Ah, summer. It always goes by so fast. For the last two years, this has been compounded by taking not one, not two, but three trips (notice I did not say “vacations”), traveling with my toddler. Each trip was separated by less than two weeks, which is really too small a time to really get unpacked and settled back into a routine. This had the end result of taking up almost two months’ time — practically the whole summer.
This year, we are planning the same thing. A long July Fourth weekend at my aunt and uncle’s lake house in rural Virginia. A trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where my inlaws have a condo. A week-long stay at the Jersey shore with my family.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
And it is. But it’s also a lot of work.
I’m still getting the hang of this traveling with toddlers thing. As is most often the case as a parent, our own fun is a distant second to that of our children’s. So we are like the man behind the curtain, pulling strings to make sure that everything is magical in their eyes. All of the preparation, all of the food and entertainment, all of the concerns about safety occupy our trip, in the hope that fun is the only thing that occupies theirs.
OK, so this year I geared up for the first of the three trips. The lake house. The lake house presented a series of challenges:
- We were sharing the house with my aunt and uncle, my two cousins (one in high school and one in college), my cousin’s friend, my parents, my sister, her husband and their two kids. Including us, that’s 14 people. FOURTEEN.
- There isn’t really a yard in which the kids can run around in.
- The backyard is a series of steps leading down to a dock.
- The water off the dock is very deep.
Then I have the series of particular challenges presented by my two-year-old:
- He’s prone to tantrums because of his communication and sensory processing issues.
- Most people think sensory processing issues don’t even exist.
- He’s not a good sleeper on vacation
- He’s a picky eater. Like really picky.
- If I don’t do what he wants (like bring him in bed with us or give him the food he wants), he will throw a major tantrum.
- No one wants to hear tantrums.
So how’d I do? Well, everyone emerged from the weekend safe and sound, so that’s the most important thing. But there were tantrums, tears (on my part) and some acts of questionable parenting (you want to eat a bazillion chips that will ruin your dinner? Go ahead, as long as it keeps you quiet).
Traveling with your toddler and other people, you have to pick your battles. Do you want to enforce all the rules to a T, or do you want a toddler who’s not screaming? It’s picking the lesser of two evils.
Another problem for us is that LM is all about Daddy whenever Daddy’s around. He wants nothing to do with me. So again, this meant that either Foggy Daddy had to do everything with LM, or we had to listen to him scream. After hearing FD complain about having to put LM to bed again, I told him I would do it. A half an hour of screaming toddler later while his cousins were trying to sleep in the next room, I frantically texted FD: “Please. He wants you not me.” After being relieved of my bedtime duties, I headed upstairs and promptly broke into tears.
The challenges around the water, though, terrified me the most. We came armed with the bubble LM wears for swim class, a puddle jumper, and a life jacket. LM refused the Coast Guard-approved puddle jumper and instead would only wear the bubble, which he was used to. But this unnerved me while swimming in deep water, even though of course one of us was with him at all times. His joy at jumping in and swimming around, though, tempered my fear somewhat.
Going out on the boat, however, he flat out refused the life jacket. FD and LM remained on the dock as we prepared to depart. But at the last minute, FD pinned him down on the ground, strapped the life jacket on as LM screamed, and then handed him over the side of the boat. As we motored out, LM continued to wail, and I felt the heat rise inside me again. We should have just left him home, I thought. Now he’s ruining everyone’s trip. But as soon as we got moving, he relaxed. Soon, he was asking for “more fast.”
Surprisingly, the car rides (eight hours each way) were the easiest part of traveling. LM took a long, four-hour nap, and then watched videos the rest of the time. Great parenting? Probably not, but what are the options for a kid who doesn’t like coloring or other sedentary activities that can be done in the car?
But probably the best moments of the trip occurred when I least expected them to. We decided to take LM to watch the fireworks, which would keep him out past his bedtime. I assumed they would be at nine — but it turns out they weren’t happening until 10. Whoops. But we weren’t going to miss them (great parenting again, I know). Instead, we visited the pre-show carnival. Let me tell you, a merry-go-round is actually quite scary when you realize you’re going kind of fast and the only thing keeping your toddler from flying off is your arms around his waist — and I could barely reach him when his horse’s pole rose up.
