The Toddler Challenge

In a lot of ways being on modified rest really isn’t that difficult.  In the beginning it was HARD because I was so symptomatic that I could barely do anything.  I felt incredibly unwell but being at home made me want to jump into everything I would normally be doing.  Now fast forward 5 weeks later and I’m feeling pretty good.  There are days that are bad, but more so they’ve turned into just a few hours at the end of the day.  I’m able to tolerate doing a bit more than I could in the beginning and I have my Dr’s blessing to listen to my body and do what I can but stop when it’s been enough.  So the biggest challenge hasn’t actually been me, but my 3 year old.

This week I felt like I was coming undone with him.  When I first came home he was a complete disaster.  Opposite from what he normally is.  His normal is a sweet, kind, relatively quiet, obedient and rational little one.  His behaviour normally is actually a bit abnormal for the average toddler and I’ve been so grateful for it.  Often I’ve said “I’m just waiting for it all to change” but after three years it didn’t seem like that was happening and he would continue on in his way.  Then enter me being admitted to the hospital for 7 days, him being pulled from dayhome, my mom here to live and help out and my husband on Christmas vacation.  The poor little guys life was completely turned upside down and thrown out the window.  His entire routine and what he knew to be his world was shaken up and not put back together.

He began to argue, cry over things he normally wouldn’t, wake up in the middle of the night, wake up extremely early, rarely take a nap and all around was completely different.  There were very slight breaks in the cloud but it seemed I was finally getting my threenager and it distressed me.  Where was the little boy so kind and so sweet? The biggest challenge is that his nap times are riddled with yelling and screaming for 2 hours straight, not out of sadness or anger but just “because I like to yell and scream” and although I would try and address it it would continue to happen.  He continued to become more and more sleep deprived and then on Tuesday we had our worst day yet and I felt like I was at the end of my rope.  Everyone keep saying, “maybe he’s growing out of his nap” but in my head and in my heart I know my boy and I know for certain he absolutely needs sleep.  At the very least he needs a time to just be quiet, to wind down but of course sometimes you just can’t force little ones to do what you know they need.   At the beginning of this week I committed to two weeks of solid routine and if at the end of that he didn’t nap at all I would begin to transition to “quiet time” – any and all suggestions on how to do that well are very welcomed!

Yesterday after a good nights sleep he seemed to be back to my sweet and kind little boy.  I had a long appointment in the morning and left him at home with my mom.  When I came home I prepared us lunch and just like we would before this fiasco – we immediately went upstairs for nap time.  He didn’t fight me or cry, we rocked and he drank his milk then I spent about 10 minutes talking through nap time and quiet time with him.  We discussed why it is important to sleep well, why we need rest, why we need to be quiet.  He of course had a rebuttal for every sentence but he was absorbing my words and I knew it.  On Tuesday he lost a lot of privileges because of his yelling and screaming at nap time (that he had been forewarned about) and he could recall them yesterday (thank you rationality!) so we discussed those privileges again yesterday.  I reiterated quite a few times and he acknowledged his understanding.  I put him in bed and he cuddled up with his polar bear and blanket about 2 minutes after I shut the door he made one tiny little squeal and then was silent.  HE FELL ASLEEP!  My momma heart was so relieved.

The real relief came when he woke up and I went in to his room.  He was back to the behaviour I knew to be his.  All evening he was so pleasant and didn’t fight anything all evening, even when he would start he was easily rationalized with and redirected. He could even verbalize and discuss the differences from the two days.  I could have cried after he went to bed I was so happy to have seen my little boy back to normal.

Of course that was just one day and it may all change today but more than ever I’m optimistic that I don’t in fact have a threenager on my hands.  Rather I have a little boy whose world was completely upset and has been struggling to get back to what he knows to be true and normal.  I’m going to try my best to get him back to that place before this baby shows up and throws us all for a loop.

