Don’t call us, we’ll call you

January 30, 2012

Mommy update: 32 years

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 6:58 pm

I mentioned in my 18-month post that the months of August through mid-December were not all cuteness and fun.  In fact, there were some downright traumatic moments, including a 30-minute screamfest on my birthday.

Those trying months seemed to start out with just a bit of defiance.  It was clear she had good comprehension when she started smiling adorably and doing the exact opposite of what we were instructing.  Then she transitioned from that still-cute boundary pushing to what I considered your run-of-the-mill tantrums.  She did not want to be away from us, but she did not want to be with us.  She did not want to be in a wet diaper, but she did not want to put on a clean diaper.  She did not want to be in the car seat, but she didn’t want to get out of the car seat . . . you get the idea.  I felt pretty prepared for this type of thing, after having been a nanny for two toddlers while living in DC as well as studying some of the current child development literature on the topic.

What I was not prepared for was how fierce the tantrums would get (I never saw anything like them from the cuties I lived with in DC) and how her vitriol would be directed so squarely at ME.  She had been a mama’s girl for the first year-plus of life (thanks in no small part to breastfeeding, I’m sure), and even though she had slowly morphed into a daddy’s girl since then, I never expected such outright rejection.  She was suddenly screaming “NO, NO, NO!” almost every time I entered a room.  She did not want me to hold her or pick her up or take her anywhere.  I could barely change her diaper since it was usually a full-on wrestling match.  (I kept telling myself, I’m bigger and stronger than she is, but somehow she was like this fireball of energy, and energy is not my strong suit.)  She was hitting and kicking at me frequently, and I felt banged up physically and emotionally.  More than a few tears were shed, by both of us, in the month of October.  I hated feeling like we were battling every day, over every little thing, but there just didn’t seem to be any other way.  She gave Neal plenty of grief too, but it seemed to be less personal, less directed straight at him.  And that hurt, a lot, coming from my formerly-sweet little one.

The two days before I left on vacation were the real low points.  I literally had never had harder days with Addison, even when I was in the throes of postpartum depression.  We had to pin her down just to get the basic necessities of life taken care of and she was angry at me pretty much non-stop.  (In hindsight, there’s a very funny story that came out of those rough days.  I had just arrived home from a shopping errand, during which Addison staged huge protests at every turn.  I was running late for a Relief Society event because of her meltdowns and she refused to come into the house.  So I ran inside to get Neal to come down and take her so I could leave.  Just at that moment, my Mom drove up to find Addison all alone, sobbing on the front porch.  My Mom and I parent differently in a number of areas, but I’m pretty sure she’s never been more horrified than she was at that moment!)

The fact that I spent the next three nights away from Addison was definitely a godsend.  I had never been away longer than a night before and I was really ambivalent about the whole thing, but in the end, I really needed the respite and the time with such amazing friends.  And Addison needed to remember that she misses me when I’m gone, which she did.

Of course, our happy reunion could not last forever.  She was back to the intense tantrums and NO, NO, NOs soon enough, but the break helped me put things in perspective.  I reflected on something my buddy Cory (who, despite being a total goof sometimes, has actually given me some of the most significant advice of my life, especially during those dark, difficult times) had told me a year earlier: “Whatever stage they’re in, whether it’s good or bad, it will be over soon.”  I started reminding myself of that every day, This is a phase and it will be over soon.  Just as soon as her cute “Lub bu”s (love you) and “Misshu”s (miss you) will be.  And I’ll probably look back and miss it all (except for those two days in October — I know I will never miss those).

Thankfully, the phase had seemed to pass by mid-December (I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it would be to have a permanently oppositional child).  Looking back, I can see a lot of unsurprising correlations.  I was having a tough time with the move, and I think Addison was too.  She missed her Grandma (and was ecstatic to be briefly reunited a couple weeks ago).  She missed her best bud Grayson, our Provo babysitter’s little boy.  She missed her familiar (baby-proofed) surroundings where she could run free.  And she was cutting a lot of painful teeth to boot!  And even less surprising, when Addison started to adapt and calm down, I had more energy to be a fun mom (for three days at least)!

I am so grateful that those few months were just a phase.  By December I was really enjoying our time together, probably more than I had since she was an infant.  And we learned a valuable coping mechanism for the next time that wild phase comes around.  She has always been really into emotions, so I started to record her crying and screaming.  And then coax her out of her mood by letting her watch it.  When the camera wasn’t handy, we could sometimes take her to look at herself in the mirror.  She would examine herself and begin to say, “Sad baby.  Sad baby.”  It wasn’t a sure-fire method, especially during her fiercest moments, but it did produce a lot of video like this, which is also good.

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2 Comments »

  1. I find it so refreshing to read about your parenting struggles. I also LOVE that you are teaching her about emotions that way; it’s such a good idea and falls perfectly in line with the social competency model that Craig was always teaching 🙂
    Also I think you should sneak in and take a video of her acting out emotions with her animals. I would die from the cuteness

    Comment by kei02003 — January 30, 2012 @ 7:46 pm

  2. Ahh…the power of empathy. Knowing there are others out there who go through the same things makes all this just a little more bearable. Charlotte is going through this right now and I feel like I have been walking on eggshells for weeks. The littlest thing will tip her off (the wrong bib, the wrong pants, not being wrapped in her blanket the right way…) Every life skill I have ever developed has been used in coping with it all…but I haven’t recorded her and had her watch herself yet. I’ll have to try that one!

    Comment by Natalie Pace — January 31, 2012 @ 4:45 pm


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