Friday, March 25, 2011

Baby to Big Boy Blues, Part 1

Since the birth of my son -my first baby- I haven't spent a lot of time worrying about my parenting. I don't go in for mother-guilt, and I generally think I'm a good parent. I have fun with my kids and enjoy their presence. I can count on one hand the number of times I've raised my voice in the past two and a half years, and when I did, it was usually strategic; I still felt in control.

Until this morning.

There was a moment a few months ago where I recognized myself in an article I was reading, and it gave me pause, but didn't fundamentally change the way I parent. I was reading a magazine in the waiting room of my OBGYN. It was written by the mother of two boys and she talked about how she allowed her second son to feel more frustration before intervening than she ever did with her first. Her second son was demonstrating greater independence than his older brother, whom she claimed would probably still be happy to allow her to cut his meat into tiny pieces for him when he went away to college. I felt a ping! of recognition when I read that. My boy, too, might be happy to eat his dinner bite by bite from a fork in my hands for the foreseeable future, even though he's more than capable of feeding himself. I recognized it, but I didn't take any specific actions to change it, and honestly, I didn't really see it as a problem.

Until this morning.

He's had a tough transition this week. The baby girl and I have been fine. I jumped back into work with both feet and although I landed directly in the deep end, it's nothing I feel I can't handle. My daughter got dropped off Monday morning having never tried a bottle and by Wednesday she sucked down everything I had sent for the day by 10:30am and I had to leave work early so she wouldn't starve! But that was the biggest problem we've had with her. She's smiley, sleeping fine and gulping milk from both breast and bottle like the little champ that she is.

My boy, on the other hand, is struggling.

He was thrilled to go back to his sitter. He loves her, and he loves her granddaughter, a little girl five months older than he is who will play with him all morning long and is far more fun than I am! She also got an inflatable bounce house for Christmas and has it set up in the house. He's in heaven while he's there. It's the coming home part that's tough. So many changes recently in our family, in our home, in our lives, and this is just one more to get used to, one more adjustment he has to make. He's been acting out every afternoon and evening, moving from temper tantrum to temper tantrum without missing a beat while his father and I wear ourselves exhausted trying to determine the best way to deal.

We've been using time out, but making every effort not to use it punitively. Instead, we've presented it as a safe place to go when your feelings are out of control. It's okay to yell and shout there, or to punch pillows or cry. I've used it myself when I'm mad, modeling how it works, and if he asks (in his "big boy voice" not in a screaming screech) one of us will sit there with him and help to provide comfort. He doesn't seem to want to go there (except the once when he was on his way into bed and asked to go into time out instead to "stay up and work out his bad feelings about going to bed". Um, no. But good try.), but once he's there it seems to work as intended. He's been slightly less tantrum-ish each day, and although we're exhausted, we feel like we're generally headed in the right direction.

Until this morning.

And now I'm a lot too tired, a little too sad, and way too weary at the end of this very long week to tell you the rest, so...

Until tomorrow...

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