Time IN vs Time OUT

A few days ago I browsed a blog post that talked about the difference between time-in’s and time-out’s (this isn’t the exact post but something similar I found because I couldn’t find the exact one).  I had of course heard of putting children in time-out’s and have used that strategy 4 times in the past year with great results.  However I had never heard of time-in’s and I was intrigued.  Essentially a time-out means separating your child completely and a time-in is like a time-out for you both together.  In a time-out you put your child alone in a designated spot, for time-in you sit with your child in that designated spot.

Ezekiel is 2, at that age where he is learning that he has the ability to say no and fight for what he wants.  He’s a fairly reasonable child – I can usually talk him out of a temper tantrum if I catch it right at the beginning.  He can be distracted by something equally as tempting as what he wants to do which is a strategy I use often (Ezekiel I’ve asked you to stop touching the things on the shelf, how about you come help me with supper instead).  He also understands and follows rules if I implement them consistently – the most recent one being no toys at the table.  In the beginning there were many meltdowns over that rule, but now he’s satisfied with placing his beloved toy at the foot of his highchair to play with when he’s done eating.

Side-note – meltdowns are absolutely allowed in our house, these are different from a temper tantrum.  Being upset because you really want something is different then thrashing, hitting etc. because you didn’t get what you want.  In the event of a melt down I simply allow him to cry for a while and then ask him to take some deep breaths, try and distract him by singing his favourite songs and continue to reinforce the rule he is upset about.  That strategy works 99% of the time.  1% of the time it turns into a full blown tantrum.

Of course he’s still a two year old and still gives in to so many temptations breaking rules here and there.  My general rule is that if he is breaking a rule and I’ve asked him to stop – he demonstrates he understands by stopping and then continues when I look away – if I have to ask him three times then he goes upstairs to his room for 2 minutes.  We are now working on “sorry mom I didn’t listen to you” so I go upstairs and ask him to say sorry – sometimes he outright refuses in which case I leave for another two minutes and repeat the process until he says sorry.  This specific instance has only happened once. Usually he listens and stops what I’ve asked him to do before the third time.

There have been times of complete uncontrollable temper tantrums – 3 that I recall.  All of them have happened after coming home from the dayhome before supper.  He’s exhausted and very hungry and controlling emotions is something that is just not going to happen.  I get it, I totally understand but I also get very frustrated in those moments.  Two of those times happened last summer and I put him in his room until he calmed down then went in and we snuggled for a good 15-20 minutes and from then on he was happy and I quickly fed him so he’d stay that way :).

Yesterday was the third instance.  I knew he had a rough night with my husband the night before while I was at work and I knew he would be tired.  When his emotions are extreme it indicates his level of tiredness – usually it’s overly happy, running and yelling and laughing and dancing.  He reminds me of those times as a teenager when you’ve pulled an all nighter with your friends which was usually spent laughing at nothing because when you’re overtired everything is funny.   When I picked him up yesterday his level of happiness was OVER THE TOP which is always nice when you’re child is extremely happy to see you but I also thought “we definitely need an early bedtime tonight.”  We got home and it was nice out so I let him play outside while I tidied before getting supper ready, somehow within 10 minutes he went from happy to frustrated with something (I still have no idea what) that he was not able to communicate with me.  The situation very quickly went in a downward spiral as I asked what he was upset about and he got more and more upset without trying to explain.  In that moment I decided playtime outside was done and he was MAD – over the top, more than I’ve ever seen him.  I took off his outside clothes while he thrashed and screamed bloody murder.  I knew this was not going to be controllable on the main level of our house so I marched him upstairs thinking I would put him in time-out but then I remembered the article on time-in’s and thought I’d give it a try.  I went to his room, closed his door, sat on the floor and made him sit down facing me.  I held his hands in mine and asked him to take some deep breaths, he instantly calmed down in less than 30 seconds – still upset but not thrashing around.  Then I grabbed our homemade lavender coconut oil lotion and rubbed some on his chest and feet, he helped by putting some on his feet.  By that point the pouty lip had stopped and the tears were done.  I asked if he would like to read a story, he promptly got up, grabbed a book and ran to me happily ready to read.  We read two books and he got up and I asked if he was ready to go make supper, he ran to the door laughing.

