Thursday, April 18, 2013

I Have a 16-Month-Old

I have a 16-month-old. This is my excuse for being MIA in Blog World. For those of you who have children older than this, you know what I’m talking about. But, if you forgot—like I did with my 4-year-olds—let me just remind you.

Those of you pregnant, with newborns, or with infants, I’m here to warn you that there are many barriers to your baby’s good behavior and your sanity between 12-18 months. From what I hear from other parents, it can even reach to age 2. Here are some barriers I have been battling, or at least trying to cope with, in the past 6 weeks. If I’ve missed some, it’s because I am sleep deprived, so feel free to offer up some more.

Teething. Everyone dreads when their baby starts getting there first few teeth. And, that can be bad, but I’ve found it worse when they start to get beyond the front four. My baby would probably be considered an average to late teether. At 16 months, he has three front bottom teeth and two bottom molars. On top, he has his four front teeth. It seems now that the rest of the teeth are trying to catch up. His two top molars are coming in now and all the teeth in-between are not far behind. He is up for 1-3 hours at a time during the night, and has been for the last month.

I’ve tried the natural teething tabs, acetaminophen and ibuprofen, gum numbing gel, all sorts of teethers, and have now resorted to the amber teething necklace. So far, my best bet for getting back to sleep the fastest is to give him acetaminophen at his first cry, as well as put on the gum numbing gel. This usually puts him back to sleep after about 30-45 minutes and keeps him down the rest of the night. Some people worry about giving acetaminophen and using the gum gels, but my theory is moderation. I use these products once/day, and this will hopefully end soon.

Clingy. If he is awake, he is hanging on my leg and crying, “Mama … mama … mama … mama … mama …” You get the idea. If he is on my lap or we are playing or reading, he is the happiest kid in the world. “Teeth? What teeth? I have my Mommy.” I love these moments of snuggling and being close, but let’s face it, there are things I need to do to keep this house running. I swear he knows when I’m even thinking about getting up and leaving the room. Immediate tears and screaming as if someone started pulling off his fingernails. He even breaks down when I drop him off with his Nana, whom he adores and sees at least a couple times a week.

Eating. He is spitting most of his food out, especially after one of the 4-year-olds did it with his food once. “That’s a fun little trick,” he thought. And, proceeded to do it over and over, long after there was no food left in his mouth. After several “no’s” from his father and I, I started tapping his mouth. He would swing his hand back at me, then do it again. After this repeated itself a few times, he started tapping his own mouth. That’s when it was clear he understood, but at this age defiance trumps compliance. I’ve gone back to pureed food, and that is working for now.

Language. Some kids by this age have some vocabulary—sometimes enough to actually communicate needs and wants. Mine has the following: Mama, Dada, Papa, guh guh (snuggle, and with that he will bring a blanket—super cute), Buh Buh (Weber, his brother), and Cah Cah (Capri, his sister). That’s it. He has some sign language: more, please, sorry, sleep, milk, and pointing. Yes, pointing. His pointing is not very accurate, so I’m usually about 5-6 feet off, but we figure it out eventually. So, he can kind of tell us what he wants most of the time. Unfortunately, most of the time all he wants is “Mama … mama … mama … mama.”

Also, he doesn’t understand much of what I say, especially when I am telling him why he can’t have any more strawberries. He just doesn’t get, “Sweetie, you have red patches all over your face and I’m afraid you are going to acid burn your butthole if you eat any more.”

Defiance. He tests me at every turn. If he's not supposed to do something, he will do it to the max. It's a battle of wills and that's all I'm going to say about that. You know what I mean.

What this has meant to me and this family is less sleep, more takeout, less writing and reading, and becoming more immune to the sound of crying and whining. At this age, when they are challenging, it can wear on you pretty hard. And, unfortunately, they are challenging much of the time. But, when they are happy, it is quite possibly the cutest age of their lives. I’m convinced God planned it that way.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Safety Trumps Trust ... For Now

Today, I made several big mistakes as a parent. This isn’t highly unusual for me, except that all the mistakes revolved around one particular incident. First, I spanked my kids. Not only did I spank them, but I spanked them in public while I was furious. I expect to see the mall video on the six o’clock news this evening. Second, I screamed at my kids. Nothing unusual there. But, I screamed at them with such fury that it made me cry after I did it. Third, I trusted my kids to follow one of my most important rules.

