Archive for the Mommy stuff Category

Taking things in stride…

Posted in Ellie, Mommy stuff on September 9, 2013 by talesofanunfinishedmom

Parenting is hard. And rewarding. But, so hard. Each day I get up, especially if it’s been a rough night the evening before, I say to myself, “Today I will do better. Today I will…” fill in the blank. It might be, shut down my computer and be more present with my child or not get too frustrated when I’ve asked for the umpteenth time to get dressed, etc., etc.. I sometimes feel guilty when I lose my patience but then I also remind myself that you can’t HELP but lose patience with your kids.

For example, when we got home this evening, I discovered that my six-year-old had once again left her homework at her after care. Last week she brought home her homework but forgot her folder. She can be very absent-minded. I never have to worry that she’s not living in the moment. She’s ALL moment. I got pretty upset with her and explained that it’s VERY important for her to remember her homework at the end of the day. I was clearly not happy and she asked me if I was angry with her. I said that I wasn’t angry but that I was disappointed. She then got upset and threw her lunchbox and homework folder (minus the homework) on the kitchen counter and said she was really angry because I was angry with her and started crying. I felt REALLY bad that I made her cry until I found out that the reason she was crying was because she was worried that I wouldn’t let her play with her friend downstairs now that she forgot her homework.

In the end, I let her play with her friend for 30 minutes (I’m such a sucker.)

As I was writing yet ANOTHER note to her very strict first grade teacher(who I’m certain thinks we’re not on top of things)I began to wonder if I’d been too harsh with her. After all, she’s only six and she’s kept it together all day long and beyond. Perhaps there’s a better way to work WITH her to help her become less absent-minded but it’s hard to know what that is — especially when I’m not with her all day.

In the moments, I feel as if I SHOULD be upset that she keeps forgetting things but then we lay in bed together and look at book picks for her school’s book fair in a catalog and chat, I wonder if I should be taking this all more in stride. I know it’ll serve her well not to be forgetful as she goes through school and ultimately life, and I don’t think I should stop enforcing the importance of this but when I look into her sweet sleepy face and feel her soft skin and see her vulnerability, I think about the fact that before we know it, there won’t be night time snuggles and leaving homework at the after care will be the least of our worries. I know this is not a good reason to stop enforcing rules but it sure makes me want to sometimes.

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The Family Bed

Posted in Mommy stuff with tags , , on March 9, 2011 by talesofanunfinishedmom

If you told me two years ago that I would be co-sleeping with my child, I would have told you you were crazy. After all, I am the Mom who brought in a professional sleep trainer when my daughter was 3 months old (and I was on the verge of jumping out a window) to help me figure out what to do to get my infant to sleep more than two hours at a time.  I was pretty much out of my mind and so sleep deprived that I thought I had developed a case of postpartum depression. Additionally, I was returning to full-time work in one month and couldn’t imagine how I would function with only a few  hours of sleep a night. 

A sleep trainer may sound extreme but a good friend of mine had used this trainer and said that she pretty much “fixed” her family life overnight. Well, maybe not overnight and maybe not fixed as she got divorced a few years later–but, I digress. The bottom line is I was desperate and there was no way I was going to be able to allow my child to cry it out (which seemed the only alternative) without someone talking me off a ledge 24 hours a day. So, I talked with my pediatrician and we agreed on a plan that made sense. I still felt guilty, but, also knew that 1) I could fire the trainer five minutes after she came into my house and 2) knew that my mental state was hurting enough that this was probably not only good for me but good for my child. A depressed sleep-deprived mother does not a good mother make.

I will admit that five minutes after the “trainer” entered our home, I wanted to tell her to get out — you know, like, in that scary Poltergeist voice. But, after listening to her “plan” and having her there to hold my hand, it actually didn’t seem so outrageous.  She suggested that my 3-month old didn’t need to be swaddled anymore. WHAT?! Not swaddle. Well, maybe this actually made sense since my daughter hated the swaddle and pretty much kicked out of it every night. I was also told that we had to get rid of her pacifier. That wasn’t really a problem since I was still trying to train my kid to keep it IN her mouth. She would always suck and then spit it out which was hilarious but didn’t do much for her self-soothing. Then the sleep trainer told us that our daughter would have to move out of the bassinet in our room and into her crib in her own room. This was where my head nearly popped off. OUT OF OUR ROOM? OUT OF THE BASSINET? ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE APARTMENT? (Mind you our apartment is only 900 square feet.) Just as I was about to kick the “trainer” out of the door, I thought again about how my daughter’s previously good sleeping habits had reverted to such minimal stretches that NO ONE, including her, was sleeping well. And, hey, what did I have to lose by trying it for one night? We were also lucky in that since we live in such small quarters and her room is a windowless 10X12 box which occurred to me may actually be MORE comforting to her — more womb-like — than sleeping in our big master bedroom.

