I’m not entirely going nuts. I guess I shouldn’t say that. But Maysen has been a handful and a half lately. These tantrums that seem to happen daily are making me start to question my own parenting. What am I doing wrong? I suppose it all depends on who you ask. I’ve recently been exposed to the Attachment Parenting world, and, though much of it really seems like common sense, the rest of it kind of feels like over-zealous nicey-nice that actually makes me feel guilty about some of the choices I’ve made. It makes me feel like they would say I’m not good enough at what I do. I know it’s not their intent to judge in any way, but I can’t help but get a sense of smugness and patting themselves on the back.
But that’s nuts. Cloth vs. disposable diapering is a choice. As adorable as the little fuzzy, fluffy buns are, and as much as it reduces our environmental footprint, and even as much money as it could potentially save over the long run, it just didn’t work for me. Maysen woke up wet and cold every time she tried the diapers, and I already do enough laundry so I can’t imagine adding a couple of loads of dirty diapers to it on a daily basis. Plus, who really wants to carry a bunch of pee and poop around in a bag when you’re out for the day? Lots of people, that’s who. Just not me.
Co-sleeping is another AP choice. We slept with Maysen in our room in the pack-n-play right next to the bed for the first three or four months. She often wound up in bed with us as I would fall asleep breastfeeding. But I never felt comfortable with that. Between my heavy sleeper of a husband and our fluffy, heavy feather duvet, I never felt that our bed was 100% safe for a sleeping newborn. On the occasional times that Maysen is allowed to sleep with us because she’s sick or otherwise unable to sleep in her bed, neither I or DH gets any sleep at all. If we co-slept, I would be even more tired than I am already. Plus, we probably wouldn’t have baby number two on the way.
These are just a couple of differences where I separate myself from the AP world. I can’t say that I believe that breastfeeding until a kid goes to school is the best thing to do, but, like the diapering and cosleeping, I really don’t concern myself with what other people decide to do there. My personal goal with Maysen was to breastfeed for one year and then see how it went after that. My heart broke at 8 1/2 months when my well dried up and when May started testing out her new chompers on me. I did the best I could with her, especially working full-time, and I feel that the best I could do was more than enough to enjoy an amazing experience.
Discipline is the biggie where I need help. I don’t want to spank, ever, but I have to admit that I’ve had to resort to it a few times. Not a big whooping, but a swat on the bucket to let May know I’m serious. It really doesn’t seem to work at all, but rather just escalates the problem. It usually kicks her tantrum up a notch, but she ultimately gives in. I hate it. Ronny thinks it’s the way to go; he thinks that she’s only going to respond to two things: love and fear. I don’t like his theory, but it makes sense.
I often count to three, which I never thought was an effective tactic when it was used on me. That’s probably because my own mom used it all the time and never made it past two-and-three-quarters. (Sorry, mom!) I understand that in order to make this tactic work you not only have to count all the way to three, but you also have to follow through with whatever consequence you use as leverage. One problem with this is that I don’t always know what to use as leverage, especially when we’re out of the house. I end up usually making the consequence that we’re going to leave wherever we are, but that doesn’t usually seem like enough of a threat. So what do I do instead? Take something away? Tell her she loses a priviledge? Beat her? None of these really seem like good ideas. If I take something away, she just has other stuff to play with instead. Lose a priviledge? Like what? Beat her? Just kidding! But seriously, I need suggestions.
My nice mommy trying to be logical with her two-year old routine doesn’t seem to be working. The AP parents would gasp at the mention of a spanking, I’m sure. Nowadays most anyone would. They would also gasp at a Time Out, I think. But those seem to work, somewhat. But what CAN I do to effectively discipline this kid? She has learned how to push my buttons. Mommies know the difference between a real cry and a fake cry, no mater how Oscar-worthy the performance may be. Somehow Maysen has figured out how to throw a tantrum with a fake cry, tears, and snot dripping out of her nose. She could win a medal, I’m sure.
But how do I handle these tantrums? They generally spring from my trying to make her do something she doesn’t want to do: get in the car seat, sit down in the grocery basket, go to bed. I can let her cry it out in the crib when she doesn’t want to go to bed (though AP doesn’t approve of this), but when it’s time to leave wherever we are and she doesn’t want to get in her seat, what can I do? It broke my heart when I had to physically overpower her and force her screaming and kicking into her car seat. But I can’t really sit there and talk to her like an adult and negotiate her into it, can I? I know this is a partnership, but Mommy still has the upper hand, right?
At the grocery store a couple of days ago I tried to logic with her. I told her how she could fall out of the cart and get hurt if she didn’t sit down. I told her how I can’t always hold her right now because it hurts my tummy with the baby inside. I even told her that I could wait all day right there in the juice aisle until she sat down. But her screams escalated, her snot ran freely, and she was leaning so far over the edge of the cart that I sensed an impending head injury. Even when I told her loudly enough for the impatient lady next to us to hear that she was upsetting the other people in the store and making them give us dirty looks, Maysen still didn’t relent. So I finally threw her over my shoulder and carried her potato-sack style while I finished my shopping, pushing the cart with one hand.
And now, for the last week or so, we’ve been struggling with bed time. Maysen has thrown fit after fit after fit until she finally goes to sleep around 10 or so. I’m usually in bed by 10:30, so this seriously gets into my quiet time when I’m supposed to unwind. 2 1/2 hours of rocking/singing/reading books is too much. So we’ve started Operation Tough Love. Basically, I do the bedtime routine, but I let her know that when I say it’s time for bed, it’s time for bed. No amount of crying will get her out of bed. Even when she intentionally gets her knee stuck in the crib posts, I’m not going to rock her any more. I simply remove her leg, give her another kiss, and shut the door. She doesn’t seem to like this plan, but it’s what we have to do for now, AP parenting be damned.
