Last night after the kids finally stayed down for good Z and I got nice and drunk, and splurged on mozzarella sticks and wings from our local pizza place. Because of the journal I’ve been reminiscing about the life we used to have in New York and kind of mourning it afresh. Parenting an unruly toddler while hung over sucks (completely my own fault, I know), but you know what? I had fun last night. A whole lot of fun. It’s ok to miss the kind of fun we used to have, but it’s important to remember life now isn’t less fun, just different.
I’m trying to focus on the fun stuff.
It helps me keep my mind off how embarrassingly awful yesterday afternoon and early evening were. No one in our house behaved properly. Ok, to be fair C was fine. But T yelled, I yelled, Z yelled. The kind of yelling that the neighbors could hear. I know because we heard T loud and clear as we were taking out the garbage. Yes, suddenly we are those people. I sort of don’t want to show my face on our block ever again. I’ve been chronicling the deterioration of T’s behavior for months. There will be weeks where he does better, but the overall trend is jerk-ville. We’ve been counting to 3 and then giving him a time out since he was less than a year old. Back then the time out was just holding him in place for 10 seconds. For a long time it was putting him in the exersaucer for a minute or two. But a few months ago we started sending him to his room or the steps and he wouldn’t stay put. Which has emboldened him to misbehave in other ways. Managing his bad behavior would be a hell of a lot easier if we weren’t also caring for a baby who has become mobile himself.
We’ve gone from being the parents who calmly and consistently deal with bad behavior to the ones who just lose their shit, and yell all over the place. T is rewarded by seeing us so worked up-getting a rise out of us is what he wants. We aren’t following through properly when he behaves badly because it is hard to make sure a kid stays in time out when you are also trying to make dinner while watching an 11 month old who is crawling into the dishwasher.
I’m not trying to justify my own bad behavior. I’m not helping things by throwing temper tantrums right along side T. Dealing with an almost 3 year old and and almost 1 year old is the hardest parenting has been so far. You kind of get lulled into thinking you are rocking this multi-kid parenting gig when the second baby is new. Except for nursing and changing diapers that baby requires very little. You certainly don’t have to negotiate every fucking little thing. It’s the negotiating that wears you out. For ages T was an awesome sleeper with a predictable 20 minute bedtime routine. And over the course of a year in which he learned to whine and beg and manipulate we’ve realized that bedtime takes over an hour and we have no idea how we’ve let things get so bad.
When Z got home yesterday it was a breaking point for all of us. Our current situation is completely unsustainable. T is an asshole and we are enabling him. So we have a new plan. No more yelling. No more negotiating. We calmly tell him to stop his behavior or he will go to time out for a specific amount of time. Like if it is close to lunch until lunch. Or until Mommy cleans the kitchen. Or until Mommy turns the a/c on and gets C up from his nap. The length of time isn’t huge-5 or 10 minutes. But we get a break and time to regroup. He sees there are serious repercussions for his behavior and we don’t try to talk things to death and reason with someone who isn’t emotionally mature enough to participate. I think the next few days are going to be incredibly hard on all of us. But after a week or so I hope to see a change in his behavior. If not we will try something else.
Part of what is making this approach possible is the fact that the lock on his door is turned around. I know, I know. We lock the kid in his room, we must be monsters. We turned the lock around last fall. The transition to his big boy bed was pretty damn smooth. But after a month or so he figured he could get out of his room. So we nipped that in the bud. And then, over the course of several months, we started leaving it unlocked at night. He handles it pretty well. Most of the time he doesn’t open the door, or if he does we tell him if he does it again the door is getting locked. And if we do lock it we just unlock it on the way up to bed for the night. But during this period we are showing him we mean business with the locked door. He isn’t going to get us to change our minds about giving time outs no matter how impressive his tantrums are.
We have been bullied by his tantrums and threats of tantrums during C’s naps and bedtime. The last thing we want is for the baby’s sleep to be interrupted. But for the next few days we need to let that go. T is tantruming it up in his room as I write this. And C is taking a nap. At least I hope he is, he might wake at any second. T wants me to bring a specific shirt up to his room for naptime. He’s using it as a stalling technique. I told him no. His freak out is so impressive that I am dying to get him the shirt to shut him up. But 1-2-3 Magic (it’s a great book) is right, if I get the shirt for him I’m teaching him his tantrums will be rewarded.
So yes, we are in the middle of a rough patch. Ultimately I think we are going to be grateful that we had the boys so close together. But right now they both require a massive amount of hands on time. It is frustrating to know that we never would have let T’s behavior get so out of control if he was the only kid we had to worry about. But that isn’t really the answer either-letting him be the sole center of our universe. We are teaching him that there are other people in this world who have needs that are just as valid as his own.
Who knows, maybe this won’t work. But Z and I are committed to finding something that does. I know we will figure this out. We need to not just for our sanity, but because we want to teach him to be a decent person. Damn, this motherhood gig is hard. If possible go hug your parents, people. They deserve it.