Nearly two and a half, and therein lies the problem.

As I've written about here before, the "experts" say that young children go through developmental changes every 6 months or so. And they say that the half years are the challenging periods. This has certainly been our experience. When Liam was 18 months old, I was cursing his early onset of the "terrible twos". But at two he was totally fine - a little joy and an angel really. 2 1/2 is another thing all together.

Can you say defiant? Liam can. Well, he doesn't say "defiant" per se, but he says NO! A lot. And, my personal favorites - "I'm NOT" and "It's NOT." I'm not leaving anything off the end of those statements. When he's feeling particularly defiant and I'm not giving him anything direct to defy with a no, he still has to express his independence. Thus "I'm NOT!" at the top of his voice.

Right now we're averaging two power struggles a day. When we're lucky we can usually head them off at the pass pretty regularly. Otherwise they descend into full blown temper tantrum. The other morning he wanted to go down to the basement and got very upset when I told him he couldn't go. He screamed, he yelled, he kicked the offending basement door. And then cried because the door had hurt his foot. I gave him much sympathy as I tried desparately not to laugh. The look on my face must have perplexed him, because he asked "Mommy sad?" Yes, Liam, I'm very sad that you hurt your foot. But that was only a momentary distraction, and a couple minutes later he did it again!

I'm pulling out my parenting books and brushing up on strategies for coping and redirecting and getting us both through this tumultuous time. As one of my books says, if you can keep yourself calm when your kid is having a tantrum, then you've addressed at least half the problem. The same book also says that defiance is a totally normal developmental step for a toddler, and that if you can get your toddler to cooperate half the time, then that's about the best you can expect. So I guess we're not doing too badly. So far.

Lovin' it

May. 10th, 2006 09:00 pm
Liam is at a really great age right now, he's really a lot of fun to be around. He's inquisitive ("What doin mommy?") and creative and playful and goofy. Right now he and his dad are out playing in the rain - Liam carrying an umbrella and shouting "brella, brella" completely exuberantly. His language has developed to the point where he can express himself well, and we can even understand him most of the time. (And even the times that we don't understand him are hysterical, as he gets the cutest expression on his face when he's leans forward and repeats himself to try to be understood.) He puts concepts and ideas together in a much more sophisticated way than ever before - I'm constantly amazed by him. There are so many little moments of utter coolness, I can't even tell you about them all.

I think different people resonate with children at different ages. As I wrote about recently, my stepmother is amazing with babies, but has horrible instincts about toddlers. I think Liam has reached an age that's good for me. For the first time, I really enjoy and look forward to spending time with him. I look forward to picking him up after daycare and hearing him talk about driving in mommy's car. I enjoy playing with him much more now than before. He so much more interactive, eager to learn and try new things.

So yeah, it's really cool, and I'm loving this mom thing right now.
We have this bedtime routine, you see. I give Liam his bath, then Eric and I work together on lotion, diaper, pajamas and teeth. After teeth it's time to nurse in the chair with mommy. After nursing, it's upstairs to read books with daddy.

Except lately, Liam has been requesting books with mommy. I've done both ends of the bedtime routine for the last two nights - Sunday because Liam tearfully insisted on books with mommy, and last night because Eric had a community cleaning shift to do. Tonight I worked really hard to build the daddy expectation and thought I had succeeded, but nope, once we finished nursing Liam again insisted on books with mommy.

I went upstairs long enough to get him some socks to wear to bed, then left him with his loving father and a stack of books. Even though he was standing just inside the door to the room, crying and calling for mommy. I'm such a big meanie.
Yes, we're back in sleep hell. Shouldn't we be past all this by now?

We nightweaned Liam several months ago. But he never really "took" to it - the kid likes his nursies. Unlike other kids who get nightweaned and immediately start sleeping through the night, Liam continued to wake up at least twice a night. And one of those wakeups - around 3 or 4 am - could often involve extended tantrums as Eric tried to get him to go back to sleep (I was sleeping down the hall, in the hopes that the absence of milk would make it all less tempting). And even if Eric succeeded in getting him back to sleep, he was "done" by 5 am and convinced it was time to get up for the day.

Around ConFusion, things got weird. We had people in from out of town, so we ended up all sleeping in the same room together. Liam got a huge case of separation anxiety and mom-clinginess upon my return from being gone three nights for ConFusion. We spent the weekend after ConFusion at my sister's house, and didn't want Liam to wake up the whole house with a middle of the night tantrum. All of that combined to mean that we added back in a nighttime nursing session around 4.

