Do Your Kids Turn Into Monsters After School?

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It was a beautiful day in our mountain town. 

After days of gray clouds and rainy skies, the sun finally poked through and graced us with a lovely afternoon. Never ones to be cooped up inside, my boys were dying to let loose at the park. I imagined they would be thrilled and grateful when I picked them up after school.

Not so.

My oldest limped out of the building first, thrusting his backpack at me. “Here,” he muttered with downcast eyes. My youngest was a bit more chipper, actually saying “Hi, Mom” and showing me his new sticker. This was right before he tripped on a rock in the crosswalk and began losing his mind.

“It’s like they turn into monsters,” My friend says to me as we try to hustle our grumpy children into our respective cars. We both sigh in relief as the doors slam shut and we have a few brief moments to chat and catch up.

It lasts about 10 seconds.

“MOOOOMMMM!!” Her daughter shrieks as she opens the car door. “I have to go to the bathroom!!”

My oldest rolls down the window. “MOOOOMMMM!! Can we leave??”

“MOM!! I HAVE TO GO NOW!!”

“MOM!! You’ve been talking foreverrr!!”

In the car, I cheerfully ask about their days. My youngest responds gamely for a bit before whining that his stomach hurts because he is “too starving.” My oldest barely tolerates my questions before responding, “Nothing, Mom!” At this point, I feel like having my own tantrum.

At least I know I’m not alone. Most of my Mom friends can empathize with the “after-school grumpies”. And I get it. It’s only natural that after a long day of following rules and schedules, keeping their behavior in check, learning new things and interacting with peers, they just need to decompress. They are tired, hungry, and in need of some space.

Kinda like me after a long day. 

So, I’ve made some adjustments.

Even though we live minutes away from school, I now always have snacks in the car waiting for immediate consumption. Options like trail mix, Pirate’s booty, string cheese, and chocolate milk give them a fast fix for low blood sugar.

In addition, I try not to pepper them with questions right away. I have found that once they have some food in them and some quiet time, they will start telling me about their day without any prompting from me.

Instead of immediately correcting their responses and behavior, I try to be gentle with them: “It looks like you’re tired, so why don’t we have some quiet time,” or “You’re probably hungry. Let’s eat a snack and try that again.”

Last but not least, I remind myself not to take their moods personally. Certainly, I do not want them to act like little beasts, but I also know that they are having these feelings for a reason. I know I do not exhibit perfect behavior at all times, so I should not expect it from my children. We’re all just humans having human moments.

Or monster moments, depending on the day.

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Melissa Mark and her husband Tyler are both Phoenix natives who moved to Flagstaff in 2008. With her Master's degree in Community Counseling, she worked as a therapist in Wickenburg, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Flagstaff, mostly specializing in eating disorders. They have two boys, Nolan (8) and Landon (6), who keep them equally busy and entertained. Melissa is fascinated by people and loves to learn about different personalities, backgrounds and interests. This could explain her obsession with reality TV (mostly on Bravo), good novels, and talking with friends over a glass of wine. Melissa writes about juggling motherhood, family life, wellness, humor, pop culture, and more on her personal blog: http://ajourneytobalance.com/