Toddlers Are All The Same

toddler

I have come to the conclusion that ALL toddlers behave like little horrors. Not only that, but as soon as toddler-hood has passed, we tend to forget how dreadful it was.

I have hard proof that in actual fact all three of my lovely children have been terrors at the age of two (one of the many advantages of now having all my blog posts in one place).

The most amusing thing about this is that I was under the impression that DS2 (now 6) was a total joy and he never once had a tantrum of any kind, and that even DS1 (now 8) was not as bad as toddler F. Clearly I have forgotten it all.

DS1: All Day Nursery Equals Vengeful Toddler

DS2: Angry 2 Year Old

DD1: The Terrible Twos

At some point with each of them I have been utterly convinced that no other toddler could ever be so trying and that there must be something fundamentally wrong with either my parenting skills, or them, or both.

Nope.

It’s just toddlers.

Lives of Quiet Desperation

It was Henry David Thoreau who said in Walden: 

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

I think he must have meant not just men, but women also. Sometimes I feel a huge discord between the life I talk about and the life I experience internally. Quiet desperation (and at times not so quiet) has been the theme of the last two weeks for me. I tend not to blog much about difficulties at home, and I suppose that’s why I don’t talk about them in real life either. It seems ungrateful and like I am craving attention when I begin to talk about the things that I am finding hard.

But the last two weeks have been hard. Hell, the last two years have been hard. Hard in a different way to the years before them. When baby F arrived I thought I could never have a sad day ever again. But of course it is impossible (I think?) to spend every day of your life in joyous rapture – unless you are Buddha. And baby F was sent to test my parenting skills to the absolute limit. After my husband moved out, we had a week of calm at home. The children were all sleeping. I was sleeping. No one was arguing. I was planning a long period of early nights and restoration of my poor weary soul.

But toddler F got sick. It started with a cold, and then a cough. That developed into days of extreme fever (105 degrees), which gave way to more coughing and then a severe sinus infection and still the coughing. The result of all that is that she has woken around 4 times every night for two weeks without a break (up from the usual one or two wakings that have never settled). She goes from silent sleep to blood-curdling screaming in an instant. It never fails to shock my system into panic as I hurtle into consciousness. It’s a distressing and depressing thing to deal with every night. It starts around 22:30, which is usually not long after I’ve fallen asleep. She will then wake at midnight, 2am and 4am. Every. Single. Night.

And the screaming never seems to stop. In the daytime she is as demanding as ever, freaking out if I misunderstand what she is saying, or don’t give her exactly what she wants. She often screams on the entire school run, and then clings to me red eyed and silent while I wait in the playground, refusing to walk or stand on her own two feet. She is afraid of seemingly everything (refusing to get out of the car at the beach today, for example, and crying to go home). She screams blue murder when I try to get her in the bath. She cries if I walk too close to someone’s dog.

She can’t sleep unless I am in the same room at bedtime, which is not easy when it comes to doing bedtime for the boys. She sleeps around the same number of hours as my 6 year old and I am sure she is constantly exhausted.

On top of that, my 8 year old is rarely asleep before 9:15pm, and cannot seem to stay in bed before that, so there is no evening time for me to unwind. By the time I’ve settled him and crawled into bed myself, it’s not long before toddler F starts up the first screaming session of the night.

As you can imagine, my state of mind is not at its best. I’m irritable with the boys, impatient with everyone and everything. All I want to do is sleep and yet I never can. I’m a crappy, miserable mother and my empathy for my children’s problems has been much reduced of late. So then I add guilt and self-abhorrence into the mix. My children are crying and I don’t care, but then I do care and I regret feeling so detached and then I cry because it all just hurts and feels so bloody hard and they deserve better than I can give.

My husband took all three children out for the day yesterday and I crept back into bed at 9:30am after saying goodbye and didn’t wake up until 2pm. Today he was here and I had to creep upstairs and sleep for 90 minutes in the afternoon because I couldn’t think straight and was losing my patience with the kids yet again.

My exhaustion feels bottomless and I have no idea how to stop the night screaming that is disturbing all of us.