Well, long story short, the sleep training was actually a great success. I didn’t actually follow everything the “trainer” recommended (like ignoring my daughter’s request for a feeding at 4:00am–um, hello?!) but I followed enough that I felt OK with it. Frankly, it was easy to be OK with it because my daughter responded beautifully. And, I think if she could have talked she would have said THANK YOU for getting me out of that suffocating swaddle and into a real bed with a real mattress and into this nice dark quiet room that takes me back to that incredibly cozy place I lived for 9 months.

I would say the rest is history but, as you know, history is always rewriting itself.

My daughter did remain incredibly happy in her crib for 3 1/2 years. She LOVED her crib. She took incredible naps, slept amazingly well at night (NEVER woke up unless she was sick) and it wasn’t until she was about a month shy of turning 4 that I decided to move her into her big girl bed. It may seem unlikely that someone who sleep trained her child at 3 months would keep her in her crib for so long but my feeling about these things is if it’s not broken, why fix it? And, it really wasn’t broken. 

What I didn’t anticipate was the pressure I would start to get about moving my child into a “big girl bed.” I ignored it for a long time but when my daughter started to approach four, I did start to cave, thinking that I wasn’t doing right by her–especially since she was on the verge (finally) of being potty trained.  The thing is, my daughter never ASKED for a big girl bed. She knew what one was — she saw big girl beds at friends’ houses — but didn’t really seem especially interested in moving to one. She was that way about potty training too – no interest. I believed it was important to work with her cues (within reason) and had heard disastrous stories about potty training that backfired because it was pushed too early. So, again, hard to believe that the Mom who sleep trained her kid at 3 months allowed her child to almost turn 4 without being potty trained! As luck would have it and my instincts told me (in between the fears) my daughter became fully ready and engaged in potty training about one month before her 4th birthday and she was trained in about one week — all on her own.  

Once the potty training was underway, the big girl bed became more of a topic of conversation. Well-meaning relatives were telling my daughter “next time you visit us, you’ll have to sleep in a big girl bed” and well-meaning friends told me that now that she was nearly potty trained that I would be setting her up for failure by keeping her in a crib.

So, online I went. After much searching — and against my better judgement I bought a brand new beautiful white toddler bed complete with girly bedding and decorative pillows (decorative pillows people – I mean, does a 4-year old need decorative pillows??!!). 

I remember the night we put it together. Except by “we” I really mean my husband. I remember the 4-year-old’s excitement. “Yay! Big girl bed!”  By this point, she seemed REALLY excited about the notion of having her own big girl bed. In addition, getting that big ‘ol crib out of her room gave her more room to actually play in her little space.

Well, wouldn’t you know…the idea of the big girl bed turned out to be MUCH more appealing than the actual big girl bed.  And, so, yadda yadda yadda — it’s been four months and my daughter has NOT slept in her bed all night.  Not ONE time.

At first I was sufficiently on edge about it. After years of putting my daughter to bed without issue and retreating to my sanctuary (otherwise known as the master bedroom)  to be lulled by her steady breathing on the baby monitor while I read my book; I was not prepared to have a visitor in my bedroom every five minutes!

Everyone said that was normal and that after a few days or a week she’d get used to it. She didn’t. And, I tried everything to make that room welcoming (did I already mention decorative pillows??). Tinkerbell pillowcase, fairies on the wall, nightlight…NOTHING was keeping her in that room.

So, I finally retreated to the good ‘ol internet in search of advice for getting your kid to stay in her big girl bed. The advice seemed pretty consistent. Every time your kids comes into your bedroom, you walk her back to her room without getting upset or giving in to any kind of conversation. I was pretty good at the first (after all–this was all new to her–it didn’t seem fair to get angry) but not so good at the latter. I was especially bad in the middle of the night so I had my husband take responsibility for taking her back to bed. From everything I read, it should take no more than TWO WEEKS to train your kid to stay in her bed but you HAVE to be consistent. You HAVE to walk her back to her bed EVERY TIME she comes into your room — no matter how many times it happens. You should remain calm and not engage in conversation. Consistency is key.

It was REALLY hard. Sometimes during those first few nights she would cry as my husband carried her back and we felt AWFUL. I recall my husband telling her over and over again that she was safe and that Mommy and Daddy were in our room if she needed us. But, it didn’t seem to sink in.

After about 10 days, we started to weaken. Most of all, we were just so DARN tired and were losing the energy to walk her back to bed throughout the night. I knew if we weakened that we would lose the battle but we just couldn’t keep it up. I asked a couple of friends for advice and a couple of them said they put gates up to keep their kids in their room and it was quite effective. I began to threaten that we’d put a gate up and while my 4-year-old wasn’t crazy about the idea, with no gate in sight, it seemed an empty threat and not effective. I finally borrowed an actual gate and showed her how it would fit in her door and she was none too pleased. I explained that if she could stay in her big girl bed, we wouldn’t have to use the gate. I even went so far as to buy her presents — a new pair of sassy pink sunglasses to be specific. I offered that all she had to do was stay in her bed for three nights in one week and she would get the sunglasses. She loves the sunglasses. But, she loves Mommy and Daddy’s bed more.

