Ironic

{I apologize to those of you who subscribe to my blog and found an old post in your readers/email last night. Not sure how that happened but I think it was a glitch in the WordPress app on my phone. Once it had happened I could not undo it. Sorry!}

First of all, a big thank you for those brave souls who made me feel less freakish on my trigger blog post. I REALLY appreciate it. Every time I read that other people have trigger blogs and some even read them, despite the anguish they cause, I could feel my body get less tense.

I’m curious to see if you can do the same for me with this post? 😉

You see this post really should be a Confessional Fridays post, but I’m too impatient to wait until Friday. So I’m going to post it on a Monday, and on New Year’s Eve Monday at that.

The thing is, I’m kind of miserable right now. And not in the way you might think. I’m kind of miserable being a mom.

You see my daughter is in the thick of the terrible twos and it’s… in a word… terrible. My daughter is definitely a “spirited” child. She is incredibly persistent, energetic and dramatic (words “the book” encourages parents use). She struggles greatly with transitions, she melts down EASILY (and monumentously 😉 ) and she has a really hard time with hitting. We used to be able to DO things with her but now we always have an escape plan and a lot of times, we have to use it.

I’m sure this all sounds very… normal. And who knows, maybe it is. If it is normal then I am handling normal parenting very poorly. Because honestly, right now, I’m miserable most of the time. It feels we are generally living in fear. Actually, we are living in fear. Even when Isa is not having a tantrum, we are stressed out, wondering when she will start having the next tantrum. She seems forever poised to lose her shit, and so we exist in a parallel place, always poised to contain her shit and then to pick up her lost shit after the explosion.

Existing in this state of constant vigilance–always trying to stay one step ahead of the ensuing melt down–is exhausting. It requires every bit of my emotional reserves. And frankly, right now, my reserves are already running quite low.

Again, I don’t know how “normal” this is. Actually I do. I’m confident that her behavior falls within the parameters of “normal.” I do not believe she is on the spectrum or has a sensory processing disorder or some other issue (although I will not be surprised is she is diagnosed with ADHD as a child as I–and two of the three other people in my immediate family–have the disorder). But I do believe her behavior falls far to one side of the “normal” measuring stick and I know that for me, parenting her is very, very hard.

I’m still reading “the book” and honestly, I appreciate it. It has helped me realize a lot of things–most importantly that I myself am spirited which makes it especially hard to disengage my daughter when things get heated. It’s true that I appreciate the insight the book gives me but I wish there were more concrete suggestions on WHAT TO DO. I need strategies right now, much more than I need understanding.

Our biggest issue is hitting, more specifically Isa hitting me, very deliberately and VERY hard. This kind of behavior is just unacceptable and yet I cannot find any way to make it stop. “I will not let you hit me/hurt me/hurt yourself.” is just NOT WORKING. Putting her in her crib, with her blankets and binkis and other soothing accoutrements while I sit next to her, coaching her out of her rage is also becoming ineffective (and seems only to provide opportunities for her to deliberately smash her head/face against the bars or headboards. She has literally given herself bruises). Holding her firmly, counting to ten with her, asking her how she’s feeling, none of them work; most of them just make her more mad.

We’ve had moderate success with a little exercise we do, wherein she makes little fists and then shaking them declares, in her growliest voice, MOMMY I’M SO ANGRY! Sometimes it makes her laugh and moves her out of her rage, but now that it’s lost its novelty she won’t do it most of the time.

We’re also having issues with eating. She just won’t eat most things. Even foods she likes are hit or miss. Today she took a bite of turkey burger and then chewed it for TEN MINUTES. We were trying to get her to swallow it so she could take her nap and finally, we just let her spit it into my hand. That is the kind of “persistence” we are working with. If we only offer her certain things she will just refuse to eat it and then either (a) her blood sugar gets low and she becomes a uncontrollable or (b) she wakes up multiple times in the middle of the night screaming for leche (milk).

Another issue–and this is not horribly problematic, just annoying–is her need for constant attention (again this is from me, not anyone else). This mostly manifests itself in the form of the “Mommy/Yes Isa” game we play about nine million times a day. It goes something like this:

Isa: Mommy

Me: Yes

Isa: Mommy

Me: Yes

Isa: Mommy

Me: Yes

Isa: MOMMY

Me: Yes Isa

Isa: MOOOOOOOOOMMY

Me: Yes Isa, I’m listening

Isa: MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY!

Me: Yes Isa, what do you want

Isa: MMMMOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYY!

Me: ISA WHAT?!