That worked great for a while, actually, because Liam would go back to sleep and sleep until 6 or (gasp) even 7. Then he started wanting to nurse at midnight or 1 am too. Because of the separation anxiety thing, he would totally freak out if I wasn't there, and not let Eric help him back to sleep.

We decided that this just wasn't working for us anymore, and we needed to try the nightweaning again. We put if off for a while, I think because we thought it was just going to be horrendous. And the first night wasn't pleasant, and none of us got much sleep. But after that, nighttimes quickly got better. It's been pretty easy to get him back to sleep after his first wakeup, although the 3 or 4 am one is much harder. Unlike last time, where Eric got to do all the work and I got to sleep in the separate room, this time has been much harder, since only mom will do, even if we're not nursing.

But as the nighttime was getting a little better, something else was getting worse - bedtime. We'd been doing beautifully on bedtime. We have a routine we've been using for a long time now. As we reached the end of the routine, Liam would indicate he was ready for sleep, I'd put him into his bed, pull the covers up, and we'd be done by 8 pm every night. Fabulous. Then bedtime started drifting later and later. We'd start his routine as usual, but he just wouldn't get sleepy. He wants to read book after book. Once we say we're done with books and try to get him to lie down, he rolls all around and just can't settle. It's like he's too wound up to sleep (something his insomniac mom can relate to). Last night he didn't fall asleep until almost 9:30.

Some people have suggested to us that maybe he just wants a later bedtime. And as inconvenient as that would be for us (I like having a little bit of time in the evening, and we often have things scheduled assuming that he'll fall asleep by 8 or near to it), if that were really the case then we'd work with it. But the thing is - the later he goes to bed, the worse he sleeps. He wakes up more frequently, is more restless, and gets up earlier in the morning. All signs of a kid who's not getting *enough* sleep.

Complicating all of this is that lately I've been really really sleepy between 7 and 8, the time that we're donig the bedtime routine. If I were willing to read him books for another 15 minutes, we might able to shave a half hour off the end of bedtime. But I get soooo sleepy I just can't do it. Every other word is a yawn. I'm feeling extremely burned out on bedtime.

According to the sleep books, the solution is an *earlier* bedtime. Which is hard for us with common meal at 6:15. We need to be more consistent about coming home as soon as we're done eating, instead of giving Liam time to play. Because 1) that excites him and 2) it would let us start his bedtime 15 minutes earlier. I think we also need to shorten his bath, because I think he finds it exciting rather than calming. It's after the bath, when we go upstairs, that he starts really bouncing off the walls. Up until now it had been working well to have book reading and nursing happen in a room different from where he was going to sleep, but now I think that the transition is causing problems. So we should consolidate all the bedtime activities into one room. Being read to, or having stories told after the lights go off, does seem to help him relax and let go and fall asleep, but as I said, I can only read so long. The sleep book suggests using a storytelling CD for kids who like that, so I think we should try that.

Hopefully shaking up our bedtime routine will help and we'll get back to something more sane soon.


Feb. 16th, 2006 09:42 am
Effective this week, Liam is going to daycare full-time. I haven't officially changed my work schedule back to full time. I'm thinking I'll keep my Thursdays flexible for a while - maybe work some weeks, and other times get errands done, etc. I also cook common meal two Thursdays a month, so I'd need a chunk of time off on those days anyway.

We've talked on and off about this decision for the past few months. When I first went back to work, it was just 3 days a week (M-W). Then, Eric got laid off and I went back to full time for a while. When Eric got a job, work asked me to work four days a week, which I agreed to do. If nothing else, we needed the money to help get caught up from Eric's lay off. But my day off is Thursday, both because that worked better for my company and because of the aforementioned common meal cooking. And we found that didn't work as well as having a continuous chunk of at-home days. Liam's schedule got disrupted and he didn't tend to nap as well or as regularly. He didn't understand why daddy wasn't staying home with us, like on the other at-home days.

Consistency is important for toddlers, and we decided that it would be better for Liam to have the same schedule Monday through Friday. And to be perfectly honest, he gets a better quality of interaction and attention at daycare than he would get from me, as I tried to run errands and drag him here and there. (Although we will miss our regular playdates with [ profile] sueij, Alex and Jessie.) He has great relationships with his daycare providers and the other kids, and is really thriving at "school."