Add to that my period (nice timing), and the fact that I have started having regular nightmares again for the first time in years (I think caused by the general unease of my husband not being here at night), and I am an all round basket case. I’m in tears one minute and laughing the next. Then I’m shouting at everyone for some stupid misdemeanour that wouldn’t normally bother me. It’s a horrible, unpredictable, exhausting way to live.

So I am leading a life of quiet desperation at the moment. I am praying for easier days (and nights). I am hoping that the haggard, lined and faintly surprised face I see staring back at me in the mirror starts to look a little less sallow and a little less aged at some point soon. I will take my quiet desperation out into next week, on the school run, and to all the activities that I do. And hope that someday soon I get enough rest to feel a sense of quiet happiness instead.

Toddler Sleep Update 20 Months

The fact that I am even writing a sleep update tells you everything, right?

But first, a quick tantrum update

I blogged a while back about the screaming from baby F that was driving us crazy. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point that has all settled down. She still has her moments, but the complete hysteria seems to have abated. We did actively ignore several massive tantrums, returning only to see if she was going to quiet down, so I think that might have been the key (ignoring also worked a treat when L was a toddler and he became obsessed with throwing things – it’s really hard to do, but it seems to be just about the best parenting strategy for horrible behaviour!).

So that’s good.

The sleep thing

Almost two weeks ago baby F picked up a vomiting bug, and as is so often the way with illness, her sleep routine has now fallen apart.

For the last few months she has been going down at around 8pm (late, I know. She hates sleep). Then, she might have a bit of a cry at around 12am/1am. Then she would sleep through til around 6 to 6:30am.

This wasn’t too bad – I tend to be in lighter sleep in the first half of the night and sometimes I didn’t need to go in, she’d just settle back down.

Now she is waking at least twice a night. She does the 12am/1am cry and then at 4am/4:30am she does a much bigger cry. I always have to go in, pick her up, soothe her, and try to resettle her.

On top of that she is getting ever more demanding at bedtime. She goes into her cot for 6:45pm. We follow a bath-teeth-pyjamas-story routine that we have done since forever. Once she’s down I start bedtime for C. He’s 5 and he needs to be down asap after 7pm because  he needs more sleep than average. He’s a great sleeper and is normally asleep within 10 minutes of being in bed.

However, Baby F meanwhile is crying on and off and calling for mama. This means every few minutes I pop in to reassure her, while also trying to get C into bed. She will be fine for a few minutes and then the crying starts again.

The husband has been coming home earlier since F was unwell, so we’ve gotten into the habit of one of us sitting with her to keep her from crying. However, it will take an hour, or sometimes longer, for her to actually fall asleep. We can see she is exhausted, as she’s rubbing her eyes and looks completely worn out. But she fights sleep for as long as she physically can. I swear, most nights, she passes out from sheer exhaustion.

Too tired to keep on doing this

The whole bedtime crying, followed by 1am crying, followed by 4am crying is taking its toll. My joint pain is getting worse as the days go by and I’m still struggling to recover from the run I did on Sunday (it’s now Wednesday). Not to mention that my patience and tolerance for everything is really low.

Last night I left her to cry at 4am, which she did for around half an hour before I finally got up, told her everyone was sleeping and came back to bed. And she went to sleep straight after I’d been in there.

It seems to me that she just has extreme anxiety about being left alone – either because she is unhappy being on her own, or because she feels she is missing out on what the rest of us are all up to in the house.

I don’t know how to solve this, and I feel awful today. All I can think about is how much I want to spend the next 48 hours in bed. Preferably sleeping and maybe watching a movie when I’m awake enough to actually have my eyes open. The lure of the soft blankets and the dark room…

Sigh.

Solutions, no solutions

So what shall I try? The rational part of my brain says I need to steel myself for a few nights of wailing and just ignore it. The fearful, guilt-ridden part of my brain wonders if I’m going to give her some awful sleep complex if I do this.

One alternative is that we move F into our room and see if her being in there helps. At least that might allow me to get some sleep. But then I have the problem of the cot being back in our room, which I don’t really want. And maybe going through all this again at some future point.

I know that she’s not hungry, and some days she will barely nap for 40 minutes, so she’s not sleeping too much in the day. I am certain it’s an emotional, not a physical issue. How best to calm it?