About this time, I began to get used to having my daughter in bed with us. I couldn’t bring myself to put the gate up, envisioning her waking up in the night and panicking that she was trapped in her room (even if we could hear her every move on the baby monitor) and imagining the therapy bills later.  It started to occur to me that maybe she was really scared in her room. Even if she had loved it for all those years, perhaps things were different now. How could I force her to stay somewhere she didn’t really want to be?

And, perhaps, even more than all of this, I began to get used to sleeping with her — to waking up next to her warm sleeping body throughout the night and listening to her rhythmic breathing. I never have to think of checking on her because she is right next to me. If she happens to sleep in uncharacteristically late, I don’t panic that maybe she stopped breathing because I can feel her breathing next to me. Our unexpected family bed has turned into an unsuspecting source of comfort.

Like I said, if you would have told me two years ago that I’d be co-sleeping with my 4-year-old, I wouldn’t have believed it. If you had told me I’d be co-sleeping and actually enjoying it, I’d have told you you were insane.

I’m finding motherhood is like this–an array of constantly shifting paradigms. I’m even beginning to accept it.

When a butterfly becomes a dove…

Posted in Ellie, Mommy stuff on July 7, 2010 by talesofanunfinishedmom

In case you’re wondering if I perhaps missed a key class in school regarding the evolution of insects, I am aware that butterflies don’t actually turn into doves. That is, unless you’re my daughter.

Last Tuesday Ellie wrapped up her first year of preschool. It’s pretty hard to believe since it feels like yesterday that I was feeling sooo anxious about her first day of preschool.  It also feels like yesterday that her response to any question you asked was a demure “o-kay” and she was still nursing her nightly bottle. My easy two-year-old of yesterday has turned into a leggy force to be reckoned with three-year-old and today, she officially became a dove.

I had been feeling very apprehensive about the approaching end of her first year in the butterfly class. Her butterfly teachers were extraordinary. One teacher in particular – Teacher Robb as we all called him – truly  redefined my expectations for everything a teacher could be. And, I was not alone. Parents were throwing around phrases such as the “toddler whisperer” with reference to him and at one point during the year, all of the parents rallied to try and get Teacher Robb to move ahead with the Butterfly class. There are many cases to be made for keeping a teacher with the same class – or looping, as the official term goes – and Robb made a lot of those arguments, but for us parents, we just knew that our children were all tremendously attached to this wonderful kind smart man and given an unusual year of vacated teaching positions at the school, we hoped we could request one more move.

Anyhow, it didn’ t happen and I’ve mostly gotten over it (as you can tell) but it still smarts a little. The thing is, I, too, was attached to Teacher Robb. This same fellow who I was suspicious of at our initial parent gathering (Why would a man be teaching preschool? Why does he keep looking down? Why isn’t he smiling more? ), proved to me once again that first impressions can often be uninformed impressions. This teacher was so incredible smart, calm, nuturing, and engaged with each and every one of those 2-3 year olds in my daughter’s class AND the parents. Basically, he was AMAZING. (There I go again…no, really, I’m over it!)

On Ellie’s last day of school I did my best to be upbeat and positive about her move to the Dove room (the 3-4 year old classroom). As I was driving to the 5:30pm pick up to gather my child and all of her things from the Butterfly room for the last time, I had lots of internal dialogue with myself about how I wasn’t going to cry. There was no reason to cry after all since Ellie was only moving DOWN THE HALL. But, I knew, just as I’d witnessed all year, that behind the door of each classroom’s entrance is a special world – a unique environment created by the teachers. And, I hoped that as excited Ellie was about becoming a Dove, that she wouldn’t be missing that special former place too much.

The goodbye was not easy. In fact, to overcompensate for my propensity toward tears, I started asking questions such as “How did the last day go?”.  When he immediately told me that there were tears, I thought, “oh please don’t let there be tears.” I kept trying to act as if it were like any other day, any other regular pick up, until Teacher Robb in all his 6 ft. stature after deciding he’d fielded enough of my questions, came over to me, put his arms around me and said “Thanks so much for a wonderful year. Please keep in touch and let me know how Ellie is doing.” All I could get out was “Thank you. You know how I feel and I can’t really talk about it or…” and with that my eyes welled up with tears and I turned away while another teacher standing by looked at me with that “awwwww” face and I pulled it together. After all, this was ELLIE’S last day, not mine. For god’s sake, as the Mom, I’ve got to keep it together, right?