But there's still that whole underlying sense that I should feel guilty that I'm not staying home with him. I should certainly feel guilty for not *wanting* to stay home with him. Society sends such a mixed message about this stuff - on the one hand, SAHM are considered somehow less because they don't "work," there's the perception that they sit around all day eating bonbons, and their significant contributions aren't counted because they're not economic. But on the other hand there's the undercurrent of social expectation that says that all good mothers should stay home with their kids, and that if you can't, daycare is a barely adequate alternative.

I have the utmost respect for SAHMs (and SAHDs too - the social pressures on them are even more significant) - it's incredibly challenging work, and I'm totally impressed by people who can do it and do it well.

Edited to add: I forgot to mention the finances of the decision. From a financial perspective, it's a no-brainer. Right now we're paying $60/day - $240/week. By contracting for full time care, we get a discount, so it will only cost us $250 a week!

TV Addict

Feb. 8th, 2006 06:09 am
Liam has discovered Elmo. Liam thinks Elmo is the Best Thing Ever. Liam adores Elmo. Liam wants to watch Elmo on TV all the time.

This past weekend, Liam was sick, Eric was sick, and I was sick. Watching TV all day was about all that any of us were up for. But there's always a price to pay for such extravagance. The cost so far was a huge temper tantrum yesterday morning when I told Liam that we were all done watching television and needed to get ready to go. Liam, you see, wast NOT done watching television, and didn't appreciate my intervention.

Eric and I chatted and agreed that consistency is key, and thus we need to get back to limiting TV to one show in the morning and maybe another in the evening (although that one is kind of problematic). Because it's confusing for Liam that he's allowed to watch 2 or 3 shows in a row on one day, but then gets cut off after a half hour on another day. (Yes, the addictive nature of television is frightening.)

That resolution towards consistency is already being challenged, because Mr. Liam declared himself "done" with sleeping at 5:22 this morning. He might have been "done," but I wasn't. :-( Even watching the longest show he watches (Sesame Street, nearly a full hour), there's going to be a lot of time to fill after it is done and before we leave. Time when he will be hugging the television and begging for me to turn it on, while my offers of Elmo books to read instead will be disdained as a clearly unacceptable alternative. And having been woken up at godawful o'clock, my energy level for coping with same and offering creative and exciting alternatives is awfully low this morning.
I've discovered a new toddler management trick that works well with Liam. Counting to ten. For example, last night at bedtime Liam was having a hard time, resisting going to bed, not wanting to stop nursing. I was done, however, so I told him that I'd count to ten, and when I got to ten, we'd be done nursing and it would be time to go to sleep. At ten, he popped off on his own, I rolled him over into his bed, covered him with his blanket, and left the room. Same thing this morning when I was trying to get him to go back to sleep, except this time he popped off at 7.

I've used this off and on, and then I forget about it again until the next time I'm really frustrated and wracking my brain for ideas. I get the feeling that if I used it *too* often it would stop working, so I think I'll try to keep using it sparingly.

EDIT: I should note that this is different from the "You better get your ass in here by the time I count to ten or else" school of parenting. The way the dynamic currently plays out is that by counting to ten I'm enlisting Liam's cooperation in ending whatever it is we're doing.
The recent discussion in my LJ about parenting style has me noodling on some thoughts about attachment parenting, and what I think it means, and why it's where I've drawn a lot of my parenting philosophies from.

One of the big things about AP is that it feels pretty natural. You don't have to fight your instincts. Baby crying? Pick the baby up. Things like breastfeeding and cosleeping aren't always convenient in today's modern world, but they're evolutionarily consistent - cavewoman Lucy didn't leave her baby in the cave down the hill to cry itself to sleep and attract predators.

But there's a deeper philosophical side that I find really interesting. The mainstream parenting philosophies in America all have independence as their basic tenet. This comes out most clearly in sleep, where baby should learn to fall asleep and stay asleep all on their own as early as possible. Sleeping through the night is the number one sign of parental success. Holding or interacting with baby too much will "spoil" him, making him "needy and clingy."

I think independence is overrated. Sure, it's important, but there are many other attributes that are of equal, if not greater, importance. I think our obssesion with fostering independence through the popular parenting philosophy of the last 60 years or so shows in American culture today. The Me Generation. Looking out for number one. Not caring about what happens to others, so long as you've got all that you need. Inability to form and maintain strong relationships. A lack of empathy that breeds a culture of violence.

