Sunday, September 21, 2014

Feelings, wo wo wo feeeeelings...

When I was growing up, my mother, a jazz pianist, had a New Yorker cartoon on display that depicted a cocktail pianist with a sign on his piano that said "requests - $1. "Feelings" - $500". This dates me a bit as I'm sure anyone born after 1975 probably doesn't remember the saccharine dirge that was the hit song "Feelings". But as the toddler emotions, and my own, ramp up around here, I feel a kinship with this musician - I wish I could get paid $500 every time I have to deal with my son's intense emotions.

Every day I ask myself and anyone who will listen, is this normal? Is it just a two-year-old thing? Is it finally, six months later, a reaction to the baby? Or is there something "wrong" with him (anything from hyperactive to just especially sensitive). So far I've gotten 100% normal - and my observations of kids around me tells me this is true. But still - wow.

I told myself I'd never be the kind of mother that dismissed her child's feelings as my mother did mine - and I think I do a pretty damned good job of indulging his toddler conceits (I don't want that shirt, I want the other tooth brush, etc etc) within reason. And yet everyone has their breaking point, especially when the slightest transgression on your part - moving a sippy cup a half inch to the left, touching a toy when he held it out to you to take - results in a tsunami of ear-splitting screaming and tears that can go on and on. We had a very unpleasant incident here a couple of days ago. Bumpus wasn't hit or anything but the intensity of my own rage scared the crap out of me. I'm still shaken by it. I promised myself I would do better, I would not lose control with him like that again...but I've said that before, and here we are. It's just that perfect cocktail of sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion, disappointment and resentment that gets you there, and that can happen at any point in these kids' lives. I want to be always patient and gentle and rational, but I'm human, too. If he can throw a fit every two minutes over the stupidest bullshit imaginable and after days (or weeks, or months) of just putting up with it, redirecting, ignoring, hugging, discussing, whatever the fuck, I finally snap - well, I guess that makes us both human, doesn't it?

He's taken on a slew of new habits that drive me nuts. Now he constantly goes into the refrigerator and drags all the food out wanting to direct what he can eat - yogurt, applesauce and ice cream, of course - and freaks out when I put things away and try to direct him back to real food. He absolutely refuses to brush his teeth. For a while I got him to sit on my lap and let me do it, but now he won't even do that. Getting in and out of the car is absolute torture - up or down the three treacherous flights of slanting cement stairs takes a million years as he has to stop on every step and pick things up or try to go in the wrong direction; now he has the maddening habit of running around and around the car, which scares the shit out of me because we live on a very busy, dangerous street and it would take a millisecond for him to step into the street and get killed while I'm trapped between the car door and garage wall trying to grab him so he'll stop running. Once in the car he now screams his head off until he can pull his shoulders free of the top harness of his car seat (no matter how high or tight I put it he still wrestles his way out), then flails around throwing books and blankets all over (he was putting down the window and trying to open the door on the freeway until I figured out the child safety door and window locks). No amount of pulling over or threatening stops this. 

And yet when we get together with other kids his age, I hear stories of far worse. And my main babysitter insists he is so much better than the other kids his age she sits for. So...what the hell is going on in other houses, I wonder??? And how on earth does anyone survive this???

Believe it or not we actually had a nice time at a friend's kid's birthday party today - no pushing, no fights over toys - other than my OCD freak out when he ate a chocolate cup cake over their carpet (the other parents were unperturbed; I was mortified). He started the day at home just as emotional and irrational as on the day of the incident but I did do better this time - administered hugs instead. But it's only a matter of minutes before the next freak out. I gave him the wrong colored spoon. I put his shoes on the correct feet and he wanted them on the wrong feet. It goes on and on.

I appreciate those who tell me how this time, with a two-year-old and baby, is the hardest, and it gets easier. But I disagree. I think it's going to get a lot harder before it gets easier, years and years from now. Right now Theo is so easy, but I know from experience that this will all come to a crashing halt once he's mobile and enters that dreaded one to two year phase. When I can no longer confine him to a carrier when we go places is when I feel like the shit is really going to hit the fan - when B is still so little at only three and T is one and whatever - oh, it's going to be so frigging hard. When they can fight over things, over me, when they both want different things or want to run off in different directions at the same time...just thinking about it, I want to cry.

I wish I could get help - and I don't mean help with Bobby, but psychological help for myself. But as you know I have no money, and wouldn't even know where to begin to find someone who would be willing to hear me whine about how much I hate the toddler age, which is kind of a given for a lot of (most?) parents. But I think I can safely admit at this point that yes, I am depressed. And all my old methods of training my brain to be happy simply aren't working when so much of the basic mechanics of every day are so awful, and when I am so tired I simply don't have the energy to try to cheer the fuck up. I find myself looking at the childless people on Facebook and all the awesome stuff they're doing - vacations, dinners, hobbies - and yes, I envy them. There, I said it. A single friend of mine recently came back from Hawaii and went on and on about how relaxing it was and how much she just loved swimming in the ocean...and I wanted to punch her in the face. Compare that with my nightmare trip, plus the fact that I will probably be well into my sixties before I have anything resembling a relaxing vacation again, and I feel myself tumbling into a pit of despair that I don't know if I'll find my way out of. 

Well, relief may come in the form of three day preschool which starts tomorrow. So many times today I would have a flash of trying to line up things to occupy him tomorrow, only to remember with glee that he has school! Will not having that miserable slog of Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday all alone together start to break this ugly pattern we've fallen into? Will this be the thing that makes things bearable? Can I recover from this and get some enjoyment out of life again? Is it really as simple as just a few more hours' preschool a week? 

I don't know, but fingers crossed!!!


  1. I'm really sorry to hear you're depressed. Taking care of a toddler & baby alone is hard. Add in depression & I can only imagine what it's like. 2 is one of the hardest ages & just when B will be coming out of it & get "easier", T will be going through it & you'll be right back where you started. Try not to look too far ahead...tackle 1 day or even 1/2 day at a time. I bet you're doing a way better job than it feels like. Your sitter's comments speak to this.

  2. Sorry things are so tough right now! It sounds like he is a challenging kid. So give yourself credit for doing it alone, doing it with Theo strapped to you, doing it without enough sleep. Give yourself credit for NOT hitting him when you were so angry and frustrated. I've been there, and the only thing that stopped me was realizing that hitting her would not quell the tantrum, it would just make her even more upset. If you can, try to take some pleasure in the little moments each day - the 5 minutes of sitting in the sun, the moment you realize that both kids are dressed appropriately for the weather, the discovery that you have salad dressing in the fridge after all. Just try to keep your head above water for now and if you can, don't worry about how things will be in the future. Take care!

  3. No advice but I'm sorry you are struggling.

  4. Did you read the Laura Markham book yet? That might help both with regulating your own emotions and with dealing with the emotions of a toddler. Also Alfie kohn wrote one called unconditional parenting. I found that really useful for unpacking all the issues I had from how I was parented, as well as how I could be better at it.


  5. Hey there - I could've written so much of this myself, but I only have Evelyn to care for. i would be so much worse off with another.

    Like you, I am not really enjoying the toddlerhood phase. And typing that makes me feel extremely guilty. But there you have it. I sit at my desk at work and do nothing for 8 hours a day, not because I don't have work, but because depression puts me in this weird fog. Putting one foot in front of the other feels absolutely exhausting. I'm sleep deprived, worn down so thin, my patience is thinner than ever.

    You're not alone. From one single mom (and only parent) to another...feel free to reach out to me via email if you ever need another ear from someone who knows what it's like.