Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lessons Learned, and Lost

Today was a particularly harrowing Tuesday. Mia is teething something fierce, which may be her reasoning for cutting short her first two naps at the twenty-minute mark, and Michael- for a myriad of reasons, some of which I'm still trying to determine- was having an especially bad day.

I'm having a particularly tough time managing the tantrums with Michael, because for some reason I can't always seem to determine if what he's actually doing qualifies. Perhaps it's because Abby was a much happier, more laid-back baby: when she was upset, there was always clear reason for it. Cause, and effect. Things didn't go her way, tantrum ensued, I let her have some time and space and things boiled over- eventually.

With Michael, it seems that the tears, the whining and the screaming have been part of the norm from day one. There was always some valid reason for it: reflux, gas, sleep deprivation (due to the two aforementioned issues), hunger, teething, teething, teething. He's long moved beyond the first two problems. He may be suffering the third, but I'm not sure how to rectify it. The fourth is likely an issue but he's sometimes a tough sell at mealtimes, and the fifth? I'm fairly certain it's no longer a factor. He does still have those two-year molars to work out, but I don't think they've started coming in yet.

His issues of late seem to be largely emotional ones. He's always needed me- much more so than Abby ever did- to help him through the near-constant troubles. Though we're six months in now, I think it is still hard for him to share me with Amelia, and now I fear that he's run up against a huge wall of frustration with a recently-emerging disconnect that has developed between the degree to which he wishes to communicate, and the level at which he can.

Today, he seemed to find great comfort in Sandra Boynton's Little Pookie as I read it to him from the comfort of my lap. I was astonished to see him continually signalling me to read it, again, and again, when his usual m.o. after bringing me a book is to run off halfway through. I reluctantly got through about ten recitations before I had to put an end to the storytelling marathon and tend to an overtired Amelia.

He was not happy about the loss of attention, but he managed to move on, somehow. The repeat performance after naptime did not play out nearly so smoothly, however.

I'll admit, I had no excuse for stopping that time apart from my own fatigue and increasingly dry mouth after about the fifth go-round. I appreciated the fact that it was comforting to him, but I hoped that I could steer him in some other direction that wouldn't prove to be quite so exhausting to me, and- once I made it clear that this "really was the last time-" I felt that I should set a clear precedent about meaning what I say when I say it. He may be only twenty-ish months, but some lessons he's got to start early, right?

He could not be redirected. Nothing else would do.

When the fifth or six option I offered him was soundly rejected, I began to feel so frustrated, myself, that I ended up curled up in a ball on one end of the loveseat while he languished at my feet, keening and wailing. While I battled internally over whether I was doing all the wrong things by pushing my agenda while he maybe just needed me since I was actually available, I heard him begin to quiet and stir.

As I lifted my head, his face peered up over my knee, tear-stained and snot-covered. As he locked his wet, wide eyes with mine, he pleaded softly, "Again?"

His request could not be denied. Though my internal Mother Bear leapt with unadulterated joy at his return to the space between my crossed legs, I still had the panicked, overachieving-while-completely-floundering wanna-be Super-Mom voice grating my ear. You're spoiling him! Even that could be quieted, however, once I reasoned that a very important lesson was being learned despite my moment of sheer weakness (and pure love): words will get you further than tantrums ever can.

If, indeed, it was a tantrum at all. I'm not sure I have an unbiased view when it comes to my little boy, who was "the baby" for so long. I just don't see a tantrum, most of the time; I see a confused, struggling soul. And I really can't say why his outbursts affect me so differently than his older sister's ever did.

As for today, all I know is that I'm proud of him for recovering himself without my help, still-terrified of all the wrong turns I may or may not have taken in the span of just a few minutes, and- most of all- indescribably relieved to have made my baby happy again.

If even just for a little while.