As the light faded, I realized I had forgotten the glow sticks I bought purposefully for the occasion. Instead, we let LM pick out a glow toy (a light saber — I groaned as I realized I had just bought him his first weapon), and walked back to our spot to watch the fireworks. The adults threw around a football, and LM wanted to join in too. And then as we settled into our lawn chairs, we read LM a story by the glow of the light saber. Then he drifted off to sleep — completely missing the fireworks. (Bonus to having a hard of hearing kid — loud noises aren’t as much of a problem.)
It wasn’t easy, but we made it through. It took a lot out of me, though, which is in part why this post was delayed (don’t be surprised if the same happens in the next few weeks after our next two trips). But the fun LM had made it all worth it. I guess our string-pulling worked.
Next stop: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Do you find trips with your toddler difficult? Any tips you would recommend?
LM’s tantrums lately have been EPIC. He just can’t calm himself down.
I know the feeling.
I feel like I’ve been on the verge of a meltdown myself lately. I always hold it all together, even as more and more is piled on top. I’m just not really sure how I’m doing it. It almost feels like muscle memory, the way I go through my day and take care of my toddler and make phone calls to doctors and therapists and write my stories and answer emails and talk to other moms. It all still feels, well, actually, foggy.
I remember when I felt more sure of my place in the world. When I knew what was going on in news and entertainment, when I didn’t constantly feel like I was behind the times. When I was out in front of things, instead of running to catch up. When I was gliding through my life effortlessly, instead of struggling to just keep my head above water.
I felt safe and secure. I had mental spaces I could go to that were places of comfort. I had activities I found therapeutic. I felt content.
It’s weird, this parent thing. In some ways I’m completely happy. But in other ways, I’m more stressed than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Can those two feelings coincide?
In some ways I think, Oh just get over yourself. And in other ways I think, F that, I do have it harder than other parents. I’m dealing with a kid who can’t hear. It’s hard. These two different voices are constantly battling in my head as I struggle to understand and accept my reality.
On top of that, I’ve decided to embark on an Extreme Fertility Challenge. Ready? First challenge: Grow an 8mm triple stripe uterine lining for your prep cycle! Uh oh, you failed, because your lining failed to convert to the proper striped pattern (betcha didn’t know that uterine linings can have patterns, did you?). Try again!
Next up: An OT evaluation for LM. OT stands for occupational therapy, but it has nothing to do with work. Well, not work in terms of employment. It’s more like how you work in your environment, or something. I’m not really sure. Anyway, LM failed (or passed, depending on how you want to look at it) that one too. Apparently all of his jumping and climbing, plus the picky eating and clothes sensitivity, plus his out-of-control tantrums mean he has some sensory issues going on. Again, not exactly sure what “sensory issues” are, but something having to do with the way you process input from your environment. Maybe at least now I have an explanation for all those shocked looks I get from other moms at the play gym when LM performs his usual crazy antics.
“You’re working way too hard,” the occupational therapist told me. “You’re trying so hard, doing everything you can. We need to help you out.” Finally, a validation! I’m not crazy. LM is f’ing hard! There is a reason I’m constantly on the verge!
I know I struggle with how much I put on my own plate and how much gets heap on there by life. But I don’t believe in doing things half-assed. There are things I want to accomplish in life. Every time I try to chill and relax and slack off, I feel guilty that I’m just being lazy because there are so many other things I should be doing. I have a hard time carving out “me” time. The time I do have never seems long enough, and then I’m back to regular life. I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel, going around and around again. Day after day, going through the motions.
I want to be able to just turn the wheel off and stop for a moment. Ironically, LM’s issues are forcing me to pay more attention to him when he’s playing, to try to engage him, to stay in the moment. When his therapists come over, sometimes they seem to just be playing with him, and I’ll think, “What the hell am I paying you for?” But then they will explain what they are doing, how they are using play to teach him. I try to replicate that, but it isn’t easy. Or maybe I’m just not a natural at it. But it’s hard.
Sometimes I wonder what would occupy my mind and my time if LM didn’t have any of his issues. And if I didn’t have “issues” getting pregnant. If LM was just a regular kid and I was just a regular mom who could get pregnant again whenever she felt like it in the privacy of her own bedroom. I fantasize about that. I know no life is perfect. I struggle on a daily basis with realizing that, with not trying to aspire to some nonexistent existence, with trying to find a way to make it through this fog to a place where I feel comfortable again. I want to get to a state of mind where I don’t find it necessary to remind myself whenever I start to feel light and happy of all the dark things in my life that should curb my enthusiasm. I know I should be happy in spite of all those things going on. But it just feels like too much.