What an amazing tool! I couldn’t believe the response I got from that strategy.  It shows him that temper tantrums are not tolerated but that I’m willing to help him out when he can’t seem to help himself.  It shows him that crying and screaming doesn’t get you what you want but that there’s always other options to what you want to do.  It gives him a choice with his mom by his side helping him out with that choice.

I will still use time-outs for those instances of outright disobedience because I know very well that Ezekiel is capable of following direction and listening to rules but when it comes to uncontrollable emotional outbursts I will definitely use time-in’s.

What is your discipline strategies? Any tips for this momma? I know down the road the frequency of discipline is likely to increase exponentially!

Being a “PERFECT” Parent


Ah.

This topic can be such a difficult thing for so many people.  There’s a lot of internet chatter about expectations, and mommy guilt.  Some people find it difficult to be on social media amongst the well curated photos that portray a “perfect” life, home, mom, kids, dad, dog… and the list goes on and on.

Here’s the thing though.

There is no such thing as perfection in our humanity.

End of story.

Maybe that’s why I don’t really struggle with mom guilt.  I’m not aiming to be perfect – that’s so unattainable that my type-A personality can’t handle it. Sure I have my moments but for the most part I think I do an OK job – and if I’m not, if somehow I’m messing it all up – well God’s got that under control.

Here’s the other thing.

I was created specifically to be Ezekiel’s mother.  Me. No one else.  So if I was created to be that person then I can only assume that I’m adequate for the job.

I’ve been thinking about this so much lately.  I realize that I’m a bit radical in so many ways when it comes to my parenting style – no TV, no sugar, organic food, wood toys, cloth diapers, extended breastfeeding etc. etc. Not only am I a bit radical but I’m also VERY talkative and I fear my constant chatter makes it seem as though I believe my ways are better than others.  While it’s true I generally feel like no TV, no sugar and more organic food will benefit everyone (not just children) that’s such a SMALL portion of being a parent.  Those decisions? Those are the minute details in the grand scheme of things. Loving your child fiercely, allowing them to grow up dreaming and teaching your child to respect and love humanity? That’s huge – far greater than what you let them watch or eat.

I have so many blog posts written in my head about parenting and I have been just waiting on when to post them.  I feel like I’m coming into a place where I can start to jot it down.

More than anything my prayer and hope is that when I write I’m conveying the deep conviction I have when it comes to parenting.  God created you, He created your little one(s) and He did that ON PURPOSE and FOR A REASON – trust in that always and things will always work out.

Caught Not Taught


Happy Belated Canadian Thanksgiving! I’m sitting here in our newly designed office feeling thankful for everything in my life.  I had an unexpected and at first unwelcomed day off yesterday, but it turned out to be so very wonderful.  I was able to catch up on all the cleaning and laundry that got left to the wayside as I enthusiastically finished the office this weekend.  I do a lot of reflecting while I clean because I do the majority of it while Ezekiel is sleeping and I try to keep the house as quiet as possible so it leaves me to my thoughts.  Today I was reflecting on something my husband said to me yesterday and the concept of things being caught not taught.

Before you continue on let me just put a bit of a disclaimer at the beginning.  I’m going to talk about how we parent and what we value as we raise Ezekiel.  While I think this is the best for us and I wouldn’t really write about it unless I thought you could glean something from it as well, I also recognize and celebrate the fact that parenting is as unique as each person involved (children included).  You are you, and your children are your children each with their own personalities, quirks and needs and in the end the best expert in that is you.