I feel guilty, but I don’t know what else to do.
But last night Ronny and I sat down to watch The Happiest Toddler on the Block. I know that the Happiest Baby was exceptionally helpful for us. While I don’t think it’s going to be quite as helpful as the first movie, this one did have a bit of good information and a couple of strategies to try. Dr. Harvey Karp suggests that you compare your kid to a Neanderthal and try speaking “toddler-ese”. I guess that because Maysen’s such an amazing communicator with a huge vocabulary I do kind of feel like she’s a little grown-up. But maybe I give her too much credit. He suggests that when the kid’s upset, that you communicate in her level of language development in order to make her understand that you understand her feelings before imposing your own agenda. So, this morning, when Maysen grabbed the iPad out of my hand, snapped “it’s MINE!” and sat down to play with it, I took it back. She, of course, threw a fit. So I did what the HTotB video suggested and said something like this: “You want the iPad. You want, you want, you WANT! You’re sad and frustrated because you want it! You want it, you want it, you want it! But Mommy’s using it right now, so you can’t take it. You’re sad, but you need to wait your turn.”
In the video, the kiddos looked stunned by this approach, then smiled and moved on to something else. The theory is that the kid feels that you’ve really listened to him, and that’s really what they want. To be listened to and understood.
It made Maysen stop long enough to look at me like I had just whacked myself over the head with a toy tractor, wipe her nose, then grab at it and scream again. I guess it will take practice.
I should add that these tantrums and challenging moments come more seldomly than the happy times. Every day I fall deeper and deeper in love with my little stinker. I should mention some of the adorable things she has done and said lately, but I’ll save that for another post (hopefully not in another month or so).
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On another note, we had our 32-week prenatal with our midwife this morning. I feel quite guilty that I haven’t written as much about this pregnancy as I did the first time around. I just haven’t had the time or the energy, plus, when I finally sit down to write here I manage to write all about what’s going on with Maysen. Then, by the time that I’m ready to write about the new baby coming along, I’m tired of writing, and I assume that anyone who has been reading the post has long since moved on to something else.
Anyways, Diana, our midwife, is really pretty awesome. I loved her from the moment she first knocked on our door, and I have never been more sure about a decision than I am about hiring her and planning for a home birth. I mean, she’s here no less than an hour and a half. This may seem like a long time, but it’s really a lot less like going for an OB checkup than it is like having a girlfriend come over to chat. Only, this girlfriend will be helping bring our baby into the world. A prime example of how she’s different from a doctor: today, right before Diana came over, Maysen discovered a few dead bugs in the window sill. She was so excited about it that she wouldn’t rest until Diana climbed up to look behind the couch to see them for herself. Would this ever happen at the OB/GYN office? Probably not. But then again, they probably wouldn’t have dead bugs in their window sills, either. But Maysen got to listen through the stethoscope to her own heart beat and Diana’s. She got to listen for the baby’s heartbeat with the fetoscope. She got to build block castles and show them off to Diana, and she got to press on my belly when Diana felt around for the baby’s position.
It’s such a different experience on so many levels, and I’m just so grateful that we’re actually doing this. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I really didn’t think Ronny would be on board for this, and I’m just so awed by the fact that he opened his mind up to it and is now excited about it.
We still need to sit down to discuss how we want this birth to go. He was my rock and anchor and cheerleader and drill sergeant when Maysen was born. He was the main reason I was able to make it through labor the first time. He used the in-your-face coaching that we learned about in our childbirth prep class, though I think that would have been his instinct anyways.
For this birth, though, I don’t want anyone yelling “Push! Push! Push!” or telling me to hold my breath and count to ten like the nurse coached him to do. This time there will be no breath holding unless my body tells me that’s what it wants. I’ve been reading about Hypnobirthing and I’m in the middle of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth right now. I’m fully hoping for a quiet, relaxed, meditative birth. I know it may sound kooky, but I want to have the pain-free birth that the Hypnobirthers talk about. I want to have the most natural, beautiful birth possible. Of course, I know it will hurt. But it’s mind over matter, and I’m educating myself now.
The first time around I spent more time educating myself about pregnancy itself, not about birthing. I did read about the Bradley Method, but my main understanding was from our childbirth prep class, which was heavilly manage-unbearable-pain-through-hoo-hoo-hee-hee-and-haa-haa-until-you-get-the-epidural-oriented, and less breathing-the-baby-down-through-intense-surges-oriented. I like the concept of not using words like ‘pain’ and ‘contractions’. I like saying ‘intensity’ and ‘surges’ or ‘waves’ or ‘pulses’. I like the idea of letting my body tell me how to get the baby out, rather than the nurse telling me to push with all of my might and none of my breath whether I feel the urge or not. I like the idea of not being strapped to the bed with continuous external and internal fetal monitoring, a constant IV for easy-access medicating, and nothing to eat or drink but a few ice chips. And most of all, I LOVE the idea of laboring and potentially birthing in a warm pool in our sun room. I LOVE the idea of Ronny, me and even the baby being the bosses rather than the L&D staff. I LOVE the idea of lying in our own bed at night rather than having to send Ronny home from the hospital leaving me alone with the baby and the nurse’s hourly interruptions. And I LOVE the idea of being able to labor in my own home, in my back yard, in my own bed, in a pool, in a shower, or wherever the heck I feel like laboring.
My only concern is that I will be so, so, SO disappointed if for some reason we end up having to transfer. I’m so excited about this home birth that my heart will break if it doesn’t come to pass. I know the baby will come out how she chooses to come out, but I really hope her opinion is in line with my own.