I’m working way too hard.
Do you feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities in your life? How do you deal?
This really should be two separate posts, but as you may have guessed by my lack of posts in the past two weeks, we’ve been busy. LM is keeping me on my toes as usual. Never a dull moment. In fact, a dull moment would be nice. Please, can I have a dull moment?
OK, first up:
Blood, stitches and the ER
I was in the middle of what I thought was a dull moment. Actually not dull, just relaxing. LM had wandered into the living room, where we have the Christmas tree. He sat on the couch and stared at it. I sat down next to him. Isn’t this nice, I thought, to just sit calmly. LM snuck behind me and sat on the other side, closer to where we had pushed the coffee table to make room for our wide tree. Suddenly, and I’m not even sure how it happened, LM bounced off the couch, flying face first into the edge of the coffee table. I picked him up and saw blood. I took him into the kitchen where I could see better and got a towel to try to stop the bleeding. But it poured out onto the floor.
What do I do? What do I do? I thought helplessly. Finally, the blood slowed enough for me to see two deep gashes in his lip. I called my parents (Foggy Daddy wouldn’t know what to do, I reasoned). I knew I had to get him to the hospital, but how? My dad told me to call 911 if I couldn’t get him in the car seat. I grabbed my bag and ran out with LM in my arms, leaving a pile of bloody towels on the floor. Somehow I managed to coax him into the car seat, and we headed out.
My dad and Foggy Daddy met us at the hospital. The bleeding had pretty much stopped, but LM was understandably, very cranky. We had to wait for the plastic surgeon to stitch him up, since the cut was on his face and quite deep. But how was this going to happen without anesthesia? We helped the nurses get him in something they called a “papoose,” but what seemed more like a toddler straightjacket. He was wrapped up and strapped to a board so he couldn’t move, and one nurse held his head.
Among things you don’t ever want to see: your child being sewed up while screaming his head off. I don’t think I will forget the sight of the stitches tugging his lip as they were pulled through. I had to sit down for fear I would pass out. At one point, the nurse actually fell off the edge of her stool as she tried to restrain LM’s thrashing head.
Then it was over. Twelve stitches. Our first ER visit was complete.
But, I worried that this would throw off LM’s ABR hearing test, which was scheduled for a week later. Luckily, the ENT performing the procedure said it would be fine.
So next up:
LM’s sedated hearing test
Just when we had sufficiently recovered from the cut lip experience, it was time to have the sedated ABR, which we had waited two months for and gone through several different ENTs and audiologists in the process. We had tried it non-sedated, which was a colossal fail — and, we found out later, cost us $500.
The ABR was scheduled at 7 am, which is probably a good thing since he couldn’t have anything to eat or drink. We got to the surgery center at 6, at which time LM proceeded to scream his head off once again. Thankfully we were quickly ushered into the pre-op area. The anesthesiologist came in and said he could give him a little squirt of something up his butt to make him relax. Finally, he was calm. We got him into his little gown, and I also suited up to walk him into the OR. Taking care not to hurt his lip (which was actually well on its way to healing), the anesthesiologist put the mask on to make LM go to sleep. I kissed him and went back to wait.
The doctor came out part-way through and confirmed what we suspected: LM has a mild hearing loss in one hear and moderate in the other. Although I expected it, I felt angry at the universe for giving him—and me—this challenge. More doctors, more appointments, more not being “normal.” All I could think about were my fertility treatments, and how this felt eerily similar. Not life-threatening, no. But life-altering.
After the procedure was over, Foggy Daddy and I went back to see LM already waking up from the anesthesia. He nursed for a long time, and in fact didn’t want to stop. As the nurse pulled out the IV, he wouldn’t let her put pressure on it, and blood spurted out everywhere. More blood, I thought.
Eventually we were able to get him dressed and got the hell out of there, much to the relief of the other recovering patients, I’m sure.
So what now? The doctor also took ear molds for his hearing aids while he was sedated. We have followups with the doctor to check him out post-op, and another followup for just FD and I to discuss the plan for his hearing aids with the audiologist.