My first-born came in the form of twins, and since their birth, managing them in a public place gave me a lot of anxiety. From the time they took their first steps, I was extremely strict when it came to our safety rules. I was not shy about being firm with them in public. I wanted them to learn the rules, and know that they applied everywhere—no matter what. I used to pride myself on the fact that we would be in line somewhere when they were as young as 18-months-old, and I could ask them to sit down and not move, and they wouldn’t. If we were walking in a parking lot or across a street, they each held a hand—no questions asked. I was playing zone defense with two children who already had a quick pace, but spoke fewer than 20 words of the English language. The key was consistency and never giving in—no matter the tantrum that may result, no matter the public reprimanding, NO EXCEPTIONS.

We talk a lot about safety when we are driving. This
is one of many safety signs we drive by daily. Just
realized someone made it a man. Hahahaha!
As they got older, and we added one more to the family, I have given them more leeway, though still demanding they follow very strict guidelines. Their efforts have been flawless … until today.

We were at the mall, heading back to the car after our day was done. I’m pushing the stroller down a long corridor, with the 4-year-olds in front of me. Soon, their pace started to pick up. Since they are in constant competition, it turned into a full on sprint. About 30 yards ahead was a corner, where we would turn right and go another 20 yards ending at the parking lot. Our rule is they can run ahead, but they have to ALWAYS be able to see me. If they come to a corner, they must wait until I catch up. Today, they turned the corner. I kind of start to jog, thinking they are going to peek around the corner to find me. They didn’t. I start running, seeing people come around that corner looking in the direction of the kids and most certainly wondering to whom they belong and if they might have to step in.

In those 10 seconds, I’m running through every scenario, like them running into the parking lot and get hit by a car. Or, they wait on the sidewalk, but someone pulls up to them in their window-less white van and scoops them up. Or, there’s a police officer holding the two of them, ready to take them away from me for child endangerment.

I come around the corner to see them waiting by the curb. A man was by the building smoking a cigarette and looking at them with a slight bit of concern. I run to them yelling about the colossal-sized punishment they are about to receive. I put the brakes on the stroller. They knew then that I meant business. I grab their arms, one at a time, and spank their bottoms, furiously yelling at them all the while. My mind is in a complete tunnel. I have no idea who saw this, nor did I care. I demanded they hold each side of the stroller as we made our way through the parking lot to the van. I think at that point, they thought the punishment was over. It was FAR from over.

It took several minutes to strap the baby in, unload the stroller of the 17 items that had been shoved in or spilled from the diaper bag, gave the wave to the person anxiously awaiting my parking spot, and pack up the stroller. I got in my seat, turned, and in a much quieter, but seriously scary voice, I told them how furious I was with them. I told them I’ve never been this angry with them before … EVER. I painted a very clear and detailed picture of what it would be like for them had a stranger pulled them in their vehicle from the curb. It included, but was not limited to, no food, abuse, and sleeping in a dungeon.

By this time, the person waiting for my spot gave up. I backed out, and drove home with a deafening silence the whole way. Upon arrival, I instructed them to go to their rooms for the rest of the afternoon and think about what it would be like if a stranger took them. I also told them to think of a way for them to earn my trust again, because I feel like I can’t trust them anymore and I am going to have to treat them the same as I treat their 15-month-old brother.

So, that’s where I am now. Trying to lower my blood pressure. Trying to forgive myself for reacting the way I did. Trying to clear my head. Trying to decide how to handle this moving forward.

While I feel like I made some mistakes in how I reacted immediately to the situation, I also followed one of the parenting rules I made for myself several years ago. I determined I would not spank my kids unless it was a safety-related issue. I figured if there was a time for them to remember a punishment, it would be in regards to their safety. So, while I don’t feel great about doing it, I do think it impacted them more so than anything else I could have done.

The screaming could have impacted them a little, though it’s more likely that what I said left the scar. I might have been able to use the same words in a calmer voice. Either way, I’m sure I would have cried after. I was coming down from a traumatic high—both physically and mentally. That was just a release.

As for trusting my kids too much, well, I don’t know how to respond to that one just yet. I think as kids get older, parents have to start trusting them. It’s part of teaching them independence. It’s also one of the hardest things we will do as parents, I believe. In this age of information, we are all too aware of the possible consequences of just one tiny mistake. We know if one of our children’s mistakes leads to one of these consequences, we would never forgive ourselves. It’s a frighteningly big load to bear. I suspect I will be a helicopter mom for a little while now. I want to again feel like I know my kids and their limits. Eventually, I will ease up again and let them spread their wings … but, just a little.

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