Sunday, January 12, 2014

Wake Training

Today I met with my doula. Wow, these ladies really want you to have an unmedicated birth. I did not have the balls to point out how manipulative I thought her paperwork was; I was honestly too distracted and exhausted to care (see reasons later in this post). But she did want to warn me about all of the dangers of epidurals again, despite my stated preferences, and at one point said the one thing she feels really strongly about is the introduction of narcotics in labor and told me all the horror stories around that - until I pointed out I'd had morphine during my labor, nothing bad happened, and it helped me survive what turned out to be two more miserable days of excruciating induced labor that, had I not had any pain relief, would have absolutely resulted in a c-section. See, you just can't tell a second-timer that kind of stuff and get away with it. Anyway. Believe it or not despite all this I do not feel the need to find someone else. I think we understood each other that I know what I want and I will not be swayed. 

It brings me back to a question I posed before having B, though - why do women consider natural childbirth a "goal"? Why is "seeing how far you can get without an epidural" considered something to strive for? I mean, man, that pain is unreal, and can go on for hours, even days. In the old days women had no choice but to suffer. Why on earth would anyone choose that if they had an alternative, unless their head was full of those one in a million bad reactions? I just don't get it.

But anyway, back to me being exhausted and distracted. As always my mind is full of B, and especially how our home life, and particularly my life, has deteriorated to absolute shit over the last few weeks, and is getting worse and worse by the day. Why? Because B won't stop hitting me or chucking things at my head. That's why. 

He's not even doing it to be a brat. He doesn't do these things when angry, tired, or frustrated. He does them when we are having a nice time together playing and he gets all riled up and wants to have more fun. It is maddening. Yesterday I attempted to take him up to the playroom in the afternoon after I'd run myself ragged at a playground all morning and just couldn't face running around chasing him at yet another playground all afternoon, too. Did he play with any of his toys up there? Nope. He just kept climbing on to the daybed and hitting me. Or throwing toys in my face. I kept telling him no, no hitting, no throwing, and dunking him on the floor, sometimes explaining why, sometimes not. He would cry for half a second, not liking being on the floor, and then climb back on the bed and immediately start hitting me again like nothing just happened. This went on for hours. I finally just stood up and put my face out of the skylight to breathe, completely fed up and not knowing what the hell to do in the hours still left before dinner. I took us downstairs and sat in the kitchen staring into space, since we can't go into the living room anymore because he no longer listens to me when I tell him to stop touching things, and again just climbs onto the couch or chair with me and starts hitting me. 

So I stared into space for two hours just waiting for time to pass while he played around me. Then this morning it all started all over again - comes into my bedroom at 6:30 (after I've had about four hours' sleep), climbs on the bed, and starts hitting me. I try to redirect. I tell him no a thousand times. I dunk him on the floor. I explain over and over why he's being put on the floor. He cries. Then climbs on the bed and hits me. When he chucked both heavy TV remotes right at my head, I just snapped. 

I just put him out of the room and shut the door, so he would only have access to the safe hallway and his room, also safe. But not my room. And he cried. And I didn't care. Not one bit. I laid down and for the first time in weeks didn't have to worry if he was about to get hurt, hurt me, or destroy something. I was so tired I just didn't give a shit about anything. 

When I went out to get him later, he was asleep on the carpet. I woke him up and took him in for breakfast and it was like nothing ever happened. He was his usual jolly self. 

And you know what? I might try this again tomorrow. Anything on earth is better than being beaten up by your child for hours while you are eight months pregnant, horribly sleep deprived, and facing another day of chasing him around playgrounds all day just so he can get out his energy. 

So I'll change his sodden diaper. I'll dress him and give him snacks and drinks. I'll give him tons of safe toys. I'll give him hugs and kisses. But I will not give him the opportunity to throw things in my face and hit me again and again. Short of beating the crap out of him, which I refuse to do and which will no doubt not accomplish anything anyway, this is what I need to do to survive. In the mornings he just has to be somewhere else. And I really don't care if he likes it or not. I'm over it. It's either this or pop out of bed at six AM, immediately get us up and fed and dressed, and immediately get out of the house so he can run around all day from 7 AM until 5 PM. No, and no. And especially no when there's a new baby!!!