I don’t want to do this.
But I don’t have a choice.
All of this adds to everything going on right now: the holiday rush, my story assignments, trying to find time to blog about the million ideas I have in my head that I need to get out. Not to mention that LM’s behavior is getting worse and worse. Tantrums from the frustration of not being able to communicate, most likely. And lucky me, he saves them all up for the person he’s closest to.
I love him. I want to help him. I just wish it wasn’t this hard.
Any other moms have had to deal with their child’s hearing loss? What about ER visits? Share your stories, please!
My son has a love/hate relationship with water. He loves running into the ocean and playing in the surf, but pools are a different story. Sometimes he’s all about them, jumping in and splashing around. He knows how to climb out by himself, and has been known to run around the pool while his frantic mom struggles to climb out herself and chase after him. He loves jumping in, into our waiting arms. At a friend’s pool on Labor Day, he became obsessed with the slide, which of course was in the deep end. I clung to the side of the pool to catch him as he slid in, while still somehow keeping myself from going under. It was terrifying.
But one pool experience he has always hated has been swim class. He screamed all through his first series of parent/child classes. Literally every single class he would cry for half an hour. Although I thought about pulling him out, the head of the swim school convinced me to stick with it and push through this difficult period. Sure enough, he did seem to eventually enjoy it, splashing around and floating on his back contentedly. He learned the aforementioned skill of climbing out (which could save his life) and enjoyed jumping back in.
We continued two more sessions of parent/child classes until he could scoop and kick (i.e. move his arms and legs) on his own. So it was time to move up to a “transition” class, in which I was to start off in the pool with him but would eventually move to the side and let the instructor take over. LM also has to wear a “bubble,” which he’d tried during parent/child but hated. Now it was pretty much a requirement.
We also changed locations so that LM could be in a class with two of his friends, who are both more advanced swimmers than he is. I wasn’t sure if this was good or bad — maybe it would push him to imitate them, or maybe he’d be left behind as the other kids got all the attention.
The pool was located in a fitness club in a nice hotel. The locker room was big enough to change the kids, and the pool was nice and warm (problems at previous locations included lack of changing space and cold water). But, it was also busier, with hotel guests and fitness club members sharing the space. A lane was blocked off for the swim class.
Because of LM’s newfound affinity for water, I thought he’d do OK. But at the start of our first class, as soon as I put the bubble on him, he began to yell. I got in the water after him (my next mistake — I should have gotten in first), but it was too late: The cranky switch had been flipped. LM would not tolerate the bubble so I took it off, but the screaming continued. He would not leave my arms to go to the instructor. I tried my best to get him to be happier in the water to no avail.
Suddenly, a voice behind me said, “Maybe you should just take him out of the pool.” I looked over my shoulder to see an older woman whose shirt read “Lifeguard.” Not to be ageist, but she was the oldest lifeguard I have ever seen.
Stunned, I stammered, “We’re here for swim class.”
“Well,” she said, “He’s making an awful lot of noise.”
As I stared open-mouthed, unsure of how to proceed, the instructor thankfully rushed to my defense. “He just needs to get used to it,” she said.
“He just seems so miserable,” mean lifeguard said. The instructor and I looked at each other and shrugged. Mean lifeguard walked away and sat down next to another older woman, and proceeded to glare at us the remainder of the class. Although I normally try to keep LM in a horizontal swimming position, I let him koala-cling to me to calm him down. I needed to calm down too.
I asked the instructor if LM’s crying was going to be a problem for the hotel, and she responded that they were paying to use the space so it shouldn’t be. But I continued to feel alternately mad and embarrassed for the remainder of the class.
Should I take him out? I wondered. Yes, he’s often miserable in swim class. But he doesn’t hate the water. If this were any other extracurricular activity, I’d allow his likes and dislikes to guide his involvement. But swim class is not just for fun — it’s for safety. Just as I look to get the safest car seat and baby proof and do whatever I can to keep him safe, he is going to learn how to swim, damn it. It could be a question of life or death if he ever accidentally fell in. So yes, he has to learn how to swim. I remembered the swim school owner’s words when I contacted her the first time we had an issue: Kids just have to get over the hurdle of fear in the water, which is hard at LM’s age. But we should press on.
