When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Well, once again, this is not the post I intended to write tonight. Nope, not at all.
That seems to be the theme lately: not doing what I expected to be doing.
That was certainly the case last week on vacation.

Did I expect to spend the first three days in the rain? Nope. I mean sure, one day of rain, or some drops here and there, but most certainly not three days of thunderstorms.

Did I expect to find our normally quiet, spacious beach overcrowded because the beach one block over was getting filled in as a result of Hurricane Sandy? Nope. And when I say overcrowded, I mean so much so that if one of my boys even flinched I feared they would get sand on a stranger.

Danger. This mom didn’t expect this and doesn’t like when things don’t go as planned. In fact, in kind of makes her want to scream….

Did I expect to have not one, not two, not three, but four kids all not sleep through the night, every night? Nope. Of course I expected one or two, and I expected early risings, but for all to not sleep through, seriously?

Did I expect to discover our favorite breakfast place would have the same great food and view but awfully mean and hungover college boys instead of sweet and caring college girls who helped with the kids? Nope. I know wait staff changes, but after many a long night I so longed for a little help at breakfast besides the caffeine jolt from my coffee.

Did I expect to call 911 at 4:30 in the morning because I was convinced someone was in the house?

Oh wait, that wasn’t on vacation; that wasn’t last week. That was last night, or I guess this morning. I think I am still shaking and still traumatized by the whole thing. The baby cried out at 4:30. He quickly settled and then I heard footsteps. Then I heard what sounded like toys banging around. I waited in bed, my heart already racing, trying to figure out my next move as my husband was traveling. I decided it must just be #2 up early (he doesn’t sleep well). I waited for the sound to stop. It didn’t. So I grabbed the bat and went out into the hall. I checked all the kids’ rooms. All the lights were off; the rooms were quiet and the beds full. Then…


The metal baby get at the bottom of the stairs crashed. I looked downstairs and saw lights on and heard even more noise and even more footsteps. I ran to my bedroom and called 911.

“Hello! Quick, hurry. Send someone to my house. I think someone is downstairs.”

“Hold on ma’am, where are you. Tell me what you hear. Police are on their way.”

“Someone is downstairs. I know it. I know it. Please there are footsteps and noise. Hurry! Hurry!”

I told her everything I could as quietly as I could. I prayed the baby didn’t wake and cry out again. The last thing I wanted was my four boys to wake up and get attention. The last thing I wanted was to be found, so I tried so hard to stay calm and not let my tears of absolute fear be heard. It was near impossible.

“Did you call out downstairs, to see if anyone answered?”

“No, I was too afraid. Please, hurry, hurry. I am so scared!” I sobbed. And I mean sobbed. I have never been so scared in my life. Visions of an intruder ran through my head as the banging continued. The beautiful calm voice came kept reassuring me as I continued to sob hysterically. A mere minute or two into the call, or rather an eternity if you ask me, she said:

“Okay, six officers are at your house and have surrounded the perimeter. Just stay on the line with me. You are going to be okay….Okay, the officers are walking around your house. Stay with me.”

“Please, please, tell them to come in. I can give you the garage code….”

“Ma’am, the officers see someone in your house. Stay calm. Okay, someone with a red shirt is walking around. It is a child. With blonde hair.” She matter-of-factly reported to me.

“THAT’s MY SON!” I bawled.

I threw the phone and ran downstairs.  I saw my sweet oldest standing in pitch black in the kitchen. I dropped to my knees faster than I ever have and let out the biggest sob of my life so far.

“You scared me! You scared me so much! I thought you were someone trying to hurt our family. I am so scared. Do you see how scared I am?” I said calmly-ish. Repeat, I said calmly-ish. I didn’t yell.

Flashlights flickered in every corner of the house. I opened the back door to a policeman and once again started bawling. I finally let out a breath; I don’t think I had really breathed for the last five or so minutes.

“It’s my son sir. My son.”

“What happened little guy?” The policeman asked so very nicely and reassuringly.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry mommy. I woke up and had a bad dream so I snuck downstairs to get something to eat. I think I will go back to bed now.”

“Sweetheart. Oh sweetheart. I am just so glad you are okay. This is why I have told you that we don’t go downstairs without an adult in the morning. This is why we stay in our rooms. Oh #1, you scared me so much.”

And on that note he shook his head quietly with understanding and turned and walked upstairs and went to bed as I apologized to the police officer and the other five of them waiting at the front door. I felt embarrassed to have made such a foolish mistake. I felt embarrassed that I didn’t think to pull back every cover in the kid’s room. I felt embarrassed that I was standing in the ugliest summer (ie. less cloth) pajama’s ever and that I hadn’t even thought to put on a robe to cover up what was hanging out, eh hem.

All six officers reassured me that I did the right thing; that this has happened before and it is better safe than sorry. I knew they were right but still, I feel a little silly today. Kind of.

I also feel a little proud. Just like I felt a little proud on vacation. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, when something went awry and not as planned, I would get all bent out of shape. Beach closed? I would complain for two days, be a grump and be ripe to yell. Kids not sleeping? I would suggest packing up and going home and in the meanwhile, I would snap at the kids incessantly. Kid scaring the crap out of me? I would scare the crap out of him by screaming in his face.

