The Challenge of Loving


My son has recently turned into a two year old. Not age-wise, his birthday was actually back in July, and we have been congratulating ourselves on escaping the Terrible Twos. But behaviour-wise, tantrums and selective deafness have arrived in our house.

To be fair to him, he could be a lot worse. He is not particularly aggressive towards other children (he saves it for us) and his worst behaviour comes when he is very tired; otherwise he’s actually a lovely little boy. To paraphrase: “When he is good, he’s very, very good. But when he’s bad, he’s horrid.” The trouble is, Daniel (who has never been a good sleeper) is not sleeping well and is consequently tired a LOT.

It has been quite a shock to the system. Our lovely, happy little boy has turned into a child who hits and kicks us, ignores us constantly, causes huge amounts of mess deliberately and screams whenever he doesn’t get his own way. In fact, I have seriously wondered if toddlerhood is training for adolescence, both for us and for him. My throat is sore from shouting and I only seem to have one phrase in my mouth at the moment: “Daniel, don’t do…”.

We have had two choices. We could choose an easy road and basically let him get away with it. It would certainly be kinder on the vocal chords. We could let him keep coming into bed with us at two o clock every morning and letting none of us get any decent sleep for the rest of the night. Again, no crying and tantrums. We decided not to do this, and at times I think we must be mad.

We have decided to have a crack down on behaviour and sleep, handing out ASBOs right, left and centre. The sleep plan at the moment is not working out great for me although Daniel seems to be gradually getting better – he is at least staying in his own bed, although this is under great protest, particularly if it is Daddy going in to settle him at two o clock and not me. For us it involves a good hour lying on the floor, and I don’t know about Daddy but it’s murder on my poor muscles which have apparently been softened by pregnancy and crushed by growing baby. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel but it’s a dim, distant spark at the moment.

Behaviour, hmmm. Being firm but fair is our guideline at the minute, and following every confrontation with a cuddle and an ‘I love you’. But the real challenge, to me at least, is dealing with the huge emotional swings that ‘behaviour modification’ brings. Not his – mine. I go from being at the limit of my patience, seethingly angry to doting mother and back again in a heartbeat, and it is actually exhausting. Not to mention the huge guilt you feel when it turns out you don’t have unlimited patience and tolerance after all. Experiencing negative feelings towards your child is, to say the least, heart-wrenching and has you constantly questioning your fitness as a parent. Not that how much I love my little boy is ever in doubt, not for a second, but the fact that I don’t constantly see him as a source of delight and satisfaction is, to me, disturbing, difficult to deal with, and makes the path of least resistance seem highly tempting.

I am saved from this by the strength of my husband – I guess we give each other strength, thinking about it – and the reward when our plan actually works, when he does listen or say sorry or do as he’s told. It’s still rare, it’s still early days but it’s happening and we are getting our beautiful boy back. Even if it’s only temporary.

 

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10 Responses

  1. I have a just two year old but its my fourth time going through this and I know what you mean about feeling loving and exasperated and despairing all at once. Its my eldest child that gives me these feelings at the moment. The first/eldest is always the hardest as you are not sure what is normal and you question yourself all the time. There are different stages when they go through an unsettled period, asserting independance, experiencing fears, new phase of life. They need extra comfort and mothering/fathering at that time but need clear structures as well. A simple no (repeat) for a two year old or ignoring the behaviour where you can is good, they are testing limits of their world but I don’t think they are being intentionally naughty.

    The sleep thing is still an issue for us two with two yr old, so I can’t offer much advice, we were advised to do controlled crying, go in an out at longer intervals and it should resolve in a couple of weeks but we were too tired. Try cuddlies and things that he takes comfort from when resettling. It passes eventually, so take it in turns to have a rest for a whole night in the meantime!

    • Hi Alison, thanks for the comment. It is unbelievable, the range of emotions we are going through! We are expecting number 2 in a few months and feel wrung out at the thought of having it all again, the surges of happiness as well as the tiredness and I can’t imagine it ever changes now.

      We have been advised to try controlled crying as well, several times, but like you were just too tired to face long sleepless, sob-filled nights when going into him, even four or five times, would settle him more quickly allowing for snatches of sleep. If I come up with a miracle solution I’ll let you know (after I patent it)!

  2. “I am saved from this by the strength of my husband” …I don’t know about that?

    “I guess we give each other strength, thinking about it ” …I definitely know that!

    This is a lovely post, and sums up my feelings exactly. We will love our little fella whatever he does, so much it hurts, but boy can he wind us up! You have hit the nail on the head of how I feel too.

    We’ll get through it, between us, babe!

    xxx

  3. It’ll be over soon – just wait until he’s a teenager 🙂

  4. Just a thought… is he getting his two year molars? Or is it just plain ole separation anxiety when he wakes in the night. If that is the case… be strong… maybe use a gate, make sure his room is safe and just go down once tell him it is ok settle him back in and keep that going a few nights see if he catches on. My just 2 yr old nephew just had the same issue and this worked in less than a week 🙂 They learn. It is not hurting them. More you than him. 😦
    GL

    • The thought about molars is a good one – he does often wince when he’s brushing his teeth. Thanks for the suggestions, I will bear them all in mind, it’s good to get some feedback.

  5. Great writing! A little jealous…

    • Hi, thanks for the comment! It’s the first time I’ve written anything in a while and you have just given me loads of encouragement which I really needed. Thanks again.

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