I contacted the owner again to ask her how to handle this situation. Should we switch locations? I know LM was making a lot of noise. If I was a member of the fitness club or a hotel guest who was trying to have a relaxing swim in the pool or soak in the jacuzzi, I’d want that kid to shut the f*ck up. I’d be annoyed for sure. But if that’s the case, then the hotel should not agree to let the swim school use the pool, or they should close it to other guests for the designated swim school time. There is no way to guarantee that toddlers won’t cry during class. The swim school owner agreed, and said she couldn’t believe the lifeguard had interrupted the class to say something to me. She said she would handle it.
Since then, the mean lifeguard has continued to give me dirty looks during class, but hasn’t said anything further. LM seemed like he was getting used to the bubble, even allowing us to keep it on for the whole class. Then yesterday, he had an off day and proceeded to whine for the whole class. Whine, he did — but he also swam all by himself for the first time. So is this progress?
To the mean lifeguard: I would think that as a lifeguard, you of all people would recognize the importance of teaching kids to learn how to swim. I would think you would respect that the swim school is using the pool and has a right to do so. I would think if you had a genuine concern you would bring it up with the manager, who should be the one deciding what’s disruptive to the fitness club and warrants a discussion about the merits of having a swim school here, not you. The manager could also have a discussion with the swim school’s owner about whether this particular student should be moved to another location.
Instead, I feel your eyes boring into me every time I go there. Swim class is stressful enough without having to worry about you (or the other guests’ ) reaction to LM’s protests. Even though I have the right to be there, I’m considering switching. I’m worried that my apprehension is going to rub off on my son. And he needs all the positive swim vibes he can get.
Readers, what do you think — should I switch swim classes? How do you handle making your toddler do something he doesn’t want to do?
No doubt you have heard about the Portland, ME diner owner who yelled at a whiny toddler in her restaurant after the kid reportedly wouldn’t shut up. (And as if that weren’t bad enough, she then took to FB to go on a profanity-laden tirade against the family, calling the kid a beast and condoning corporal punishment. Yeah, she’s cray-cray). We don’t really know exactly how things went down – it’s more of a she said/they said debate over what really happened. To me, though, it’s pretty clear that no matter what the parents did, this woman is off her rocker. Who yells at a child like that, and in your own place of business?
The weirdest thing about the whole situation? The way some people applauded her action, as if it was something they had been longing to do for a long time. Even after the mom wrote her side of the story in The Washington Post, commenters on the article called her, literally, a “horrible mother.” This leads me to believe one of four things is going on:
1. These people don’t have kids.
2. They had kids a long time ago and don’t remember what it was like.
3. They are blessed with calm, laid-back children.
4. They are cray-cray themselves.
Reading the mom’s account, I found myself relating to her. They were on vacation. They went to a breakfast place for pancakes (a five-star restaurant this was not). It was raining outside. They assumed no one was bothered by their child’s whining since the restaurant was loud in general. They had to wait 40 minute for their pancakes – pancakes! – after they ordered. We have a breakfast place like that near us – always a wait for a table, so we expect that, but the service is always very fast. Our place is so loud you wouldn’t notice if a child was throwing an all-out tantrum, let alone just whining (again, she said/they said about how loud the kid’s cries actually were).
I agree that parents need to set rules for their children and expect them to exhibit good behavior, especially in public. But having a 22-month-old has made me realize that there is only so much you can do to control other people’s actions, even your own children. Parents should do what they can, but kids cry. That’s the bottom line. Kids cry.
Before I had LM I purposefully went to places where children were not welcome. This was not because I didn’t like kids, but because it pained me to see them during my infertility treatments. If I couldn’t have my own, I certainly didn’t want to listen to other people’s kids crying – or even making normal loud kid noises. Once on vacation in the Bahamas we stayed at a resort that was mostly couples but did include some families. At one point, kids started playing in the sand in front of our beachfront room. Sitting on my lounge chair, I just wanted peace and quiet. Why couldn’t those kids go play by their own room, instead of by ours? I made my husband go ask the front desk if there was somewhere else we could sit because they were disturbing me so much – turns out, the kids’ family was only eating at the restaurant and were thankfully leaving soon.
So I get it. I get not wanting to hear the squealing, the whining, the kid-ness.
Then I had a kid.