{x 1000}

She is also incredibly impatient. When she wants something she wants it NOW. And if she doesn’t get it two seconds before she asked for it she has a total meltdown. Once she is melting down, giving her what she wanted doesn’t even make it better. I really want to teach my daughter patience and it’s something we specifically work on at home, but the fear of her meltdowns is starting to overpower my parenting goals and a lot of the time I just give her what she wants as quickly as I can.

I’m just at a complete loss, and I feel like a complete failure. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t enjoy being around her. Even when she is being happy or cute, I’m sitting there on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop. My jaw, neck and shoulders ache from stress of it. It’s like I’m in flight or fight mood the entire time she’s awake. It’s miserable.

There are many times, every day, that I realize I’d be completely fucked if we had another child. I don’t believe in any higher power that kept me from getting pregnant because he/she/it KNEW I couldn’t handle what was coming, but there are moments when I can’t help but admit it was probably (definitely?) for the best.

How ironic, that in the year I’ve struggle to get pregnant a second time I’ve realized that getting pregnant the first time might have been a huge mistake.

And that makes me really sad. To realize that the thing you want so much, that you’re fighting so hard to make happen, is maybe not even the best thing. Is maybe even not the right thing at all, that is such a huge blow to the soul.

The truth is, with how I feel now, I don’t know if we SHOULD have another child, because honestly, parenting the one I have right now is making me feel miserable. I know it’s sacrilege to say that but it’s true. Right now parenting my daughter is a way more negative experience than it is a positive one. And I can’t imagine having another child will make things better. In fact I imagine it would only compound our problems.

Needless to say that all this has me questioning how to proceed. We are almost done with our testing, on the verge of possible (probable?) treatments, and I have NEVER been more ambivalent about our quest for a second child. How can I possibly pursue this dream when my current dreams is in tatters? Am I ignoring my failure in pursuit of a second chance? Does my daughter deserve a sibling even if I maybe can’t handle parenting two children? Will this get better?

I honestly don’t know.

I feel like that is the last line of all my posts.

{I want to make clear that I love my daughter and I recognize that my inability to cope with this phase of her life in a capable and meaningful way is due to my own shortcomings, not hers. She is a 2.5 year old girl and it is my responsibility to nurture and support her. The fact that I don’t know how to do that now is my own fault, not hers. And I hope some day she can forgive me for it.}

9 responses

  1. Oh my god. I can totally validate pretty much every aspect of how you’re feeling. This is gonna get long.

    My son is a couple weeks younger than Isa. He is one of the most unreasonable and impossible creatures on this planet, and most days it probably falls under the category of Miracle that I don’t strangle him. Seriously. Luckily for him, he sneaks just enough cute and sweet moments in there that I can manage to remember how much I love him. Luckily for me, he doesn’t hold a grudge even for a minute for all the screaming I do at him. Of course, that’s because one of his favorite hobbies is Ignoring Mommy, but whatever. He’s alive and I’m not in jail. It’s win-win, right?

    One of the mantras in our house, one I have to repeat to my husband often, is that they call it the Terrible Twos for a reason. For real. It’s terrible for him, it’s terrible for us. Life, so many hours of each day, is terrible. Another of the mantras in our house is that he will not be like this forever. It doesn’t always feel that way, but it’s a fact all the same, so I just keep reminding us both of it.

    He isn’t into hitting, but the constant meltdowns over Every Single Thing, like which of us turns off the light switch or whether Mommy or Daddy was the one to refill his milk cup, are exhausting. And they are exacerbated by his total reluctance to eat like a human being (unless, of course, we offer to put him on an exclusive diet of candy). His new thing is chewing mouthfuls of food and spitting them out into our hands. He does this for his whole meal, which may only consist of five french fries to begin with. Somehow he manages to get just enough fat and calories in him to keep growing, but god only knows how. Oh, and he’s fighting his naps, which would be fine if he could handle not sleeping or relaxing on his own. But he can’t, not even a little bit. So he screams bloody murder in his crib for an hour before conking out for two or three. It’s so stressful to listen to that sometimes I just sit downstairs and cry, waiting it out.

    And forget about the way my husband and I are struggling to not take out our frustrations over our Terrible Two Year Old on each other.

    To make matters even more difficult–and here is where I apologize for smacking you in the face with my news–I’m pregnant, 28.5 weeks. It’s kind of a surprise, in that we were trying, but without treatments and I was extremely depressed as I was working through the realization that it was never going to happen when it did. I haven’t used birth control since Nate was born, so it was two years of unprotected sex before getting knocked up, in case you were wondering. My husband, I learned recently, never though we had even a chance of conceiving again. I was just so damn thrilled to find that out. But that’s a different issue.

