Monday, December 15, 2008

Frances the tantrum tornado

We have entered a new dimension: tantrum world. She's been having tantrums for ages, of course, but this is all together a new level. It's not the intensity so much, though the pitch has changed and the upper register is operatic. (It's so bad that I simply can't hold her when she's screaming like that. My ears can't take it. She also fluctuates the pitch up and down, like a siren--a new sound for us.) Rather, it's the frequency. They are constant--all day long. About everything. Literally. This morning it was changing her diaper, then putting on her clothes, then what kind of juice she wanted, then having to turn the tv off, then wanting her paci, then when we got in her crib where her paci is allowed it was the color of paci. We had a brief reprieve while Clark was napping--we went outside for a lovely walk in the wind. (It's really windy here.) Last night before bed it was wanting some "medicine" (damn the makers of tylenol for making the stuff so yummy), then another book, and on and on until she passed out in her bed.

I'm not talking about crying fits; these are tantrums. She loses complete control and shakes and flings herself and can't stop. I feel bad for her; they've got to scare her. It could be just her age and all, but Mitch and I suspect the problem was that she was sick this weekend and we let up on all kinds of rules like how much tv she can watch, how often she can have the paci, etc. Now she doesn't know where the boundaries are, so she's testing them all. From what I understand (the little bit of toddler psychology I've read) the tantrums come from a lack of feeling in control, from feeling unsafe. Toddlers want boundaries so they can feel safe. And the lack of control she has during the tantrum mimics the lack of control she feels in her life.

So today I'm reinforcing boundaries. That's about all I'm doing. We have enough leftovers in the fridge for dinner so I'm not cooking, not doing laundry, not accomplishing much of anything except boundary reinforcement. It's interesting--although the screaming is tiresome and loud, I actually find this easier than usual. I mean, it's very clear to me how to deal with this. (Not that everyone should operate this way, or that it's effective for every kid, but it seems Mitch and I have figured out how to deal with her in this struggle.) When she's screeching I tell her I'm going to put her on the floor and that once she's calm I'll come back. Then I go and do some dishes or straighten up or whatever, so she can still see me--I haven't completely abandoned her--but I don't give her any attention until she quiets down. I want her to be allowed her feelings, but she needs to learn that this behavior is not okay. She can pitch a fit if she wants, but she can't have my attention while she does it.

Usually when she's in some new place I struggle with whether I'm doing the right thing, how I should respond, and often I feel like a bad parent. Maybe because this time it's so constant I'm more prepared for it, or maybe it's just deciding ahead of time how I'm going to deal with her so I'm not questioning it in the moment, but I just don't have the self-doubt I usually have in these situations. I'm exerting much less emotional energy and the tantrums don't actually seem hard to deal with. I'm actually calm, not riled, and she's not pushing my buttons. I find this quite ironic. It makes me think that when Clark gets to this stage it won't be so hard on me because I'll have more confidence about how to do this parenting thing...

It could also be the prednisone. Yesterday morning I was still in a lot of pain and called the doctor on call out of desperation. He prescribed another round of steroids since I discovered the last round was half the dose that I'm usually prescribed. No wonder they didn't work. So I'm headache free to deal with tantrums (which makes the screaming much more tolerable), and maybe have a kick of energy to boot! Still, I'm going to nap as soon as I finish this post, since both babes are sleeping. Oh, I hear the girl awake in her room. Onward I go.

1 comment:

Paige said...

Cali, thinking of you all the time. You are my role model! It's so awesome that you feel a modicum of control over these tantrums. I have been feeling like I'm not a very good parent (to Ozzy) lately, but not sure how to be better.

Migraines suck, I wish I could take them away for you.

I am having some trouble with dealing with 2 - it just seems so hard to do it when I'm by myself. Something always seems to come up for Ozzy while I'm (in pain) nursing. Yesterday he threw one of Mike's shoes at her while Mike was changing her on the floor. I hope I get the hang of this soon.