Ellie was cool as a cucumber EXCEPT I could NOT get her to leave the classrooom. She was working away on some artwork and refused to leave until she finished. He suggested that perhaps she was having a hard time leaving. That’s the thing about three year olds, they can’t really tell you how they’re feeling all the time and so you have to infer from their actions what’s going on. Eventually, she was the only Butterfly remaining and Teacher Robb told her that she could take home the two markers she was using and offered her one last “ride” to the door.  He had used this tactic on occasion over the year when Ellie didn’t want to say goodbye. He’d say “Do you want to fly to Mom?” And, he’d pick her up and fly her in the air to me outside by our car or into her car seat. This time, he flew her to the door and into my arms and we began to make our way down the hallway when she said “Oh, oh oh!” as if she forgot something. She swung open the Butterfly door one last time and ran in to give Teacher Robb one last hug which he eagerly accepted.

Flash forward and here we are, 3 days into Ellie’s first week as a Dove.  My guilt is at an all-time high about leaving her there all day. Previously, when I’d bring her into the Butterfly class in the morning, one of her teachers upon seeing us would say “Ellie!” and would ALWAYS be on hand to give Ellie a hug or pick her up when she was especially clingy to help assist with the goodbye. One of our recent rituals involved Ellie giving me a big PUSH out of the classroom – a way for her to feel as if she was CHOOSING for me to leave. Even if we both knew the truth, it worked pretty well. Somedays, when Ellie was having a particularly difficult time parting, one of the teachers would walk her to a window in another classroom so that I could wave goodbye to her on the way out. All of these special touches made me feel really comfortable about having to leave for work.

Now?

I escort her into the Dove classroom in the morning and the teachers barely look up. There is no special welcome, no gregarious “Ellie!” and certainly no hugs.  I  know she’s moved to the “big girl” classroom but geez, she is still ONLY 3 after all! And, it’s been so hard for me to say goodbye to her in the mornings.

She, however, seems mostly fine with this change. She has, however,  been especially difficult this week which I chalk up to the change and I keep trying to talk with her about it. I’ve tried to be much more patient with her outbursts and defiance, assuming that she has to work all day to be the “big girl” and just wants to let loose when she gets home.

I know it’s taking time for me to adjust. I figure it will be at least a couple of weeks before I stop longing for the old classroom, the old teachers, the old ways.  I imagine it will take Ellie at least as long.

The Purple Monster…

Posted in Mommy stuff with tags , , on May 1, 2010 by talesofanunfinishedmom

Last Sunday, I started my two-week stint as a single Mom. I wasn’t excited about the prospect of being the only parent on duty, of getting up every day at the crack of dawn and answering the nagging question “Where’s Daddy?”

On the flip side, I WAS excited about spending more one-on-one time with my little girl. As a full-time working Mom, a lot of my time with her is spent getting her fed, dressed and ushered to and from school with short breaks from our routine on the weekend and weeknights.

As luck would have it, my daughter had a birthday party to attend the first morning, right after my husband left. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day and Ellie and I were both looking forward to the Sunday morning festivities at a new party place we’d both never been.  The party was for one of Ellie’s good friends in preschool and Ellie  had been talking about it incessantly all week. Not only was she excited to celebrate her friend’s birthday with her but she had also caught wind of the fact that a certain purple dinosaur was to make a special appearance.

I was excited, too. Not only to watch Ellie have a great day, but, also to connect with the other parents and catch up with them while the kids jumped and frolicked on the big inflatable  slides and in the bouncey house.

Upon entering, Ellie squealed with joy seeing her other little friends. And, she was quick to bestow the birthday girl with her birthday present.

After a quick signing of a waiver basically acknowledging that there are risks to playing on big inflatable bouncey thingies and that you as the parent assume them all, you’re off to have some fun! (And hopefully don’t end up retrieving your kid out of the bouncey house cuz she got kicked in the head.)

We followed the pack of three-year-olds and their parents into the room of inflatables–big inflatables–loud inflatables. Turns out they were all being run on what sounded like large generators. Upon entering, Ellie became afraid. She turned to me and said “It’s smelly in here.” It’s true my child, it smells like a big rubber in this room.  I tried to tell her that she’d get used to the smell but it was really bothering her. She then commented that it was “sooooo loud”. By now she was clinging to me while the rest of the kids ripped off their shoes and socks and one by one made their way into the bouncey house. I pointed to Ellie’s friends to show her how they weren’t afraid and were actually having a lot of fun. I proceeded with “Come on, sweetie. Let’s take your shoes off.” Which she let me do, begrudgingly. I guess I thought if I just acted normally that she’d catch on and stop clinging to me like a cat whose paws had unexpectedly come in contact with water.