If we're going to teach children from birth that the only person they can count on is themselves, we shouldn't be surprised that they act like that as adults.

The philosophical focus of AP, on the other hand, is towards interdependence rather than independence. It's all about baby building and maintaining strong and secure attachments to her parents. It's about buildng the capacity for trust. It believes that starting from a base of safety and security creates children who feel safe taking risks, because they know someone's got their back. It's about valuing relationships and teaching the skills necessary to create and maintain them.

And I think this country, and the world, needs more people who can do that. I think our future depends on it. We're all on this planet together - we need to figure out how to get along. Independence isn't going to get us there, but recognizing and valuing interdependence just might.

I don't think the laundry list of behaviors that people associate with AP (breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, etc...) is the only way to achieve this. It's the thought process and the reasoning behind parenting choices and actions that makes the difference.
Are you willing to consider alternate (positive,research based) parenting methods in order to make parenting Liam a more enjoyable experience for both of you?

Liam's clinging, tantruming, not sleeping alone, and whininess makes both of you unhappy. It is NOT something that is necessarily simply a developmental stage that you can wait out. It is NOT a sign that you are not cut out for parenting.

It is true that attachment parenting methods decrease dependency in children with some temperments, but it is also true that attachment parenting can cause confusion and actually increase dependency with those children who need to get their reassurance from parents through positive redirection; appropriate, sensible limit setting, and consistent parent-guided structuring of the day.

Sure, I'm willing to consider alternate parenting methods. Do it all the time, actually. Do you have a particular recommendation?

But if you're judging Liam's temperment from what I write in my LJ, then you're not getting the whole picture. From my experience, he's significantly less clingy, whiny, and tantrumy than many, if not most, children of his age. I tend to write about the times that are hard, not the times (like this morning) where he entertained himself cheerfully for 20 minute with a bowl of dried beans. If you can find me a 19 month old toddler who doesn't have periods of whininess, clinginess and tantrums, well, I'd be amazed.

The main thing that makes me think I'm not cut out for parenting is that I'm really selfish. Having a child means I don't get to do things in my life that I'd like to, and I resent that.

If you think that attachment parenting is antithetical to "positive redirection; appropriate, sensible limit setting, and consistent parent-guided structuring of the day," then I think you don't know very much about attachment parenting! In fact, I'd say those are all core tenets of the philosophy! Like all parenting philosophies, people's implementations differ. There are plenty of AP (and non-AP) parents who practice what would best be termed "child-centered parenting" and focus their entire lives on making sure their child is always happy and entertained. Trust me, I am not that parent. Redirection is our number one strategy at this point, and Liam's day is much more structured than that of most babies I know. Figuring out the right places and ways to set limits is definitely my number one parenting challenge at this point. It's easy to see why so many parents don't do it - it would be so much easier to just never say "no" or "later."
When I say that Eric is a better parent than I am, I'm not saying that I'm a BAD parent. I'm an okay parent. Better than lots, I'm sure. I don't live up to my aspirations, but heck, few people do! I'm just endlessly impressed with how good Eric is. He has this really comfortable and effortless looking way of relating to Liam that I'm totally envious of.
People always poo-poo me when I say this, but [ profile] eviljohn is so much a better parent than I am. I wish I were a highly paid computer professional so I could be the primary breadwinner and he could stay home with Liam more often.

Eric's been taking nighttimes, so I've been getting to sleep all night, but that means I have to get up with Liam in the morning and Eric gets to sleep in. But that means that I basically have to entertain Liam for 4 hours straight, and I'm just not very good at doing that. I don't really know how to play with him, and I get bored. I hope it's just something about the age he's at right now, and as he gets older I'll find better ways of interacting with him. But I worry that I won't. He's getting more and more "two" every day, and I find myself getting angry with the behaviors that go along with that.

Right now he's pretty needy and demanding and wants all of our attention all of the time. Even if he's mostly playing on his own, he wants one of us right there, and expresses his vehement displeasure if we try to do anything else while we're there (like read a book or magazine). Historically, I don't think parents spent great amount of time entertaining their children, but I don't really know where the line is, and how much independent play he can really be expected to do right now.

Part of the problem is the weather change. In the spring, summer and fall, we'd frequently spend hours outside, just roaming around from here to there. I had the boredom problem then too, but there were often other kids and parents outside too, so Liam could play with other kids, and I could socialize with other parents. Now, even when we do get him all dressed up in his snow gear, it's pretty darn lonely outside. Not to mention COLD! I need to organize more playdates, I guess. But the weather just makes getting out of the house that much harder.

