Friday, April 15, 2011
reclaiming the calm
about a month ago little c truly found the limits of his voice (and my patience) as he began 'infant tantrum stage.' on any given day, BT (before tantrums), c would be happy and content to just sit and play with little more than a few squawks of displeasure. then came one morning when, during our usual routine, i set him in his swing so i could begin making myself some breakfast. i did nothing out of the ordinary as i handed him a few of his usual favorite toys and turned on the tv for a little fraggle rock morning sing along. to be honest he watches little of it, but, with his enjoyment of music and singing, it always seems to put him in a good mood. i walked into the kitchen, which is out of his view, only to be startled by the ear-splitting scream that erupted from the living room. i ran to the living room prepared to find some mayhem and disaster had taken place (not sure what that would have been, but a mom's knee jerk fears sometimes have no logic), only to see my child sitting in his swing where i had left him, red in the face and melting down before my eyes. not sure what was wrong, i scooped him up and checked him over, finding nothing out of the ordinary. i soothed him and as i leaned to place him back in his swing, the crying and screaming started again.
though it was unusual behavior, i was convinced it was just the mood he was in that day and i paid a little more attention to him than probably was necessary. not realizing i was creating a wee monster, the tantrums continued at bedtime. once i placed him in his crib the freak-out began. after back patting, stomach patting, attempting the pacifier, music, story reading, and just rocking him to sleep in my arms, i made to place him in his crib, only to have him startle and begin the whole ordeal over again. even after finally getting him to sleep, a few hours later he would awake crying and screaming. this went on for weeks and began to spread from bedtime to anytime i needed to put him down.
after many sleepless nights and my patience being stretched to it's limit, e suggested the one thing i had been avoiding: crying it out. during a particularly loud tantrum at bedtime, i started to rise from bed when e stopped me and told me that i really should let him go for a while. as he reminded me, i am too accessible to c during the day and therefore i have lost my role as 'mom' and become slave to his every want and need. so, in bed i sat, cringing at the sound of a shrieking and upset little boy. after a while, it quieted and eventually stopped. when he woke again a few hours later, he was no longer screaming and shrieking, but crying and fussing. then, when he woke in the morning, he was relatively calm about making it known that he was awake. determined to keep progress moving in the right direction, i decided nap time would go just the same way and i would let him cry it out again. as i placed a sleepy wren in his wee crib to nap, he began the usual routine of working himself into a tizzy. this time, though, instead of lingering and trying to comfort him, i turned on his mobile and his books on cd and promptly left his room. after ten minutes, the fit stopped and all was quiet. two hours later, he awoke happy, rested, and ready to play. after some playing, i had to do a few chores and placed him in his swing with his favorite toys and waiting for the tantrum that i expected to ensue... and nothing. nothing happened except a few coo's and squeals of delight as he began playing with his toys. when i started to leave the room, he began to fuss as he noticed i was leaving but i continued my mission of getting the laundry done. after a minute, silence again. i peeked back into the living room to find a content baby, swinging and playing all on his own. his second nap was even easier than the first with only five minutes of mild crying. bedtime was a breeze with about five seconds of fussing and sleeping nearly through the night. and so it's continued this way days later.
i have to admit how amazed i am at the way this worked. once i broke my habit of coddling his every upset moment he stopped wanting my coddling. even if something displeases him, the reaction is much more mild, as if he's rationalizing the outcome. as hard as it was to let him carry on and scream for more than ten minutes, i had to access my own knowledge that he was not hungry, he was not gassy or sick, he was not wet, cold, or any of the other reasons a baby might have to be truly upset over. i had to force myself to acknowledge his willfulness and determination, but that i had to be just as determined as he. no matter the amount of noise he made, no matter how loud the shrieks and screams got, i stood my ground and in the process gained back my role as his mom, not his slave. though it came as a last resort, and though i thought how mean it seemed to let my baby get so upset, he taught me that even one so small can take advantage of one so big. just as i taught him that one so big as his momma gets to call the shots most of the time.
that said, i have to love his persistence and spirit, but i'm happy to have my calm and relaxed baby back.