I thought (hoped) I was making progress and then HE made his appearance. The big purple dinosaur entered the room and made his way in our direction and waved directly at Ellie.  He didn’t actually look anything like the Barney on television. He was purple and I guess he was a dinosaur but he sure didn’t look like any character I’d seen before.

Despite Ellie’s exclamations from the week leading up to the party regarding how she was going to give Barney a “big hug and a kiss”, when she actually saw this big purple character, she pretty much lost her mind — and I don’t mean in a good way. Her already trepidatious state turned quickly to one of terror. She was screaming and clinging to me like I’d never seen. If she could have, I think she would have crawled back into my womb. She was that afraid.

I quickly carried her out of the room–shoeless– and back to the front lobby where the employees were working behind a welcome desk. I explained what happened and they said that it sometimes takes kids a little while to get comfortable. So, I thought we’d wait a few minutes and try again.  In the meantime, several more of Ellie’s friends arrived which I thought would be incentive for her to go back into the play area.  So, we tried one more time and again, major FREAK OUT. I had just enough time to sneak back in, grab her sneakers, and get out quickly.

By now, Ellie was telling me that she wanted to go home. I couldn’t believe it. We had only been there for 10 minutes. She had been looking forward to the party all week.  This was her best little friend in school. I was really eager to catch up with some of the other Moms.

But, let’s face it, when your kid looks like this:

Barney is scary!

You hit the road. And, as a sensitive person myself, I could really empathize with her fear. I wanted her to know that I would never make her stay anywhere that she wasn’t comfortable — even if it seemed like it should be fun for her.  At first I wasn’t sure if leaving was the right answer. What if we got in the car and she changed her mind? What if I wasn’t giving her enough time to acclimate?

Ultimately, I made what I thought was the best decision. And that was to leave. Over the course of the day, we discussed Barney no less than 100 times. (Apparently, she’s inherited my tendency to obsess about things too.) “Barney won’t hurt you?” “Barney is scary.” “Where’s Barney?” And on and on and on. And, it wasn’t until many hours later that she finally asked to go to the party and I had to explain that the party was over.

In the end, I was able to distract her from the purple monster by taking her to the local park where she could swing, slide, and be confidently far away from all scary sounds, smells and monsters.  And, soon enough, my happy little girl was back.

Glee from being free of Barney

The little girl that stole my heart…

Posted in Mommy stuff with tags , on November 11, 2009 by talesofanunfinishedmom

For the longest time I wanted to start a blog. Not because I wanted to become famous (good thing, right?) or discovered, but, because I wanted a place to transcribe my thoughts and feelings. I have a lot of those. On a daily basis. Anyone who is close to me, knows this to be true.

I had a hard time getting started though. It took me about nine months to come up with a name for my blog (appropriately) and then I hit a wall of writer’s block. Oh the irony. Finally, I had a place to record all of these aforementioned thoughts and feelings but couldn’t get started.

And then one night, thanks to this wonderful little girl, the block melted away and the words and tears flowed with what turned out to be my first real post. I wish I never had the overwhelming need to write that post. I truly wish that Maddie was still here.

Today would have been Maddie’s second birthday. On her first birthday, she ate cream puffs. On what would have been her second birthday, today, her parents, family, and Moms everywhere are eating cream puffs. And wearing purple.

Maddie – you have changed the lives of so many. Your contagious smile and intoxicating eyes are forever burned into the hearts and souls of many Moms like myself. You’ve made us laugh. You’ve made us smile. You’ve made us stop and appreciate the moments with our little ones.  You’ve made us better mothers.

Thank you for being you and thanks to your Mommy and Daddy for sharing you with all of us.  

We will never forget you.  Happy 2nd birthday, sweet girl.

Maddie

The elephant in the…crib?

Posted in Mommy stuff with tags , , , on September 3, 2009 by talesofanunfinishedmom

There’s been a lot of talk about elephants as of late. No, we’re not watching a lot of Animal Planet nor have we been to the zoo. It started with a visit my two-year-old, Ellie,  made to this restaurant with her grandparents back in July.  It’s a cool place, for sure, but, when you’re a child who is somewhat sensitive to sudden loud noises, a 10 ft.-high mechanically-operated animal that spontaneously erupts into boisterous behavior, can be a bit daunting. There are several of them at this restaurant but the elephant is what really scared her.

We talked a LOT about the elephant after that visit.  Mostly, she just had a lot of questions about the elephant. She wanted to know where it was and what it was doing at all times. We gave her answers the best we could.

Then a weird thing happened…on our way back from the East Coast, where we’d spent a week visiting family, Ellie’s elephant awareness heightened. All of a sudden, elephants were the main topic of conversation and they were making appearances — beginning with our Jet blue flight.  Apparently, the elephant made it on to the plane somehow. There were a LOT of elephants on the flight–out the window, on the television screen, even in the row in front of us.