If I cared about his comfort level we would still be co-sleeping and he would still be keeping me up all night nursing every hour on the hour. Disbelieve all you want - I have a friend with a two-year-old who is in just this situation. It can happen very easily if you don't put your foot down.

So I am going to call this Wake Training. I have no idea if I will be successful in any way. But I have to do something or I will literally lose my mind. And this kind of thing - Bumpus rough housing around and being dangerous - is going to have major ramifications when there is a fragile newborn in the house. 

Just in case you're wondering I have done extensive googling on this issue, and much to my mixed pleasure/disappointment, this issue is very common. And it always is right at this age - just shy of two - and often has nothing to do with being frustrated because they can't communicate, or need attention, etcetera. They are usually just playing and pushing boundaries. So he's not a sociopath or a bad kid; he's completely normal. And it's almost always something that only happens at home when he's bored. And guess what - pretty much all of the anecdotal evidence I've read about this phase says there's really nothing you can do about it. Say no, of course. Distract, remove, all of that. But most women have found, like me, that nothing works. It's just something you have to power through, and can drag on for months. So for now I need to just limit the situations where it can happen. And be glad that right now I am his only target. 

I hate the toddler phase with the heat of a thousand suns. 


  1. Based on what you just wrote, I think the thing you might not be noticing, is that Bumpus sounds like what he really wants is for you to interact with him. It sounds like you are saying that these incidents are happening when you are just sitting there, staring off into space. I get it, you are exhausted, but that isn't going to change in the next are setting Bumpus up for a really bad situation when the baby comes, he is going to feel totally abandoned (especially if you continue to just lock him out of your room when you get frustrated). Go on pinterest and look for activities to do with toddlers. There are a ton of craft/learning activities that are easy, quiet, and cheap (for example sorting colors of objects). Then do the activities WITH him, not just watching him. You are going to need these for when the baby comes. Start coming up with activities now, because not to long from now, he will be throwing a remote at your head while you are nursing the baby, and there won't be anything you can do about it then.

    1. That's actually not what I wrote. He does this mostly when we are playing together and I'm giving him lots of attention. How am I supposed to do activities with him all day while nursing???

  2. I'm sorry, that sounds awful!

    It sounds to me like, given that he fell asleep in the hallway, that he's tired. And being tired makes a lot of kids hyper and unable to control their impulses. So maybe leaving him bored in the hallway and his room will actually allow him to go back to asleep again? Seems worth a shot.

    I do think that more structured activities would be really helpful for both of you -- are there any sorts of low cost activities that you could do? I have to have something every single day. The playground, alone, suffices only rarely. We do story hour on Mondays and Tot Shabbat on Fridays, both of which are free.

    Are there any movement classes/music/art classes around that are within your budget? I think being around other people who speak in full sentences would be really good for you. And being entertained and interacting with other kids would be good for him.

    Also, is the baby kennel open during the week? Are there any sort of preschool/daycare options for just a few hours a week? I fear it may be really hard when the new baby comes if you don't have any respite care.

    Hang in there, Mama!

  3. Someone in another group of mine is having this same issue. Specifically, her almost 2 year old throwing things at her head. I think your google research was probably right on.

    I think it would help a lot of you could get B trained to nap at home. Imagine if you had 2 quiet hours after lunch every day. Doesn't that sound like heaven? On weekends I use the time to recharge or do chores I can't do with Felix tagging along.

    Maybe start putting B in his room for quiet time every day at the same time he normally falls asleep when you're driving around. Try some claiming kid music and see if that helps. Even if he doesn't sleep right away, he'll at least get used to quiet time on his own.

  4. Ugh, I'm sorry. If it's any consolation, I just read this article in NY Mag about parental satisfaction that opens with a description of very similar toddler sociopathy:

    " . . . This wouldn’t have been a problem per se, except that as I attempted to fix it, he grew impatient and began throwing its various parts at the walls, with one plank very narrowly missing my eye. I recited the rules of the house (no throwing, no hitting). He picked up another large wooden plank. I ducked. He reached for the screwdriver. The scene ended with a time-out in his crib."

    Anyway, I have no advice, a) because child-rearing advice from the childless is generally obnoxious and b) I think sometimes the best response is just "That sucks. I'm really sorry you're going through it." So. That sucks. I'm really sorry you're going through it.

