking to make sure we had everything (I still ended up leaving pumped milk there), and gathering the tantrum throwing-running to hide-screaming “no”-toddler.  So after 3.5 hours I made good on my promise and we left.

Just kidding it was only a few exhausting minutes. 

Then in the car he continued to be difficult while his sister screamed bloody murder. According to Google Maps it is an 11 minute drive, but I’m pretty sure I hit every red light and it felt like an eternity.

Anyone relating yet??

Here comes the first breathing moment

I noticed a cop behind me. The volume in the car was like what I imagine the seventh ring of hell to be like. I fantasized about flagging down said cop, asking him to follow me home and take my kids inside so I could sit in the car for a solid 60 seconds of silence and then scream at the top of my lungs.

See officer, this way I could try and not lose my patience with my kids.

But then I thought, what if he doesn’t have kids and therefore won’t get it? And I’ve watched enough episodes of Dateline to know if someday something God forbid happened to someone I knew, I would be person of interest #1 and this cop who would now be a detective in a bad suit, would remember me and say she had a temper (It was a long red light ok?!) So I decide to not flag him down but I still had 5 minutes left of this torture with not a lot of optimism that getting home was going to make it better. So I did something else.

I took a deep breath.

And then I screamed SHUT UP ALREADY, in my head silently. And we made it home and to bed without incident. Well without me having an incident.

Then I had to get my son to bed.

The testing continued. He would not sit still for a diaper change and pajamas. He hit me (not hard but clearly out of frustration, or anger, or fatigue, or some other negative emotion.) I told him it was not ok to hit Mommy and he did it again…twice. All while I am strongly trying to hold him in place to change him. Ok, this part is hard to type…I felt my patience disappearing and my grip on him tighten, and I said,

If you hit me again, I am going to hit you back and it will probably hurt. 

And I meant it.

But then I heard myself and I was able to take a deep breath. And I said,

No Baby, I’m sorry that is not true, I didn’t mean that. In this family we never put hands on each other because we are mad, or frustrated, or not getting what we want. We only put hands on each other with love…like this [and I hugged him and gave him a bunch of kisses.]

He giggled a little and smiled for the first time in over an hour. My frustration melted a little and we got through the rest of the process and he went to sleep.

I realized at that moment I made a choice. I made a choice to stop and breathe. 

Do I think if I hadn’t breathed in the car I would have shaken my baby? No, I don’t believe that. But I do think I would have screamed at the top of my lungs, scared both my kids and felt pretty bad about myself. I also think I understand a little better why people without coping tools, education, or support systems do the unthinkable.  

I do think if I hadn’t taken a breath I might’ve hit my son back. I would’ve felt terrible and missed out on an important lesson for him. And who knows, if it had been effective, I might’ve done it again and started a pattern and a habit that could get out of control, because that’s how it starts for many, right?

After the kids went to bed, I took a shower, and poured myself a drink; and I decided as uncomfortable as it is I needed to write this.  

I needed to write this because I need to remind myself that the pause, the breath, is so important for my well being and theirs. I needed to remind myself how easy it is to get caught up and just be one breath away from regret.  

I also thought that maybe someone reading this might need a reminder too.

If you’ve been there and can relate please comment below.  And if you have other tools that work besides the breath I would love to hear those too and learn from you!

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I grew up in Orange County then went to Los Angeles (with a short detour in Santa Barbara) for college and spent the next 12 years there thinking that was home until I met my amazing, now husband on and moved back here to start our life together. I have a young son and daughter that are two years apart. They are thick as thieves and keep us laughing. I worked in Hospice care for 15 years and now I take Working Mom to a whole new dimension with a private mental health practice I worked hard with many jobs hustling for many years to grow my own business. I'm proud to say I'm helping people in my own office full time. The decision to quit my full time job working for some one else and to work towards creating much needed grief, trauma and self esteem support in Orange County fills my soul. I may not spend 24/7 with my kids but I plan to be role model to them and the time we have is all about quality not quantity. I'm working on a life/work balance but I find this is much easier when I love all aspects of my life and work and self.


  1. Melissa you are so brave to share such a difficult story. I remember years and years ago as a single parent of a one year old, being up in the middle of the night with a screaming child knowing I had to get up for work in just a few hours. We were both exhausted. I easily could have taken my frustration out on my baby but instead I hit a wall and took a lot of breaths.

    It only takes a second to go from angry, tired, frustrated parent to abuser.

    Thanks for sharing. Im not surprised you made the right decision. Love to you and your family.

  2. Wow! And Yes! I can totally relate. I have flipped my lid more times than I care to admit and have also taken many deep breathes. The lesson you taught your son about hitting and using our hands for love and hugs was amazing! And that message resonated in him with a smile back. Love it! Thanks for the lesson and the reminder. Our kids are sponges and they take in every action and reaction that we make. Sometimes when I know a time out is going to cause more of a struggle/challenge I will put myself on time out. I say “mommy is feeling sad/frustrated and I need a 2-5min time out”. Helps diffuse the situation without causing more upset. 🙂

  3. I can relate! Been there before raising two children 22 months. Each stage of their life is a day by day trial by fire with our now four children … doing the best and asking for help along the way is all one can do.

  4. Melissa, I have known you many years. You never cease to amaze with your mature and wisdom. I am blessed to have been a part of your family.

  5. Working as a child therapist for 14 years and being a mom 10 years has shown me that every mom feels this way at times!! If they say otherwise they have ridiculously unusual kids and a very unique parenting experience. Oh and only one kid!! Or they are lying. Great for you for sharing!

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