Archive for toddlers

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.