    And in case you're interesting in the whole article (or looking for empathy, or schadenfreude):

  5. One more idea, make a basketball game when he wants to throw. Anything safe to throw (socks, craft pom poms, etc) and some type of basket or bowl.

  6. That sounds absolutely maddening. But I have to admit, reading your description, I also thought it sounded like Bumpus looking for your attention. Maybe not all of the time, but some of the time.

    At his age, he probably doesn't know (or care) about the difference between positive attention and negative attention. As long as you're looking at him, talking to him, touching him - he's happy - he got what he wanted. If you can flip it around so that you're doing those things in a positive way more often, he won't have the need to do the things that get you to do it in a negative way. When i was working as a behavior specialist, I used to tell teachers this all the time, after doing observation in the classroom and actually keeping a tally of how many times a teacher gave the problem student positive vs. negative attention within a certain period of time. I then suggested the teacher try to ignore the problem behavior - when it was safe to do so - and reward positive behavior, i.e. "catch him being good", even if it meant giving him the positive attention after the positive behavior happened for 5 seconds! So, maybe try to catch Bumpus being good, and pour on the praise and attention, any time he's NOT beating you up. Try to do some more interacting with him in a positive way, and I bet you'll see a change within a pretty short period of time.

    Good luck, and hang in there. I absolutely can't imagine being as pregnant as you are right now. I give you a lot of credit. I'm waiting to T42 until Jordyn's at least almost 3, if ever!

  7. Eek that sounds awful. My biggest challenge with my 7 month old is preventing him from falling and banging his head all day. He is everywhere and I just try to keep up! As far as the doula goes, what about trying to find a friend or an older, kind, experienced mother who has gone through birth to support you ( free of charge?). It's just that I found my doula to be largely unhelpful compared to the nurses on staff but what I really could have used was a post natal doula to help me at home after the birth. Just thought I'd put it out there. Good luck with everything! Katie

  8. The "catching her doing something good" has a huge impact on Elena...NOW...when she was B's age, not at all...A lot of the advice I've been reading you getting is really great advice...but in hindsight, none of it made much difference when Elena was going thru this...but the support got ME through it. Now, a lot of the techniques are working great, so have heart that there are better times ahead...

  9. Absolutely he can and should have to entertain himself without your input for a portion of the day -- that is an important skill for all kids to learn, and it is also important for your sanity. But probably it's not great if the opportunities for him to learn that skill come with slammed doors and being limited to the hallway. It seems like it simply can't be an option for the living room to be off-limits, if that is your main living space and where I imagine you would need to be setting up shop with the baby. Whatever it takes to make the room workable, I think you need to do it. Anchor the TV and accept that he's going to cover it in fingerprints. Hide the remote. Things that are unacceptable for him to touch need to go out and toys need to come in. Put a blue towel or blanket on the floor next to the couch and let him blow off energy by jumping off the couch "into the pool." Take masking tape and create a track for matchbox cars. Etc. etc.

  10. Sorry to hear you are having such a hard time so close to the end of your pregnancy. I'm not sure if anything I am going to say will help - but I wanted to contribute something, to show I hear you as much as anything -

    1. First of all - yes its normal! He's a toddler!

    2. I agree he may also be looking for you to interact with him - he needs reassurance, now more than ever with a new baby on the way, that you are not going to abandon him and will always be there to meet his needs. Actually reassuring him of this will make him more resilient than if you isolate him - which make make him try to cling to you more as he will be more afraid that you wont be there for him

    3. Toddlers have lots of energy to burn. According to DD, who is early childhood and Phys. Ed trained, boys in particular actually need to exercise their shoulders as part of their development, and if they don't get enough opportunities to do this each day they can be prone to hitting - so a climbing frame could help, or even just playing with him like a wheelbarrow where you hold his legs at the knees and he 'walks' on his hands could do the trick. If not, accept that he does need to hit something - tell him that its not OK to hit people, but how about he hits a drum, a cushion, whatever - as long as its not you and he can't hurt himself.

    4. Cuddle him when he's hitting you or having a tantrum etc. I read this recently in Laura Markham's book Peaceful Parenting and it so works! Just say to him that hitting is not OK but would you like a cuddle instead, he will probably say yes if it is interaction with you that he is after - it will calm you both down and reconnect you, rather than having you fighting on opposite sides of the battle.