These past few weeks have been filled with exhaustion. Besides being 21 weeks pregnant, my son is – so challenging. He really, really is.
I wrote this post right after he had a massive meltdown when my husband wasn’t here to help me. That was weeks ago. He’s thrown that same fit many times since. It’s not worth writing about. It’s the same thing.
These meltdowns are multiple times a week – the big ones that last 30 minutes to an hour. The ones where he’s rolling on the floor, screaming his head off, unable to talk or comprehend or do anything.
In between those meltdowns, he’s either happy or grumpy. And when he’s happy, he’s so happy. He’s telling me how much he loves me, and “I’m your best friend”, and “I want to kiss the baby in your belly” and he’s talking about the phases of the moon and the stop lights and, and, and. He loves to learn. He loves his transportation. He loves calendars and clocks. He LOVES being outside. And he loves me.
And he’s in that mood, sometimes. Daily, usually. In between the massive meltdowns and the super happy boy, he’s grumpy. And it wears me down.
I don’t always know if I’m doing the right thing. If someone else walked into my house, would they think I’m not being strict enough? Would they have the willpower to pick every single battle, knowing that EACH battle is enough to ruin half a day? Sometimes I do pick the battles.
I picked it this morning. He wanted his pear snack and he couldn’t have it until he cleaned up his playdough. It wasn’t naptime or bedtime – I had all the time in the world to wait for him. And he screamed and he threw his body down – but it wasn’t a full blown tantrum. He yelled, “I’m not picking it up! YOU pick it up!” and “I’m too big to clean this up!” and on and on. I felt patient and I continued to say, “Let me know when you’re ready to clean it up and have your pear.” 30 minutes later – he did it. On his own terms.
But as the day went on – let’s see, he bumped a toy into a chair and lost his s*, not knowing I was watching him. I’d be holding the wrong toy at the wrong time, his sister started to play with something that he deemed his – these are “normal” toddler issues, but he can’t handle them. He can’t just say, “That’s mine!” and move on. He doesn’t have coping strategies. If it’s not in his control, he can’t handle it.
After nap, his sister ran in to say “good afternoon” and he promptly stood up and smacked her in the head. I said, “Do NOT hit. That’s not nice!” knowing that this is actually the second time he hit her today, and he said, “It IS nice to hit. I WANT to hit C so I will hit C.” And I said, “You need to say ‘I’m sorry for hitting you, C'” and he said, “I’m NOT saying that, YOU say that.” Do you think he said he was sorry to her? No. He didn’t. Should I have picked that battle? Yes, I should have. I know I should have. C deserved an apology, even though she moved on right away. C needs to know I support her. And it was the second time he hit her today. But – I didn’t know how to get him to apologize. He won’t do it. I could’ve fought him on it, if I didn’t mind a two hour meltdown over it, when I’m tired and there are things to be done. How do I make him say he’s sorry? Better yet – how do I make him feel sorry?
It’s time to run an errand. My husband goes to start his car. “Where’s Daddy going?” he asks. “He’s starting his car to make it warm inside.”
“I don’t WANT it warm. Daddy’s NOT turning on his car.” He wants me, and only me, to put his shoes on. But I put one on (letting him pull his velcro, because lord help me if I forget), and the strap is too far sticking out, he wants less to pull. In fact, he’s pissed that I put on that shoe in the first place, when it’s the other shoe he wanted on first. Do I pick this battle? Do I say – “No, we already put that shoe on, and it’s staying on”? No. I don’t pick it. If I pick it, he’s going to scream and kick and roll around and the errand won’t be run and everyone in the house will be affected because of this. Instead I say, “If you want it off, then take it off.” “YOU take it off.”
Finally, he gets his sweatshirt on, and 9 times out of 10 (including this time), I zip up his zipper too high for him. But he can’t just say, calmly, “My zipper is too high!” He screams over it, loses his s*. I’ve frequently decided my son will be chilly outside, rather than pick certain battles. Zipper isn’t all the way up? Oh well. Hat’s not on? I’ve come to the conclusion that if he’s truly cold, he’ll tell me. Mom of the year – I just don’t have it in me and I don’t know how to do it.
I have to mention that my son has excellent manners. “May I have ______, please?” “Will you take off my diaper, Mommy, please?” He knows how to be polite. When he’s happy, he’s the most polite child ever. I praise him up and down for it. When he’s upset, grumpy, melting down – all his strategies go out the window.
I feel like I’m losing control. And I feel both ashamed at my lack of parenting, my inability to hold strong (as our family members have seen this in action and think god knows what) and worried about my son, who is acting two but at the same time, is he acting two? Is this two? Two year olds disagree with every single thing you say, because they are mad at life? They throw their bodies around for an hour multiple times a week, if not daily?
I have another two year old, and she’s not like this. I know, I can’t really compare them. But I’m struck by her ability to be upset over something – and it happens all the time, it’s normal – and her willingness to move on, after just a minute or two. Things didn’t go her way, and she accepts it and moves on. I ask her to pick something up for me and she stops what she’s doing and happily says, “Okay, Mommy!” vs. my son who acts like a tyrant. I can only ask him for help when he’s in a good mood. My daughter gets significantly less attention from me.
Do you know how badly I want to give her attention? I want to soak up her happiness, play with her without repercussions – shower her with the love she deserves, because she’s so damn sweet and helpful. And kind. She does whatever her brother demands of her, “changing her mind” to make him happy, and when he’s upset, asking him every two minutes if he’s happy now. She always goes second – in everything. If I allow her to go first and force B to go second, she won’t do it. She fights me on it, because she seems to agree that B always gets to go first.
And my dogs – my dogs are a trigger for my anger, because they so easily anger my son. And if my son is angry, everything stops. They want the food in his chair, they want to look out the window, sitting on the back of the couch, on “B’s cushion” – they get in his space, they are normal – they are dogs. And yet I’m yelling at them, making them get out of B’s space, because they’re going to set him off. Be careful what you do, what you say – it might set off my son.
I feel like I’m afraid of my son. I’m handling every meltdown and every backtalk and every argument he gets into, but I’m afraid to set him off. I don’t know which battles to pick – which ones are worth my sanity? Because if I picked every one, it would be screaming all day, every day. He’s still a toddler. I can certainly put him in a different room until he’s ready to be nice and come out and play. I mean, he’s not going to actually stay in that room, that’s some wishful thinking. I can’t take his toys away, I can’t ground him for being rude, I try – and fail – to explain why he can’t talk to me the way he does. Or to Daddy, or the nanny, or anyone. It’s not just to me. He’s SO rude, so argumentative because everything that happens in his life needs to be under his rule, his decision, his control. How do I teach him to handle these constant situations that make him so upset?