Upon our return home, she seemed OK for a few days and then with little warning, one night, guess who made an appearance in Ellie’s crib? Yes, indeed. Now there were elephants IN her crib. She was TERRIFIED.  Our perfect little sleeper who LOVED her crib was suddenly horribly afraid to be in her crib. And so began the sleeping with Mommy and Daddy either in our bed or on the couch until she was deep enough asleep for a transfer.

I figured we just needed to suck it up.  We haven’t had a problem putting Ellie down, basically since we sleep trained her. The jig was bound to be up eventually. Our turn had come to be the family that never sleeps – or that sleeps together.  And so when Ellie woke up at 2:15am crying, into our bed she came with all of her fidgety-ness. Soon after she fell back asleep, she’d assume her favorite horizontal sleeping position, pushing her Mommy and Daddy to the very end of the bed.  It was tough. But, we also didn’t want her feeling afraid.

A few days in, and weary from sleep deprivation, I asked for help. Being a full-time working Mom, I don’t have a handy network of Mom friends that I feel comfortable enough to call so I took advantage of the wonderful world of technology and posted a query in an online forum that immediately went out to a ton of Moms in my geographical area. Soon thereafter, I had 17 responses to sift through. The advice ranged from getting “elephant spray” and other magic potions to “rid the elephant” from my daughter’s crib, to, talking with my daughter about the elephant and finding out what scared her, to getting books on elephants and showing her how they have families too, and several suggestions that maybe it was time for the big girl bed. Some also posed that the elephant was really a metaphor for severe anxiety and finally, one Mom suggested that perhaps something bad had happened during our East Coast trip since the behavior intensified upon our return.

I so appreciated all of the responses and immediately took to using “elephant spray” and helping my toddler to address the elephant directly. With that said, I was also even more anxious considering that something terrible could have taken place on our family trip!

After another couple of terror-filled nights, desperation set in and I called my own Mom to see what counsel she could offer. My Mom has always been one to offer helpful advice but I hesitate to ask for it sometimes, especially if I’m feeling vulnerable, because, let’s face it, asking your Mom for advice, often turns into a golden opportunity for them to point out what you’re doing wrong.  I don’t even know if that’s intentional. Maybe they’re rusty from not being needed all the time or maybe it’s payback for never asking. Not sure. I just know that Moms can’t help themselves sometimes.

I explained to her the elephant situation and even that it started after she and my Dad took Ellie to the aforementioned restaurant. She sort of shrugged that off and immediately launched into her convincing analysis:

“The elephant is a metaphor. It’s not really about the elephant. It’s about her fears. If you think about it, you guys went away for the first time, leaving her for 5 days back in June, and then she started Preschool shortly thereafter. Then she went on the trip with you. It’s all too much for her! I also think she absolutely is ready for potty training and a big girl bed.”

Head explodes.

But then she goes on to offer a very helpful suggestion: ” If I were you, I would start asking her open-ended questions to try and get at the heart of what she is afraid of. ”

If it weren’t for that last bit of very good advice, I may have decided to turn in my parenting license right on the spot feeling like I had permanently injured my daughter with abandonement by going away and stunting her development by still having her in diapers.  Agreeing that this made a lot of sense, I decided that I was going to talk with my toddler, help her address her fears and then help her get through them. Yes, I could do this. I could ask questions.

And thus began the queries:

Me: “Ellie. I’d like to talk with you.” Ellie comes over. I continue. “What scares you?”

Ellie: “The elephant.”

Me: “Where do you see the elephant?”

Ellie: “With Nana and Papa.” She continues “The elephant no hurt you.”

Me: “No, honey. The elephant won’t hurt you.”

Ellie: “The elephant is sleeping.”

Me: “Yes, the elephant is sleeping.”  Of course I have no damn idea if the elephant is sleeping. It’s probably not, actually. It’s probably very much awake taunting other children. But, something told me that knowing this PROBABLY wouldn’t make her feel any better.

I then decided that we needed an “elephant action plan.” Something that would make her feel empowered to get rid of the elephant herself. We discussed that whenever she saw an elephant — and they seemed to turn up in the most unexpected places — that she would just tell the elephant to “Go away!”  This actually worked quite well – gave her a sense of authority. Whenever she said that she saw an elephant, I’d remind her of the “elephant action plan” and she’d say: “Elephant, go away!”  And then she’d turn to me and smile.  Yes, she was empowered!  This actually seemed to be working.

Nonetheless, the evening crib battle continued. And so did my questioning:

Me: “Ellie – what scares you?”

Ellie: “The elephant.”

Me:  “Where do you see an elephant?”

Ellie: “With Nana and Papa.”

Me: “Is school scary?”

Ellie: “No.”

Me: “Is Elmo scary?”

Ellie: “No. The elephant is scary.”