As the mom from the diner says, it takes a certain amount of compassion from others to raise children. There are no perfect parents, and there are no perfect children. Sure, I’d like it if LM was like the French kids in Bringing Up Bebe, who behave in restaurants without even a game or iPad to keep them busy. But I’m a first-time mom trying to deal with a very strong-willed toddler. I try not to annoy others, although my threshold for kid noise may be higher than the child-free, since I’ve gotten used to it. I think it’s fine for a restaurant or a hotel to say no kids or no kids under 12 – they are trying to cultivate a certain atmosphere for their guests, who are probably paying a lot of money. But a breakfast place? Sorry, you’re going to get families, some of which might have bratty kids. As another mommy blogger points out, just don’t be a dick – and that goes for both parents and for non-parents.
This all made me think about the recent trend of crying toddlers being removed from airplanes (here’s another example). This is even more bizarre to me – sure, no one wants to sit next to a crying baby (I remember plenty of times boarding a plane, seeing a family and praying they kept walking). But people need to get places on airplanes, you know? What are you supposed to do, not ever travel with a kid? Not gonna happen. Likewise, you could say not to take your kid out to eat, but c’mon, that’s not realistic, especially not on vacation. You gotta eat.
I don’t know where all this anti-toddler backlash is coming from. Some people, like this crazy diner lady or the mean flight attendants, just seem to be mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. They just snapped. One could argue that it’s all the fault of kids today (a complaint that’s been going on for generations). But I think these incidents says more about adult behavior than they do about children’s. Instead of acting in a calm, compassionate way to see what could be done to quiet the child, the adults lashed out. In the case of the diner, should the parents have left sooner? Maybe – and if the owner wanted them to, she could have approached their table and nicely asked them to do so (instead of throwing take-out boxes at them). The impersonal ways we communicate now – social media, email, text – makes it so hard for us to have face-to-face confrontations tactfully. To often, they become passive-aggressive, or just escalate quickly. It’s like we’ve all forgotten our manners.
And this, more than anything else, makes me worried about kids today.
What do you think about crazy diner lady’s behavior?
Confession: Most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent. I know most moms, especially first-time moms, probably feel this way. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult to figure out how to set limits and enforce rules.
My son is strong-willed and fearless. He wants to do things that are sometimes dangerous. I find myself saying, “No, please don’t do that” multiple times a day. Don’t stand on that chair. Don’t jump off the sofa. Don’t play on the stairs. And each attempt is either followed by me giving in – “Oh, just forget it, do what you want” – or me forcibly stopping him from doing the activity, which will be inevitably followed by a tantrum.
I know I have to be clear about what the rules are. I know I have to show him that I’m in charge. But he constantly testing me and testing the boundaries of how far he can push the envelope.
My husband sometimes lets him do things I wouldn’t. He says he has to pick his battles.
But I’m alternately worried that I’m spoiling him and that I’m crushing his spirit. I want him to be well-behaved, to follow my instructions without me having to raise my voice at him. I want to remain in control at all times (Remember, you’re the grownup, I tell myself). I want him to just f’ing listen to me! Wait, remember, you’re the grownup.
While I was pregnant I read Bringing Up Bebe, an account of an American mom living in France and her observations about why French children are so better behaved than ours. But blaming mommy and/or pregnancy brain, I can’t remember what she finds out. I meant to re-read the book. I got one chapter in and got distracted. Probably by a tantrum.
One thing I do remember is that French parents set strict limits, but then allow their children lots of freedom within those limits. This sounds great in theory, but I need some specifics about how to practically apply that philosophy. For example, is it OK for LM to run back and forth on the couch – does that fall within the boundaries of what’s acceptable? No clue.
If he’s doing something I don’t like, I try to distract him with something else. But that doesn’t always work. He won’t sit in his high chair – he wants to sit on a regular kitchen chair. Of course this means he can get up and down at will, which is not good for mealtimes. It also means he can’t reach the table and I have to feed him, so teaching him to eat on his own isn’t really working.
And when it comes to meals, since we’ve had such issues with food, should I just let him eat what he wants? Or should I only give him the option of what we’re having? Is too many options not a good thing either? Kids need structure, right?
He wants to go in the stroller. OK, fine, we’ll go for a walk. Halfway down the block he says, “All done.” Do I take him home or keep walking? I either end up with a screaming child, or we go home only to have him say, “More.” Really? Why won’t you f’ing make up your mind?? (Remember, you’re the grownup.)