Yes, before I taught myself to stop yelling, before I realized that I should expect to be triggered to yell big time by things not going as expected, I didn’t handle myself well at all when things went awry. In fact, I would get into such a funk that I either ruined a moment or missed out on an opportunity all together. The Orange Rhino Challenge hasn’t just taught me to yell less and love my kids more, it has helped me to love life more. I loved vacation – despite all the unexpected hiccups because I have taught myself to expect and accept the unexpected. Even my husband noted how calm I was compared to past reactions to similar situations. And last night was no different. I loved my son more than I would have in the past if faced with such a scenario because I have practiced handling the unexpected more gracefully.

My son saw fear in my face last night; not anger. My son felt love in my hug, not aggression. And as a result (or as I like to think) he heard every lesson I needed to teach him loud and clear…all without me getting loud.

I didn’t expect for my son to be the intruder in my house last night, but it taught him several great lessons. And I also didn’t expect The Orange Rhino Challenge to change me so much, to have taught me so many great lessons.

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18 thoughts on “When Things Don’t Go As Planned

  1. OMG! Hugs. What a nightmare. Glad it was your son and not an intruder. I can almost feel the fear in my skin. I would have died. Hugs hugs hugs!!!!

  2. Orange Rhino mama I’m so happy to hear that you and your family are alright. scared enough to soil your pj’s isn’t a cool thing. we live in ct and the first thing i thought of was the home invasion that made the news a few years back for the Petit family.

    Thank you for your posts. I bought orange beads today and some orange pipe cleaners. I’ll use those to help me keep track of my progress. I’m hoping to make it a full day eventually. Almost thru a full week but each day i’ve lost my cool with my boys.

    I think I am more aware of my feelings and triggers. My boys help me by saying orange rhino when i am about to blow my top or have already. It is helpful. There are sticky notes reading orange rhino in a few places in the house and on my car’s dashboard.

    I have started telling friends and family about this challenge and your website. It helps remind me too when i mention it.

    Here’s to hoping your family will settle back into a restful routine (at least sleep some at night). Also thank you for helping me with your words. This must be a success. Look how many people reply to your blog and on your Facebook page. This idea finally suggests something I can stand behind and be real. Fellow posters are each others support. Thank You!

    Great job keeping your mostly calm.

  3. Holy crap! That would have scared me too! I thought it was going to be a wild animal of sorts… 🙂 not your son…since you said you checked all their rooms and everyone was “accounted for” LOL! Your #1 isn’t very good at “sneaking” 🙂 THANK GOODNESS! 🙂 Now you can tuck this little story away to laugh about later…”Remember that night…..” It’s ok to find humor in this now. 🙂

    Hugs to you!

  4. Oh this made me cry and I am SO glad I made the choice not to read it last night as my husband was away. I’m so glad it was your son. This happened to me once and I stayed in bed and waited for the sounds to go away. They were just upstairs. They did and in the morning it was my son who had gone to the bathroom which he never does in the middle of the night. They usually wake me for everything. I’m glad you called the police and they were so on it! That’s reassuring.

  5. So sorry about the scare!
    And good for you that you have a new perspective on things like the beach being closed. I am not sure how I would deal with the no sleep part.
    I wanted to leave this comment an hour ago, but then things didn’t go as planned.
    We had breakfast, and my son looked as if he had to go to the bathroom. “Noooo, I don’t have to go.”
    So I went online and started reading.
    “Mommy, I think I should have gone to the bathroom after all.”
    Code brown. Shower. Laundry.
    Just another day as a boy’s mother 😉

  6. You had me engrossed! Love the way you told this ‘story’. So glad you are all ok! Well done for what you are accomplishing here on this site and in your life: you are fabulous! Funny thing: I managed to see my yelling come to a grinding halt (ok there are a few slip ups!!) when my eldest(16) – about 6 at the time started yelling at me – and I wanted to say to her ‘DONT speak to me like that!’ Well that was pretty hard to do considering I was TEACHING HER to do it! It was like a knife going through me…and I never wanted her to feel like that. It was so hard sometimes to ignore the triggers…but it got easier and easier the more I did it. I kept imagining them not being around in my life when I felt stressed – THAT seemed to help loads!! BUT the guilt of having done it for so long took ages to work through and trying to ‘make up’ for the years of yelling without being lenient because of it! To all moms out there joining this challenge – Dont give up! We can do it! BUT forgive yourself for being human…if you beat yourself up…or you WILL yell even louder when you DO slip up…because you are stressed that they MADE you lose your cool when you are trying so hard not too…

  7. I’m glad everything turned out okay for you. I will make you laugh to yourself even though I had a very today. My daughter was waiting for me on the front step as I was changing to go uptown. All of a sudden, I heard a scream of terror from her. I thought “Bear, oh my God!”. This is a realistic concern as we had a bear wander through our yard two summers ago. I ran out the door onto the front step and she was standing there screaming. I said “What’s wrong?” She said “There was a bee after me.” I thought “oh thank you Lord!” Then I realized I was standing on my front step stark naked. I have never been so happy to live with lots of trees between our yard and our neighbours. Cheers all!