    But let me tell you, I am astonished to discover I am mostly filled with regret and dread and feel like this is the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life. Part of that is directly related to the awfulness of raising my two-year-old. Part of it is because of our lack of a support system. I have no idea what we’ll do with Nate when I go into labor. How am I going to do this with two when I can barely keep it together with one? And I do mean barely. How did I ever think I wanted to go through the Twos again? What is wrong with me? I am a wreck mentally, emotionally and physically.

    And still, all I can do is remind myself that this all temporary. Nate’s little brother will come and I will love him oodles. Nate won’t be the Worst Person In The World forever (though, you know, someday they’ll both be teenagers, but I try not to remember that ever). They’ll be self-sufficient and my body will be my own in a few years. At least, this is what I keep telling myself.

    Even though parenthood is miserable right now, I don’t doubt for a minute that having Nate was the best thing I ever did. He’s so much a part of who I was always waiting to be. But this second kid? As much as I wanted to experience having an infant again and as much I feel like it’s important for Nate to have a sibling–and there are no words to describe how strongly I feel those two things–I feel like there really is not enough of me to do this. I’m not that good and I’m not that strong.

    How’s that for honest?

  2. We are not to this phase yet, so I have little to offer. BUT – I just have to believe that this will get better. It has to, right, because can it really get worse? I would be telling myself there’s nowhere to go but up in this situation…. Even if that’s not true. Ha! That’s how I function.

    Our pediatrician warned us of the terrible two’s the other day and said to try to view them as “the curious two’s” instead. I liked that advice!

  3. I know how much you love your daughter, and this sounds incredibly difficult- I am so sorry she and you are struggling so much. I don’t know if you want advice or not- but here’s my 2 cents. I know food and eating are part of the issue, but have you looked into changing her diet at all? I am a part of a parenting group who are learning together how to change our families’ eating habits- I know a lot of women personally who have had a TON of success changing “bad” behavior by removing artificial dyes and HFCS- the Feingold diet is a plan some follow. Sometimes food intolerances/allergies manifest in behavior instead of physical reactions. And I know it’s easy for me to say this, having a kid on a liquid diet from a can, but it may be worth looking into.

  4. Someone recently suggested to me that it’s called the Terrible Two’s because it (hold me) lasts for 2 years… Oh dear God.

    We’re experiencing some of the same behavior here– It’s like someone flips a switch in Liam & he goes from being the most polite, well mannered, adorable little boy to a little monster: Hitting, throwing himself on the floor, beating his head against things, screaming at the top of his lungs & shouting, “NO!” Luckily, most days, it doesn’t last long… but the episodes happen often. And Jack? Poor Jack gets ignored while I deal with it. Luckily (again), he’s not there yet… he’s still a laid back kid. But a year from now, when Liam’s 3 & Jack’s 2? I can’t even imagine.

    And the food thing? Don’t even get me started… Foods he loved yesterday? He HATES them today. Handfuls of food are thrown on the floor EVERY meal. Or chewed up and spit out. He asks for things, only to waste them. It drives. me. nuts.

    Isa’s behavior does sound normal, but like you said, on the EXTREMELY challenging side of the spectrum. Perhaps consider consulting a Child Behavior Therapist, if you think it might help? Not necessarily to change Isa’s behavior, but instead, to give you some guidance on how to work with her to get her through this stage.

    I’m a firm believer that kids sense anxiety & there’s been a lot of it in my house lately. I’m trying to be better about consistently taking my anxiety meds when I need them, rather than riding it out until I’m at the edge of a cliff. I tend to try to talk myself out of how I’m feeling, rather than “giving up” and admiting I need help. I wish you could do the same, but I know how limited your options are when TTC. It’s so hard.

    I haven’t commented in a while, but I want you to know that I’m still here, still reading, and I’m ready to offer support whenever you need it. *hugs*

  5. Do you read Ask Moxie? Because if not, go there and read what she has to say on “half years”. Because my 3-1/2 yo is kicking my butt right now, too, but at least I’ve now seen enough half years to know that this is the peak, and he’s going to get (somewhat) better in a few months.

    I’m also right there with you when he’s having a shitty day, and I’m having a shitty day, and I start to wonder if my inability to have a second child is directly due to my inability to parent the one I’ve got. But then he does something awesome and I remember why I want another one – because at the end of the day, these phases are not what I’m going to remember 10 years from now.

    Except for the, “Mama?” “yes, baby” “Mama?” “Yes, baby”. That is ingrained in my skull and probably will be forever.

  6. First; this sentence? “She seems forever poised to lose her shit, and so we exist in a parallel place, always poised to contain her shit and then to pick up her lost shit after the explosion.” HI-LARIOUS.

    I had similar issues while working at the group home, the anticipation of the potential meltdown was worse than the actual meltdown most times. Unfortunately the only thing that worked for me in those times were to go out for a cigarette, which I do NOT recommend.