I have even thought of changing the room sharing around and putting her in with C or L to make her feel less alone (perhaps she wonders why everyone else shares a room??).

Maybe I should put all three beds in one room, and use the other room as a playroom?

I just don’t know. I am just so worn out and tired today, I can barely do the minimum required to parent three kids, let alone anything else.

 

The Terrible Twos and Just One Goal

The Terrible Twos

Baby F is approaching 20 months old. I swear the universe laughs at me daily. I wanted a third baby so much I can’t even put it into words – it felt like my soul had a hole in it before she arrived. And since around 24 hours after she forced her way out into the world without any hesitation, she has been demanding every ounce of patience and willpower and parenting skill I possess.

There was a brief period, from about 9 months to about 12 months where things were calmer, but we are back in the realm of extreme behaviour again. She has returned to a level of clinginess not seen since she was a newborn. She will not be put down at the park, she will not go in the buggy, she will not walk anywhere if she can be carried, she cries when people talk to her, she clings on to me as if her life depends on it. And at home she is THE ANGRIEST TODDLER EVER. We have tantrums about once every 15 minutes or so, over the most ridiculous things. She has to do and have everything the boys have. She has this odd thing going on where she is obsessive about the clothes I put on her. She strips off and redresses herself multiple times a day (I had no idea a baby of this age could get dressed until I saw it with my own eyes, but for a few months now she has been able to put on and take off tops and leggings – the only thing she hasn’t mastered is pulling the bum of her trousers over her nappy). She screams at C and L when she can’t get what she wants. She hits C over the head. She screams at nap time, at bedtime, and just generally throughout the day, sometimes for reasons I can’t even imagine. She screams when I try to do anything with either of the boys (like homework, playing or even just talking to them). She screams sometimes when I pick her up, but screams more when I try to put her down… she is very, very hard work.

C was the easiest toddler in the world. L was more of a challenge, but he was never the screaming-meltdown type. He was more silently defiant and completely impossible to control (haha). So, I can say with all honesty that if I had had baby F first, I would probably be in the throws of postpartum depression right now, because she is SO hard to be with and as an inexperienced mum I know I would be taking it a lot more personally. However, having been here before, I spend most of my time in disbelief at how crazy it all is and telling myself that I have survived these “phases” before with two other children and I will do again. I have a suspicion that a part of her behaviour originates from witnessing the boys. They obviously argue and fight with each other in a normal sibling way, but she seems to mimic this and direct it towards everyone. Our current plan, after a particularly trying day with the youngest two yesterday is to ignore anything above conversation volume. From all three of them.

Sigh.

It’s just three weeks until the 6 week school holiday, so I am hoping that the ignoring technique brings about some level of calm before school finishes. Trying to do anything with a 7 and 5 year old while managing a thrashing, screaming toddler is really quite hard work.

Just One Goal

I’ve downloaded a trial of a task manager called Things 3 for the Mac. I used Things 2 for quite a long time before switching to Omnifocus, but of late I have found Omnifocus only working in one direction. I would record all my todos in Omnifocus all the time, but even after watching tutorials and setting up custom-perspectives I still can’t find a view that makes sense to my brain in order to check through my list and tick things off. I have hundreds of items in there, and everything just ends up being so cluttered all the time, I never view them. So in all my tasks go, and I never check anything off – I just rely on memory to do it, which is a totally ridiculous way to use a piece of software.

Things 3 has been redesigned completely and I have to say it is beautiful to use and exceedingly well thought out. I have been very impressed with it so far and have now spent the £10 to get the app on my phone. It syncs between desktop and phone, but the desktop app is just shy of £50 which is a lot of money. So, I’ll see how the trial goes for two weeks, then I’ll get by with my phone and maybe at the start of next month I might pay for the desktop app. We’ll see.