After several days of this line of questioning and putting the “elephant action plan” into effect and more sleepless nights on the couch, I decided that the real culprit WAS the scary elephant she had seen with Nana and Papa. Not some hidden trauma that we weren’t privy to. Just a simple mechanical elephant.

If you’re paying attention, you can probably see the irony in all of this.

In any case, feeling pretty certain that the “elephant action plan” was working, I decided that Mommy and Daddy needed to get control again as toddler was clearly not traumatized anymore and seemed to be hip to the notion that said elephant fear was definitely helping to keep her out of the crib.

And so the other night, we put her into the crib — protests and all — and guess what? After only a few minutes of crying she was sound asleep. The elephant jig was up and she knew it.

We haven’t talked too much about the elephant since. Oh, and she did use her potty for the first time this week as well. So, maybe Mom wasn’t all wrong.

Bamm-Bamm lives…

Posted in Mommy stuff with tags , , on August 25, 2009 by talesofanunfinishedmom

I realize that admitting I was a big fan of the Flintstones growing up, probably dates me a bit. I can deal with that. But, can we at least say that I was very very young when I watched. No, really, I was. For those of you deprived of this fantastic show, here is a brief overview:

 The Flintstones is set in the town of Bedrock in the Stone Age era. The show is an allegory to American society of the mid-20th century; in the Flintstones’ fantasy version of the past, dinosaurs, saber-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths,  and other long extinct animals co-exist with barefoot cavemen, who use technology very similar to that of the mid-20th century, although made entirely from pre-industrial materials and largely powered through the use of various animals. The characters drive cars made out of stone or wood and animal skins and powered by foot.

 Admit it, you’re DIEING to rush out and get the DVDs.

Anyhow, I’m assuming that most of you are familiar with the Flintstones, so I won’t go through the painstaking process of explaining to you who Bamm-Bamm Rubble was. Let’s just briefly say that he was the abnormally strong adopted son of Betty and Barney Rubble and would frequently be seen screaming “Bamm-Bamm” “Bamm-Bamm” while simultaneously swinging his toddler-sized club. Oh, yes, he was a charmer. I’m honestly not sure what Pebbles saw in him.

In any case, I always thought that Bamm-Bamm was a made-up character based on some clever animator’s idea. But, guess what, he lives! I know because I saw him first hand.

During our recent whirlwind tour of the East Coast, we decided to lay our weary heads (and suitcases) at a friend of my husband’s for a night. From here forward we’ll refer to them as D and M (for Daddy and Mommy). Although I wasn’t thrilled about making yet another stop for just one night, given that D is such an old friend of my husband’s I acquiesced. It also seemed to be a potentially good idea as they have two kids ages 5 and 2 and I thought that I should, at the very least, think about my daughter. How fun for her to have even MORE kids to play with? She’d already had so much fun with her cousins.

D&M live in New York State in a picturesque town. The kind you want to paint but don’t get good cell phone reception in. Upon arriving at their abode, we pulled up their long driveway, and I see a cute curly-headed toddler standing inside the door with a huge smile on his face. It was endearing, really. We soon made our way inside where we also met the five-year-old (I say “met” as we haven’t seen him in years) and waited for D (who works in Manhattan) to return from work. Shortly after making ourselves comfortable, the dynamic duo sprung into action– leaping from tall heights and moving objects. My first thought was “Boys will be boys.” But, shortly into the visit, I realized that something was up. The two-year-old seemed a bit aggressive. He was terrible with sharing and grabbed every toy that Ellie wanted to play with out of her hands. And, he was strong. Like, not normally strong.

Ellie soon thereafter discovered one of those cute “ride-on” cars in their living room. Not UNLIKE a Flintstone mobile. You climb in, manually close the door, and then move the car with your feet. A toddler’s dream, really. She was thoroughly enjoying herself, minding her own business, and looking very cute with her polo dress and pigtails and wide smile as she “rode” around the room. And, that’s when HE made his appearance.

The two-year old, who I’ll fondly refer to as Bamm-Bamm from here on out went full steam ahead toward Ellie, swung OPEN the door of the Flintstone mobile, grabbed her by the scruff of her neck, pulled her OUT of the car, and then threw her onto her back and head on the hardwood floor. It was like something out of the Sopranos. “Bamm-Bamm!” “Bamm-Bamm!”

To be fair to his mother, she did immediately go over to him and tell him that that wasn’t right and put him in a time-out on the couch. Now, I’m not one to judge other people’s parenting styles. I mean, it’s  not like I know what the hell I’m doing half the time. But, my kid does that and they’re getting a FIRM reprimand and time out in ANOTHER room away from everyone. And, the voice is being RAISED. They’re not getting a “suggested” time out that involves me coddling them on the couch under a blanket. I swear I even think she slipped him a boob.

