Friday, March 12, 2010

When Toddlers Attack

I’ve spent the last month trying to come to grips with the fact that my sweet angel, PJ, has finally fallen into the trap of the “terrible twos” that I was so certain I had miraculously avoided. Now in all fairness, bubba is also contending with an ear infection, lack of sleep, and a somewhat new baby sissy and simply cannot understand why he is no longer the center of everyone’s universe (though I’d like to tell him secretly that he is, indeed, still the center of mine and will always be “my special son”). And so I find myself, once again, dealing with a very strong-willed, stubborn and let’s face it, just plain HUGE physical force that I can no longer control. Let me illustrate. On a weekend vacation visiting with in-laws, we thought it would great fun to visit the aquarium and zoo on consecutive days. Both did not end well. I spent the day at the zoo trying to corral perhaps the wildest animal that place has ever seen. Seriously, even the lions were begging me to remove him. My solace came around 2 o’clock, after a peanut butter sandwich and some chocolate milk. The aquarium did not go quite as well. The trek from the puffer fish to the second level of the parking lot carrying my 42 pound son, kicking and screaming, was made even more enjoyable by the pouring rain and starving baby girl that awaited me in the back seat of the car. And for the third time that week, I locked the doors and waited for close to an hour for PJ to stop fighting and give in. He did not. I climbed in the back seat and held his seat belt closed long enough for the drive home while Grant drove. Those were, however, the worst days thus far (if you don’t count the trip to the pediatrician’s office today, wherein two nurses and myself fought diligently to hold him down long enough for the doc to check his ears and I might have caught every sixth word she said amid the wailing and screaming and repeated attempts to flee the room or at the very least, kill the lights). A typical day, on the other hand, consists of a mere 4-5 meltdowns and numerous attempts to sit on, kick, or knock over the princess for no apparent reason.

I have spent hours upon hours trying to reason with my child, all the while forgetting that even though he uses words like “impressive” and “fortunate” and calls me a “genius” when I suggest lotion for his dry cheeks, he is still a two-year old child. I have spanked and I am not afraid to admit, purely in frustration. I have forced numerous “time outs” to no avail, taken away all of his favorite toys, which I found he really CAN live without, and have locked him in his room and watched incredulously as he broke the childproof doorknob lock off again and again. And now, way beyond my breaking point and purely at a loss, I throw my hands up in surrender and cry, “I give!” You win, my sweet, sweet, boy. You are the master manipulator, the king of the castle and I simply cannot compete.

So here, at the end of my rope, I am now seeking the advice of professionals. My pediatrician had little to say on the matter and referred me to a child psychologist who affirmed what I have since discovered on my own. The only way to survive this period is to simply not react. I am currently “attending” to my child (positively reinforcing without instructing or asking questions while we play). I cover my mouth when I feel the urge to cry and instead, find myself laughing. Let’s face it, at times like these, is there really anything else we can do? And I’ve noticed small improvements already. Here’s what I really struggle with. Why do mommies take everything so personally? I have called every friend and mommy I know to vent, hoping all the while to hear them tell me that indeed, I DO have the most difficult and challenging child on the face of the Earth. Believe me, I know there are much worse situations and I am now praying diligently for the sanity and safety of those mommies and their babies. But it just seems that if someone would validate how tough my struggle is at the moment, I might not feel like such a failure as a mommy or that I somehow caused this behavior in my frustrated, little angel of a son. The truth is, I put so much pressure on myself to be a good parent and what I’m failing to realize is that I am a good parent, simply because I love them both so much and have the desire to do right by them. Don’t we all just want happy, healthy, well-adjusted children who will grow up to be the same in adulthood? Don’t we all just want them to love us unconditionally as we love them? And truth be told, don’t we all just want a spa weekend in the Hamptons with the nearest diaper thousands of miles away? I guess what I’m really learning on this journey is that it isn’t about PJ’s behavior at all. It’s really about my response to it and what I am supposed to be learning at the moment. Don’t they say that it’s actually our children who teach us life lessons? So what is it that I am to glean from this challenging period? At the end of the day, I’m not as big of a failure as a mommy as I sometimes feel. I mean, they both still want me 24/7 so I can’t be that big of a downer, right? It is not my job to raise the perfect child. It is my job to love my children the best way I know how and to seek guidance and wisdom from the only one who does love my children perfectly, my Heavenly Father, my hope, my Jesus.

And let me just say, straight from my heart and completely unabashedly, the one thing I have been lacking in my parenting is peace and I have known all along where to turn for that. Emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted, I come on hands and knees back to my first love, back to my Jesus and cannot wait for the intimacy I’ve been missing for way too long. It is time to draw near to the one who’s been waiting to hear from me. It is time to draw upon the strength that will carry me through these trying times. It is time to give my babies what they’ve needed all along – a mommy who loves them so much that she would carry them kicking and screaming ten thousand miles in the pouring rain if that’s what they need to feel her love.

One final thought, the best advice I’ve received so far is to nurture your child’s heart first and the behavior will follow. What a concept, right? So simple and yet so packed with truth and wisdom. And now my “and on the bright side” moment for today…as I was putting the finishing touches on bubba’s PB&J today, he began to scream as usual, “MOMMA, I WANT…” and stopped mid-sentence. He got up and came into the kitchen and quietly stated, “Um, 'scuse me, momma, can you please put my bib on?” My darling little angel is already on the road to recovery, or better stated, I am on the road to recovery and bubba is waving furiously from the sidewalk, waiting for me to catch up.

1 comment:

NikkiW said...

I think you are right, Julie C., we shouldn't take our children's behavior so personally. Proverbs 22:15 says that, "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child...". Then why are we always so surprised and offended when our little angels act in foolish ways? There is no way that we can guarantee that they will never make a foolish decision, but we need to train them in way that is calm, patient, firm, loving, and wise, and THAT is the hardest part! I know for a fact that I would NEVER be able to do it without the help of my Heavenly Father who is indeed all of those qualities and more! I can only come before him everyday and ask him to help me to be all of those things that I am not on my own. And is sounds like that is what you are doing, too. Hang in there, mommy! "If any of you lacks wisdom, he(she) should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and IT WILL BE GIVEN TO HIM(HER)." James 1:5