I'm very much feeling that I'm not living up to my parenting aspirations right now. I'm certainly letting him watch more TV than I'd ever planned too, but sometimes it's the only way I can get things done. It's easy to see how kids end up parked in front of the TV all day long - it's the ultimate pacifier. But I'm trying really hard not to be that parent.

A big part of this is the long weekend, and having to do this 4 days in a row. I feel really pathetic and awful when I say that - he's my kid, it's supposed to be my job to look after him. Heck, I used do it every weekend, but I'm way out of practice now. On some level I think I feel guilty about him being in daycare more than he's with us, although intellectually I know that they do a better job of being with him day to day than I would. Which really makes me feel like an awful parent, let me tell you.

(I need a new me and Liam icon - this one is ancient! But like many moms I know, I'm always the one taking the pictures, so I'm rarely in them.)


Sep. 26th, 2005 10:55 am
Another horrible sleep night with Liam last night. He went down easily enough. He's teething, but we were out of Ibuprofen, so Eric went out to the store and when I went to bed at 10 I snuck Liam a dose without waking him up. I think his next wake up was around 2, which was too early to give him more pain medicine. I nursed him back to sleep, but just as I was drifting off he woke up again, and that process repeated itself over the next couple of hours. I'd think he was down, but he'd prove me wrong. We did give him more pain meds around 3 I think, but it didn't help. At 4 he started crawling out of the bed. Frustrated and exhausted, we gave him some Benedryl to drug him into sleeping more, I passed him off to Eric, and took my pillow downstairs to sleep on the couch (thanks to taking a Benedryl myself - after being woken every time I got close to falling asleep for 2 solid hours, my body had decided to give up on this whole sleep thing, since it was obvious we weren't going to get any).

At 6:30 Liam was up for the day, so Eric brought him downstairs and I headed back upstairs to the bed. I slept a very solid two hours, then was woken up by a vivid dream where we were just foster parents to Liam and another family came to adopt him and we had to give him away. I woke up with my heart absolutely breaking. Punishment, of course, for my 4 am thoughts of "I never wanted a baby in the first place" and desires to sell him to the gypsies or send him back for a refund.

And now I'm at working with a can of coke beside me, hoping I can make it through the day. I'm planning to go to bed at 8 tonight when Liam does, and catch up at least a little bit on this sleep deficit.
ponderingson nighttime parenting )
As mentioned previously, we've swtiched Liam from two naps to one. Usually, he only naps for 75 to 90 minutes, sometimes less. This is a problem, because he used to get total daytime nap time of 2-2 1/2 hours. Today he fell asleep in the car on the way home from our playdate, and stayed asleep while I carried him into the house. Excellent news right? Well, yes, except while I was carrying him in I noticed that he had a stinky diaper. But he was asleep. Waking him up to change him seemed ill advised. Then he woke after only an hour. I picked him up and he put his head on my shoulder and went back to sleep - excellent from the perspective of him getting enough nap time and thus not being grouchy. But he's still in that dirty diaper. Yikes. I hope his butt isn't too rashy when I finally get to it.

For the parents on my flist - do you wake a baby for a dirty diaper?
I've written before about my surprise at just how judgemental parenting seems to make people. Today I'm getting a reminder to keep it all at bay.

I used to see little kids with dried up crusty green snot around their nose and eyes, and think - gee, why isn't somebody wiping up their nose. Hah. Now my little baby is so crusty it totally grosses me out, but attempting to clean it up results in full blown freak outs, and it's just not worth it for something that's basically an aesthetic consideration. But it really does drive me nuts.


Mar. 11th, 2004 12:59 pm
Or is that "taking a mental health day"?

In any case, I'm not at work. I just couldn't face the idea of going in there today. Don't get me wrong, I've actually got work to do, and it's relatively interesting work. But I haven't been sleeping well this week, and the idea of having to think, focus, and be effective and productive was just more than I really felt up to.

So far I've done nothing with my day off but watch 3 episodes of The West Wing and surf the Internet. Go me!

Do any of the parents on my list have any recommendations for websites or other sources that talk about how to reconcile being an attached parent with going back to work? I can see how a lot of this attachment parenting stuff works real well for stay-at-home moms, but I don't think I'll end up being an SAHM, so I'm looking for advice.



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