Once we all recovered from the incident – Ellie had stopped crying, Bamm-Bamm was out of his time out– the kids started playing again. Ellie once again was playing by herself, this time on the couch with a doll. I was pleased to see how quickly she recovered. And, then, not actually believing what I was seeing, Bamm-Bamm heads straight for her with epic speed and with all his might grabs the front cradle of her hair and pulls as hard as he can. “Bamm-Bamm!” “Bamm-Bamm!”

Now I’m freakin’ pissed. To say the least.  Once again, Bamm-Bamm gets a reprimand. Once again, in a soft quiet “you really shouldn’t do that honey” kind of a way. Then Bamm-Bamm’s Mommy turns to Ellie and says, “Ellie, if Bamm-Bamm pulls your hair again, you just say, Bamm-Bamm, I don’t like that. Please don’t do that.”

Ok,  now while I appreciate where she’s going with this, these kids are TWO!  Ellie can’t handle a brute like this. Nor should she have to.

At this point I knew this whole visit was a bad idea but also knew I had to  accept that we couldn’t leave and would just have to make it through the night and then bolt early in the morning.

Fortunately, Bamm-Bamm’s Daddy, or D, came home soon thereafter and things calmed down a bit. That is, if you consider a two-year old scaling built-in cabinets trying to retrieve a hard-to-reach boxed milk and then falling on his bum while his Mom laughs calming down. I more mean that at least Bamm-Bamm left Ellie alone for a bit.

It became pretty clear to us over the course of the night, that D&M were just beaten down. The kids don’t really go to sleep well, they don’t stay asleep well, and they get up early. They don’t really have any boundaries, and were clearly running the household.

 The next morning (and suffice it to say, it was a loooong night with not much sleep) we got up and went in to give the kids breakfast. Soon after they were fed, the games were to begin again. Ellie would start screaming from another room and I would rush in and say “What’s wrong? What happened?” And, she’d look at me through tears and say “Bamm-Bamm!” “Bamm-Bamm!”. I didn’t really know what he was doing and fortunately didn’t see any blood so figured there wasn’t any long-lasting damage, but, then immediately thereafter, right in front of me, I’d see him go right up to her and push her HARD in the chest. At this point, I had to start stepping in. And, so, did PB (As a refresher, PB is my husband). Someone had to. Bamm-Bamm looked at us kind of surprised, amused, not sure. He didn’t seem to process what we were saying. Firm discipline? Huh?

About then, I started hearing that scary voice from that old Poltergeist movie – GET OUT. I immediately started to pack up while PB took a shower. The kids were continuing to “play” in the family room and then once again, screaming and crying coming from Ellie. I rush downstairs and what do I find?  Bamm-Bamm had gotten into PB’s duffel bag, taken out his tennis racket, UNZIPPED the case, took the racket out and was hitting Ellie with it. (He’s probably thinking – finally, a REAL club. After all, cave boys need clubs.)

It is about this time that my head nearly pops off and I begin to think about long term damage – about all the money I am going to need to fund my two-year-old’s therapy to recover from post-traumatic stress syndrome. I’m also thinking, what kind of mother am I to subject my child to such abuse! My heart is pounding and I’m fully engaged in the fight or flight mode as I furiously tell PB that we need to get out of there.

You’re probably thinking that this is the last of it, right? It must be. Well, sort of. There was one final incident of Ellie falling down the stairs that oh, I don’t know, probably took about 10 years off of my life and added about 15 more gray hairs. And, although, Bamm-Bamm wasn’t directly indicated in the fall, you can be SURE that he was right there on the stairs with her, nearby, taunting, as only Bamm-Bamm can.  His Mommy seemed concerned about Ellie falling, of course, and responded with “Did he push her?” It was a fair question and an easy assumption. Once we assured her that he didn’t, she said “Oh, do you not have stairs in your house?” Well, um, no maam we don’t, but, Ellie has been going up and downstairs on her own for a long time just fine. She’s just not used to a little cave boy breathing down her neck, screaming Bamm-Bamm and swinging a club at her. Forgive me if she’s feeling a little uncoordinated this morning. (Excuse me for sounding so snarky but you know how protective a lioness can get over her young.)

We finally made it out of there, wheels screeching down the road swearing never to return.

Truthfully, we feel for Bamm-Bamm. After all, he’s only two. He needs to be shown the ropes. He needs to learn boundaries. He needs to learn how to navigate social situations with his peers. And, on some level, I even feel for his parents. Parenting is a hard gig. Harder than I ever imagined. I wish them the best because they’ve got quite a road ahead of them.

For me, I think I’ll  just stick to television Bamm-Bamm. He seems to be a lot safer.

He looks so innocent here too, doesn't he?

He looks so innocent here too, doesn't he?

 

*Photo is courtesy of  i-love-cartoons.com.