    The second baby worries; I disagree. I don’t think you wouldn’t be able to handle the 2 of them, I actually think it would help because you would be more distracted if that makes sense. I get that you are busy busy and on the go and how could you do more, but, you just would. And I don’t think Isa would be put on the back burner, but the world wouldn’t completely revolve around her anymore, there’d be some distractions in orbit with her. Which can be a good thing. (I do wish it is a lesson my G would be able to learn, alas, she continues to have us all to herself.)

    Isa pre and during the fits. All my training is for older children, but a lot of them were low functioning so maybe it will apply? First there is redirection, helpful at times, exhausting when having to do it constantly. I bring 2 tiny dollar store dolls and 5 cardboard dollar store books with us everywhere we go. I also have a pen and pad of paper, and various snacks. Second, the questions, ask yourself; What do you want? and then, What do you REALLY want? Example: I want G to not be a spoiled brat and eat the healthy nutritious food I fixed for our entire family for dinner. What I REALLY want is for my kid to get the nutrients she requires without 10 (literally) time outs, 5 screaming fits, and the background thought that right is here where my child’s future eating disorder is developing all during one dinner. I am the MASTER at disconnecting and calmly getting through a battle of wills. I promise you, it can not be done with in this case, with my child. We are not coddling her, or letting her win. We are moving on.

    Once the fits have begun. I find the least amount of stimulation possible is helpful. While she is on time out she is ignored so long as she is safe. I speak in very quiet tones, almost a whisper. I keep my sentences as short as possible, and repeat the same one. I don’t look at her eyes until she begins to make sense. There is no reasoning or pleading to be done, just waiting. Sometimes the shh shhh shh noise helps, sometimes not. I don’t time her time outs, she doesn’t have to stay there until the alarm rings, it depends on her behavior, if she’s capable of making amends 2 seconds after she goes, so be it, if she’s still screaming 5 minutes into it, so be it. She has to say “I’m ready.” in a tone we both recognize as such. Otherwise I’ll say, “You’re ready when you’re done whining/screaming/being rude.” I do not however, withhold affection, if she’s freaking out and says she needs a hug, she gets it. But I’m not talking about the issue until she’s calm.

    I don’t know how to help in the thick of the violence. We had to restrain when it got to that, and I don’t know how that applies to a 2 year old. Maybe bear hug? We had a kid ask us to restrain her after she’d been with us for awhile because she could recognize she was losing control and she wanted us to be in charge. We bear hugged her instead, just squeezed her for awhile. That could do the exact opposite and make it worse though depending the kid.

    There’s also foods that can affect your child differently, maybe start a food journal to see if there’s a correlation between behavior issues and what she’s eaten?

    Above all is the things you already know; your mental state affects her mental state, so it starts there. As if there was some magic way you could be calm and serene and still have time to do all that life requires. You are a good mom, how this makes you feel is proof of that. Bad moms are indifferent and dismissive.

    Sending you strength.

  7. My whole family is on the Feingold diet. I have 3 kids, oldest is 7 and we started it because at 2, my son was having these tantrums that weren’t normal, they would last a long time and be violent. Since being on the diet, the change in behavior is drastic. We have grandfathered in my next 2 children and so far have seen much more normal behavior. It’s hard to do and not cheap. We go to 3 grocery stores every week in order to get all the food we need but the behavior rewards are worth it!

  8. As the owner of a 4.5+ year old, I’ll tell you that it does get better. 2.5 was the worst by far. My kid is great under most circumstances now (and everyone tells us so, so it must be true even when I don’t see what she’s up to), until she has a meltdown and then we send her to time-out until she’s “steady.” We are also trying to watch the Mr. Rogers episodes where he sings that “what do you do with the mad that you feel?” song, but so far it’s not a show she’s interested in. I’ll keep trying though! I also think that for my kid, the karate class she took was beneficial, in large part because they talked about how to control your behavior and respect and such (and rewards for working hard to improve something were great too). She started when she was 3.5 though, but it was a difficult time then too (I hear the half year is the worst and they settle down right as they switch years). I also send myself to time out when I’m getting too freaked by the bad behavior and I use the same words I do when I send the kid, so she sees that grown-ups sometimes need to settle themselves down too.

    It sounds like you’re doing your best, so just stick with it. Someday this phase will be over and you can enjoy whatever is next. Until then, your best is all you have.

  9. I’m a first-time mom, so I know nothing, but I think you’re being entirely too hard on yourself.

    I wish I had advice to share with you on how to get through this phase. I’m sure the women that follow your blog will have some great advice that you can try out. You ARE NOT alone!

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