Two things that I have decided on are that:

a) I want to try putting everything else aside and focusing on one goal only, until completion. I’ve never really worked that way before and a lot of my projects take years to complete. I have always spread myself thinly across lots of different hobbies/projects because I have a flighty mind. I’m starting to think that this is just a really inefficient and unrewarding way of working that leaves me prone to regular feelings of overwhelm. So, I’m relegating pretty much EVERYTHING to “someday”. Even the mental lightness of knowing I don’t have to do it all now is wonderful. I’m also thinking I might start timing work on goals. I already record everything I do for work in Toggl, so I’ll just create a new workspace for personal goals and then I can see exactly how long things are taking me. It will be quite cool to see how many hours I spend completing goals too, as it will give me more of an idea of what is achievable.

b) I need to get back to a more minimalistic way of living. I was very focused on paring things back when we were trying for baby F, mainly because everything seemed so superfluous to getting pregnant and having a baby. Since her birth though, I have lost my way a bit. The result is a far more cluttered house (which also adds to horrible feelings of complete overwhelm). I know that there has to be a line between practicality and minimalism when you have three children, but I think I have started to slip back into allowing things to accumulate in our living space that we don’t really need. Rampant consumerism makes me feel like I am not taking care of myself, or the planet. We do not need SO much of what we all own.

Ensuring I am vigilant enough to keep the worst of it out of my life (novelty gifts and plastic toys sold for pence that destroy our environment and end up as landfill), is something I have realised I can never stop doing. It is quite sad that when you let down your guard your home fills mysteriously with crap. So anyway, I want to get back to a more minimal mindset and way of living. Too much choice is even more overwhelming for children than it is for adults. Have you ever taken a child to Toys R Us with some pocket money? It’ll be two hours of anguish to decide how to spend it, and you can pretty much bet they’ll still cry on the way home because they’ve made the wrong decision.

So there we go. Focus focus focus, on the essential and only the essential is what I’m going to be trying to do. I’ll still be running, blogging and doing all the things that I need to do to run a house and look after the children, but my personal time (what little there is), will be better directed now, I hope.

Angry 2 Year Old

My youngest is now 2 years and 5 months. He is a smiley, charming, sociable, happy boy:

toddler

At least, he was.

Of late, he tends to be more like this:

toddler

I remember going through this with DS1 at the exact same age and it was equally stressful.

There seem to be two triggers to angry-toddler syndrome:

  1. Dropping the last daytime nap [shudder].
  2. The realisation that their ability has extensive limitations.

It seems to turn once-content toddlers into miniature teenagers with a serious attitude problem.

Some of today’s parenting challenges so far:

Morning time

Right, what would you both like for breakfast?
Ummmm… [DS2 runs off to play with something].
DS2? Do you want some breakfast?
[Silence from conservatory]
DS2? Would you like me to get you some Shreddies?
More silence. I get DS1 his breakfast and sit down with my bowl. The peace is suddenly shattered by high pitched screeching.
NOOOOO!!!! I DON WANNA YOU HAVE BREAKFAST, WAHHHH!!!!!

Getting out of the car

[I unbuckle the harness]
NO!! I wanna do it!!!
Sensing imminent meltdown, I “fix” the buckle so he can do it. He takes ages to undo the buckle. I offer to lift him down.
NO!! I do it.
I offer to help him out of the car. He doesn’t move.
I wanna go in drive Mummy. I wanna drive.
It’s raining. I’m getting soaked. I tell him I’m sorry, but he can’t drive today.
I WANNA GO IN DRIVE, WAHHHH!!!!!!!
After several more futile attempts to encourage him out the car, I end up carrying him screaming and writhing into the house.

“Playing” with DS1

DS1 looks at DS2
NO YOU GO WAY!! BAHHHHHH!!!!!! [blood curdling, whites-of-eyes showing, banshee scream]

Helping him with a toy

Ok, where do you want me to put the bridge?
Der.
I put the bridge exactly where he indicates.
NO!!!!!! WAHHHHH!!!!
Ok! Sorry sweetie, where did you want it?
Der.
I try again.
NOOO!!! BAHHHHHHH!!!!! [grabs bridge and hits me with it]
I remove bridge and tell him not hit.
BAHHHHHHHH!!!!! [scratches me instead].
I walk away, to avoid further injury.
WAHHHHHH!!!!!! [he chases me trying to grab enough flesh to pinch].
DS1 tries to tell him not to hurt Mummy.
BAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! [right in DS1’s face].
DS1 cries.

And that is all before 10am.

At least his behaviour is keeping me suitably distracted from the phone call about my scan date.

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