I’ve been working most Sunday’s for quite a while now and every Sunday I call Carlos on my break to see how things are going.  Inevitably I get a response to the effect of “Ezekiel won’t let me do anything.” To me this translates as, “I’m trying to do homework, I’m trying to watch soccer, I’m trying to check my e-mail, I’m trying to……”  Carlos has been endlessly frustrated with the fact that Ezekiel is obsessed with computers and phones – if he sees it he wants it even though he knows it’s not allowed.  Carlos up until this point has been unable to understand why – despite my continued attempts to tell him that Ezekiel just wants to do what he sees daddy doing.

Sunday night when I came home Carlos was telling me about their day and of course the same ramble about how much he didn’t get done was happening and then he said, “you know, I think it’s our fault.” To that I responded, “what’s our fault?” and he says, “that Ezekiel always wants the computer, we should put them away when he’s awake and just play on the floor with him.”

DING DING DING

He gets it!

Yesterday as I was cleaning I was reflecting on this revelation my husband had and was reminded of a phrase I came across not to long ago – things are caught not taught.  I began to file through all the ways we interact with Ezekiel and I started to see how very true that statement is for us.  Ezekiel really does just want to be next to us at all times, doing whatever we are doing.  He loves to clean with me, do dishes with me, cook with me, garden with me, do laundry with me etc.  He is definitely my little side kick, and with every action I see his little brain going a mile a minute watching my every move and usually he picks up one little thing each time he’s with me, whether that be putting things from the washer to the dryer, or putting away the cutlery.  He sees and he takes in far more than I could even comprehend.

Yesterday I began to wonder if the way that Ezekiel responds to frustration and being upset has something to do with the way we respond to our own frustrations and the way we respond to his frustration.  I’m really conscientious of how I handle Ezekiel’s frustration and this comes from my own observations of friends and people I’ve watched parent their children.  I try my best to catch his frustration at the very beginning and I get down to his level and talk it out with him and I started doing this before he probably could even understand.  I try to be as persistent and consistent as possible – right from when he could move and get into things I would be right there with him directing him in what was OK to touch and play with and what was not ok.  I never respond to his frustration or anger with my own frustration or anger (a lot of the time this takes a GREAT deal of self discipline and lots of deep breaths).  This is not to say that my child does not have outbursts or bad days – there are plenty of those, but they last very short amounts of time and he’s always able to redirect himself.  I do recognize that part of the equation is his personality and demeanor – he’s a pretty chill kid, but I hope that as he grows and as I try my best to be aware of my own actions that he catches the things that are not just actions.

I hope he catches love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

The concept of being caught not taught puts a whole new level of responsibility on parents that I am willing to accept.

Days Like This

Hey Friends!

I’ve been posting less often the last week and a half.  I’ve really just been laying low, relaxing and focusing on enjoying my last month.  It has been B.L.I.S.S.

Today however, is off to a ROUGH start.

Patience are wearing thin.

Buttons are being pushed.

As I type this Ezekiel is screaming in his crib, protesting sleep, after 1 hour of screaming and yelling and throwing fits before nap time.  He’s even refusing to nurse in an attempt to not sleep.

If I know one thing it’s this: he.is.persistent.

If I know another thing it’s this: I.am.stubborn.

We’ll see who wins this battle.

I actually woke up this morning early to do some yoga, shower and enjoy a cup of coffee before Ezekiel woke up.  I thought “this is brilliant, we are going to have such a great day.”

Don’t you hate when your expectations are thwarted, and worst of all it’s completely out of your control.

It’s mornings like this when I really need to stop, take a breath (or two or three or a thousand), bring myself back to a place where I can calmly deal with a screaming child while not inwardly losing my mind.

It’s days like this when I really need time to pray, read and reflect to keep my energy up and enjoy the moments when Ezekiel isn’t screaming in my face.

It’s days like this that I really need to practice gratitude.

Screaming or not, this miracle boy is everything and more that I ever dreamed of, and in every moment I will be grateful for his presence.

What are your challenges lately? How do you overcome them?