Saturday, April 4, 2015

Parenting: The Only Response is to Not React

I keep reading about how challenging it is to have a newborn and how no one tells a pregnant woman the challenges she will embark upon once she gives birth to her first child. The sleepless nights, the feeding upon feeding, the hurdles of breastfeeding, the never ending laundry, and the list goes on. Yes, a new mom is exhausted. I remember those days. I remember those sleep deprived days all too well.

My son is turning 2 years old tomorrow. I wonder where the last two years have gone. When did my baby has become a little man with his own personality and independence? And I wonder how I can be this exhausted! I feel like having a toddler is even more exhausting than having a newborn. I am physically exhausted because he still wakes upon once per night and requires a little comforting/shooshing to get back to sleep. He runs around the house getting EVERYTHING out and not putting anything back. Mess upon mess that I have to clean up, on top of my usual tasks. The independence, clinginess, and temper tantrums of a 2 year old are emotionally exhausting. My brain is challenged on a daily basis. I have to re-strategize every few days to stay on top of my ever changing 2 year old boy.

This week has been particularly challenging. Once Wednesday hit, I started to feel like I was going crazy. The therapeutic benefits of my run only lasted a few hours before temper tantrums and chases around the house started to get to me again. My husband got a good dose of my week today as we had an epic meltdown in the middle of the store, and the parking the lot, and the car.

The only response I was left with is just not to react at all. Let me preface this by saying that I am the worst at this strategy. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I react. I get mad. I go a little crazy. However, I am working (hard) at responding calmly or not responding at all. I cannot get mad and yell at a child who is starting to figure out their emotions and their independence (though getting mad might be my initial response). I cannot talk to him calmly and explain to him the emotions he's feeling and the situation (because he is screaming bloody murder in my ear). The only response I am left with is to distract. To do something different, something new, to get him to think about something else.

I climb in the back of the SUV. I offer some snacks. No. I offer water. No. I offer his favorite bear. No. I get one of the books out of the bag of "car toys" and I start reading it. Calmy. Slowly. I read the page and then press the button to make the animal noise. I turn the page and do the same. Again and again. I read the book three times before he calms down enough to start eating the raisins I offered 10 minutes before.

He is groggy post a late nap. He did not get to run around in the store like he wanted to. And I know he's pretty hungry because he had not really snacked. I know my husband is shaken by the store meltdown. I know how he feels because I have experienced these intense meltdowns all week. I have felt like a punching bag all week.

Our little boy is turning 2 years old tomorrow. Big emotions. Big independence. But also big reliance on mommy and daddy in the big scary world that he has so much to learn about. And of course, I have a lot to learn about the big scary world also. What an adventure!

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