Friday, 21 September 2012

Tantrum time

Before becoming a parent, I always heard about the “Terrible Twos”… you know, that dreaded milestone in every child’s life when they start asserting themselves, testing their boundaries, having tantrums and saying no to everything. Here’s something no one tells you: this phase is not necessarily something that starts at age two. Instead it should be called “Terrible Toddlerhood”.

My son, now 19 months old, is definitely starting up in this phase. Thing is, he’s always been a tester of boundaries and he’s had a little temper on him since, well, birth. When he gets mad, it’s hard not to laugh. He clenches his firsts and yells in a manner very similar to the Incredible Hulk. Instead of turning green, he goes beet red. Then if he’s really pissed off, he’ll bang his head against the wall or the floor, or whichever is the closest surface to him. I don’t love the head banging part, but he usually stops that pretty quickly when he realizes that it hurts.

Recently, he began shaking his head to say “no.” Any question asked of him would be met with a firm shake of the head. I’m never entirely sure if he really wants to say no, or he just likes shaking his head in response to a question because he usually has a big smile on his face when he does it. Sometimes he’ll give me the shake, then stop and nod. As in “Do you want some yogurt?” Shake of the head, pause, well – okay, I’ll have some yogurt.

Then last week he began to say the dreaded word “no.” I don’t remember if it was in response to anything in particular, or if he just came out with it, but he said “Mama, no no!” to me and my heart dropped. Now I know that the Terrible “Twos” have begun.

Fortunately the arrival of this new vocabulary word coincided with a regular check-up at his paediatrician’s office. Without me even asking, she had a pretty nice talk with me about how to handle the tantrums. She reminded me that the best thing to do is to pick my battles and if they’re not related to something serious, ignore the tantrums until he calms down. Her advice was that if I respond to the tantrums and show my frustration or give in to unreasonable demands, he will only learn to use the tantrums to get his way. If I don’t respond, he will give up more quickly and move on to something else. I thought it was pretty good advice and I’m trying my hardest to follow it. Bad behaviour, on the other hand, is something to be dealt with and she offered up some advice on that as well. But I think we’ll tackle that in another post because there’s plenty to be said on that subject!

Since that time, it’s been a non-stop chorus of “no” or “oh no!” or “no no.” But he says it so cheerfully it makes me laugh most of the time. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before the word finds itself into his tantrums, but until then I think I’ll try to focus on teaching him how to nod and say the word “yes.”

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The first day

First days are always nerve-wracking aren’t they? New beginnings can bring about excitement but also anxiety, no matter where they are and how old you are. First day of school, first day on a new job, even first dates! My son had one of his first first days last week. The first day of daycare!

Fortunately, at 18 months, he’s too young to have experienced the anticipatory feelings that come with new beginnings. For him, it was just a new destination. Instead of going to Grandmaman’s house, it was daycare. It was a fun new environment with lots of kids, toys, games and activities.

But for me? I was the nervous one in the weeks leading up to his first day. Had I thought about everything he would need? Change of clothes? Check. Labels on all of his belongings? Check. A familiar blanket and pacifier for naps? Check. Diapers, cream, tempra? Check. With my logistics all straightened out, I only had my emotions to worry about.

Fortunately, I handled it much the way I would handle first days of school when I was a kid. A little nervous, but mostly excited and happy. The first day back at work after maternity leave was much harder on me emotionally. After six months back at work, the transition from “granny nanny” to daycare was easier than I thought. I guess I was more nervous about how my son would handle himself. The good news is that I had no reason to be nervous.

When we arrived, he immediately hit the ground running and went straight for the interesting new toys. As other little ones wailed around us, looking for their moms or something familiar, my little guy was checking things out and having fun. I knew then that he would be just fine.

I didn’t hear from the daycare educator in charge of his class during the day, which I took as a good sign. No news is good news, right? When I went to pick him up at the end of the day, he saw me through the window as I entered the building and start wailing immediately. But his teacher said he had an amazingly good day and had been great playing, napping and eating. Aside from a collective group meltdown mid-morning when all the kids were tired and hungry, he didn’t cry and only needed his pacifier for his nap.

The next few days were pretty good as well. One key learning though is that toddlers are creatures of habit and like most adults they need quality sleep in order to function well. On day 3, he was tired after a less optimal night of sleep; it was his usual educator’s day off; and there were some kids in his class that he didn’t know. Suddenly, he wasn’t so comfortable and dropping him off was not as easy as it had been the previous days. After a few attempts, I just had to walk away and choke back my own tears. On the bright side, my colleague who dropped her son off a few minutes later said that my son waved happily at hers when he saw him outside the window. So he’s already forming familiar friendships with his little buddies.

Overall, I’m happy so far. This has not been as hard on me or my son as I thought it would be and my work-life balance has improved significantly. Somehow I seem to have more time on my hands now and I spend less time preparing him for his days as I did when he was with his grandmother. And since he no longer spends full days at home, my house has stayed cleaner! The best part? He’s so tired when he comes home now that putting him to bed early is no problem. Woohoo! Let’s hope all these positive upsides keep up for the long term…