  8. Wow that was an ordeal indeed. But seriously to have reached the point where you didn’t yell in that situation is life changing. Great job. I got through today without yelling but I tell you that is probably a first and had more to do with my daughters good mood, than my self-control. You are an inspiration

  9. Wow! I’m in awe of you Orange Rhino! I guess on some level I know that what you’ve done (learned to not yell, even in the hardest moments) is possible, I just can’t seem to get through one day without yelling and scaring the hell out of my son. It seems it is the only way to get him to do anything, or more usual, to stop doing something he shouldn’t be doing. I pray every night to have more patience and see him through loving eyes in the hard times, but any more I can’t go even half a day without getting upset with him and flying off the handle. I’ve actually started to think lately that maybe he’d be better off living with his father, though I know that’s not true. I’ve read about how you did it, but HOW DID YOU DO IT? I mean, I just can’t see how you do it… Chemfreemom

    • wow you’ve posted my thoughts too. i have 2 young boys 2 & 4. I’ve accepted the challenge trying for a week at a time. i have been Trying for almost a week now but I have yet to complete even 1 single YELL FREE day. However, I have started noticing i’m trying to think first before losing my cool. I’m discovering my triggers. today wasn’t a complete failure. yes i yelled more than 1x. when i didn’t over an accidental spill of candy at the register I didn’t lose it though. my oldest said “oh mama i’m sorry i’m sorry it was an accident” i said it’s ok buddy i’m not mad it happens. lets fix the problem by picking it up. he apologized again but helped and it was done. pat on my back.

      so enough about me if your recognizing that your yelling i’ll be that is a step in the right direction along with wanting to change it. i wish you the best of luck in this challenge. God knows we’ll need it along with the prayers for more patience! hugs!

  10. Oh, and that is so scary …. it really did happen to us, though, so I’m super happy it was just your boy. You deserve naps all week. xx

  11. This story totally had me going the whole time, wandering who was in your house!!! And then I kind of giggled (sorry) when u found out it was your son!!! And then when I pictured u hugging ur son and talking to him I cried!!! I totally would have been the same way!!! In fact, we had a little scare of our own this weekend, where my 3 year old daughter saw fear, not anger, and love, not aggression!!! I completely failed your last 30 day challenge!!! When is your next one? I know I still have the emails, so I could and should do it on my own!!!! :/ I feel so awful at the end of the day when I make my 2 year old cry bc she spilled her sisters medicine (bc I paid for it, and there’s only enough for what is prescribed, etc)! Things like this happen on a daily basis, an I can’t stop yelling! 🙁 ugh!

  12. How scary! I too have been on a journey to yell less in the last year even before I found your blog. It is the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done. Your “old self” sounds just like mine. Bent out of shape at the slightest inconvenience or thing not going according to plan. A perfectionist to the core. I still fight it every day. I’m getting better. It’s SO hard some days. But in the end it’s worth it.

  13. Wow! That was both awesome & terrifying! (You obviously are a great writer – you had me on the edge of seat & then laughing!) To share with you today, I considered today to be a good day because there was no yelling or even sending anyone to their room today. Although tonight at bedtime my son pressed my crappy mommy button really hard tonight and deflated my proud balloon big time! Yesterday I had managed to play a game with him but today his sister wasn’t feeling well so I wasn’t able to. I realize he is entitled to his feelings (and he is only 7) but it still hurt me to hear him say he was upset.

  14. Oh my goodness, my heart was pounding right along with yours as I read through that! So glad things turned out okay, mama. And also it’s always so refreshing to read your honest and down-to-earth posts with their doses of real-life parenting in action. Thanks for sharing your life, ups and downs and bumps and bruises and all!

  15. This is such a good lesson, and wow – that must have been so terrifying and relieving!!

    I really needed to read this post right now. We’re moving in eight days, and I just officially hit the stressed out point. We’ve been packing and shlepping stuff to the new house for several weeks and are, thankfully, actually in pretty good shape, but a move is a move. The stress has been slowly getting to me, and I’ve been more snappish lately. Thanks for reminding me to take a moment and think about my triggers and breathe.

  16. I totally understand how terrifying that feels. My oldest son did that to me one night a few weeks ago when my husband was gone. I woke up and heard someone downstairs in our living room. I knew it couldn’t be one of the kids because I always (and I mean always) wake up when they get up in the night. I very slowly left my room and went to the top of the stairs where I had a clear view of the downstairs, hoping that I had just dreamed the noise. Instead I saw movement, and I got really freaked out until the figure stood against the window and I could see it was my son’s shape. He was sleepwalking! Ugh! What an awful feeling. You have my sympathy that you went through something similar, with a more stressful ending (calling 911). Kudos for keeping your kids safe and for not yelling.

  17. OMG soo scary. I could feel your fear I could feel the terror you must have felt. I am so glad you called the police even with the outcome because you just never know! On to the reason I’m writing….one word one question? HOW? How do you learn to change that behavior? To not yell? To not blowup? I was raised in a household of yellers & honestly I have trouble communicating without yelling whenever I’m stressed hurt angry sad etc.

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