The sleep deprived ramblings of one full-time mom. I pretty much write to stay marginally sane and to make other moms feel better about themselves. You're welcome.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tantrums: Not Just For Toddlers Anymore

We expect toddlers to have tantrums. We may not enjoy them, but we realize they're age appropriate and we (usually) have the tools to deal with them and move on. But what about when an eight year old throws one?

I don't mean a fit in the grocery store or a falling-on-the-ground kind of display. I do mean a full-body, out of control, screaming tantrum. The parenting books don't cover that one. And our instant response is to think, "What the hell? He/she is way too old to be throwing a tantrum!"

And yet... Have we as adults been known to lose it now and then? Are we always calm, cool and collected simply because we've blown out a certain number of candles on our birthday cake?

Case in point. I recall a family trip to Colorado when my son was two. My husband and I were in one vehicle with Miles while my parents were in another car traveling with my (also two year old) niece. For the lucky few out there who haven't been on a road trip with a small child (or two, or three...), let me just say that the phrase "hell on wheels" takes on a whole new meaning.

We drove across the entire state of Kansas (an incredibly scenic trip filled and shit) and made our way to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The trip took about 13 hours, the equivalent of approximately 47 hours when traveling with a two year old. (It's like dog years.)

We arrived, exhausted and cranky and ready for a nap. The toddlers were also grumpy. My dad decided that he and my husband needed to run grab fishing supplies while my mom and I hung with the two overtired children. Someone had to buy food and supplies for the condo so I volunteered and took my son with me. Big mistake. Big.

Somewhere between the frozen food aisle and the bakery, I lost it. As in, shoved the cart away from me, yelled at Miles, burst into tears LOST IT. There were strangers staring, people pointing, and probably several calls being made to social services.

It was not my proudest moment. And I was 28 at the time.

Then there's a dear friend of mine, an amazing mom and an incredibly successful business woman who normally exudes poise. But one day she reached the end of her mommy rope after breaking up one too many sibling brawls, cleaning up one too many spills, dealing with one too many sassy kiddos. She ended up throwing the mother of all fits in front of her husband and children, jumping up and down and crying, LOSING IT.

Not the high point of her existence. And she was 36 at the time.

So perhaps I need to put things in perspective when my third grader fails to control his emotions. Perhaps I need to remind myself that even "grown ups" lose it now and again. If I can't always keep it together at 34, should I be so harsh with him when he can't at 8?

Maybe next time I'll take a deep breath, give him a bear hug and tell him I know how it feels.

Or maybe I'll just join him.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Naptime or How To Get Your Toddler To Sleep In 47 Easy Steps

My son was a napping champ. The kid went down easy and stayed that way until we woke him. He stopped cold turkey when he turned three, but I figured he'd slept enough in those three years to last him awhile.

My daughter is an entirely different story.

She has never been a marathon napper. When she was an infant I was lucky if she slept thirty consecutive minutes. Fits and spurts would best describe her napping style.

That changed when she became a toddler (I'm guessing she wore herself out climbing on every available surface, emptying out every cabinet and drawer in the house, and running away from me in public places) and she began sleeping longer stretches during the day.

That's still the case, but unfortunately she's now realized that while she's sleeping SHE COULD BE MISSING THE MOST FUN EVER HAD IN THE HISTORY OF FUN and fights naps like her life depends on it. We're talking epic battle of wills here.

Today, for example, went something like this:

Me: "Corinne, let's read some books and relax."
Corinne: "NO NAP!!!!" Runs screaming.
Me: "How about some milk?"
C: Stops in her tracks. "Milk? Okay." Drinks it. Throws cup and yells, "NO NAP!" Hides behind chair.
Me: "Honey, it's time to rest. Let's cuddle and we can read some books."
C: Looks at me suspiciously but sits through two books.
Me: "Okay, sleepyhead, time for nap."
C: "One more book, mama. Just ONE!"
Me: "Sorry, sis, it's time to rest." Carry her to her room kicking and screaming.
C: "Rock, mama! Tiny bit!"
Me: "Okay, we'll rock for one minute and then naptime."
C: Proceeds to close eyes, fake snore, open eyes and throw hands in the air. "I awake! Naptime allllll done."
Me: "Nice try. Lay your head down and go night-night."
C: Giggles and starts singing ABCs. "I go find Miles. I all done wif nap." Tries to crawl off my lap.
Me: Gritting teeth and counting to ten silently, "Corinne. It's time for nap. If you don't take a nap we can't go to bubba's school carnival tonight!"
C: "I DO go bubba's carnival! I go NOW!!"
Me: "First you need a NAP. Now lay your head down and RELAX!!"
C: "I go in my crib. You pat me."
Me: "Fine." Put her in crib, try to pat her as she wiggles and finally stands up. Give up.
"Goodnight, Corinne." Leave room.
C: "STOP, MAMA! Come BA-ACK!!"
Me: Wait five minutes for her to wear herself out a bit. Return to find her with one leg hiked over the crib rail, poised to climb out.
C: "Look, Mama. I stuck. You rock me?"
Me: "Fine, for one minute."
C: Cuddles up in my lap. Starts singing again and shaking her head back and forth to her own music.
Me: Close eyes. Realize the mama is falling asleep and the toddler is still wide awake. Open eyes.
C: Suddenly stops singing and nuzzles my neck, snuggling into my body like a baby monkey. Whispers, "Happy dreams, Mama."
Me: "Happy dreams, baby girl." Watch as her breathing slows and her features soften. Feel her warm, soft skin on mine. Tuck this moment away for safekeeping.

In the moments of willfulness, the outbursts of independence, the testing of limits, I begin to see the person my daughter will become. Every moment she's learning, growing, changing. And yes, pushing boundaries. But it's all because she's figuring out who she is and because she doesn't want to miss a single second of this amazing journey we call life.

And really, can you blame her?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Weaning the Mama

Confession is good for the soul, right? We're all friends here, no? Okay, okay, alright...I'll spill my deep, dark secret if you promise not to judge. Too harshly, anyway.

I still give my two year old a bottle.

There. I typed it and my laptop didn't burst into flames. Now stop pointing and laughing.

I should have prefaced this by telling you that I have a degree in child development. I also taught preschool, spent several years as a parent educator with the Parents As Teachers program, and was the director of a child care center/preschool. So I really should know better.

Neither of my kiddos took a pacifier. Neither of them had a lovey, a blanky or a thumb-sucking habit. My oldest stopped taking a bottle at a year, just like he was "supposed" to.

But this one, my baby...she's it. We're done. One boy, one girl, quit while we're ahead, the whole shebang. And I realize there's a certain level of pathology involved here, some deep-seated desire on my part to keep her a "baby" for as long as possible.

I honestly think my husband worries sometimes that I'll end up on the news, the mother who kept her fifteen year old in diapers and a crib, rocking her to sleep and breastfeeding her. (Hello. I hate changing diapers, so that's obviously not going to happen. *sticks tongue out at Brian.*)

I realize she's not a baby anymore. I know she's fully capable of giving up the bottle. She's developing into a little girl, one with opinions and personality and spunk. And one day soon, I will throw the bottles away.

But for now, twice a day (or more often sometimes, I'll admit), we settle onto the couch together and she nestles into the crook of my arm. She looks into my eyes and strokes my hair. We press pause on the world, the one in which she's growing so quickly it makes my head spin, the one in which eventually she'll slam the door in my face and tell me she hates me. We take a time out, together. For that moment, it's just the two of us, holding each other tight. And you know what? I'm okay with that.