Diaper changes. I don’t even want to mention diaper changes. He has no choice – he has to have them. And yet they elicit from him such blood-curdling screams that I’m sure the neighbors think I’m torturing him (Foggy Daddy’s response to that, “No. They’ve had kids. They know.” Hope you’re right, FD!).
He can’t have his way all the time. I don’t want to reward his tantrums, but sometimes it’s hard to hear him scream.
I’m really at a loss with this one. This parenting thing just keeps getting harder and harder.
Any advice for setting limits for strong-willed toddlers?
We all hear about the terrible twos – the tantrums, the shouting of “No!”, the epic meltdowns. Now the latest thing is the terrible threes, which are supposedly worse than the terrible twos, and even more so because no one tells you about them so you don’t expect them. “Threenagers” are the new teenagers. But here is my question: What about the terrible ones?
My son is 19 months. So technically that does make him closer to two than to one, but I thought I had at least a few more months of carefree play and cute giggles before the strong-willed, I-will-assert-my-independence toddler mentality began. I was wrong.
Last week really tested me as a mom. And I fear I failed. The whining, the constant tantrums when LM doesn’t get his way, the dragging me – literally grabbing my hand (or foot, on occasion) and trying to drag me across the room – all just took its toll, and I was very close to losing my cool. This was compounded by early morning wake-ups (6 am – yes that’s early to me since I’m a night mommy). 7:30 I can handle. 6 am, not so much. So take my already irritable and grumpy self and add a toddler who won’t eat breakfast because he wants to go outside while still in his pajamas and you get a hysterical child and a mom who feels like she’s reaching the edge of sanity.
I think I need to read some parenting books, because I have no idea what to do when LM throws a tantrum. I think I’m supposed to ignore it, but how do you do that when your kid is wailing in your face for half an hour? I can’t hear myself think, and I’m worried the neighbors are going to think I’m torturing him or something.
But on the other hand, I can’t just give in to his demands, because that will teach him that all he has to do is cry and he’ll get his way. His latest obsession is going outside – not a bad thing in springtime, but by “outside” he doesn’t mean play on the deck or in the backyard. He means get pushed in the stroller. Which is fine once, maybe twice a day, but any more than that and you have one tired mommy and a kid who still has a lot of pent-up energy because he just sat in his stroller getting wheeled around like a little prince all afternoon.
And the gym. Oh the gym. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, I joined the gym for the first time in my life, in an attempt to do something for myself. Childcare is included in the membership, so I also thought it would be good for LM to get used to being without me for a little while. On the first day, he had no problems at all. On the second day, I was just finishing my yoga class when they came and got me because he was crying and grabbing his jacket (which means he wants to go). Then the next two times, he cried the second we got there and didn’t stop. Yeah, working out is not going to work out unless I can get this kid to be OK without me for an hour. The gym staff told me, “We just can’t have a child crying for more than ten minutes.” The thing is, my child is determined. He is not going to stop until he gets his way, which he does every time he makes me leave the gym and thwarts my plans to actually attempt to get in shape. I’m trying to have patience, but as I walked out of the gym on the verge of tears, it was really hard not to resent him just a little bit.
So after a week of early morning wake-ups, tantrums, missed workouts and constant crying, I was sure swim class was going to be a bust. LM hates swim class, which means I know it will be half an hour of a wriggling, screaming child in the pool followed by 15 minutes of trying to tug off a wet bathing suit and change a diaper and then change myself while he continues to wail in my ear. By the end of the whole thing I’m exhausted. But surprisingly, as we entered the pool, he actually smiled. He swam around as I held him and kicked his feet. We introduced a pool noodle for the first time and he actually took it while some of the other kids cried. He jumped off the edge into my arms. He even floated on his back without too much resistance. And then when it was time to change I gave him a baby cookie to bribe him into silence. He didn’t cry the whole morning. Go figure.
Kids are crazy like that. At least mine is. I can’t figure him out – just when I think he’s happy, he’ll break down. And just when I think he’s lost it, he’ll suddenly pull it together and enjoy himself. This mom thing is a real roller coaster ride.
When did your child start throwing tantrums? Did you experience the terrible ones, too?