As a fairly new mother of two, I’m quickly learning that my older kid is the harder one to manage. We seem to be going through a “phase” right now. I’m not exactly sure what the phase is and how long it plans to stick around but it entails a lot of whining, the use of the word “no” and full-blown nuclear meltdowns.
Yesterday, Littlman went back to daycare after a week off. Our vacation coincided with his move to the next age group at daycare, so we knew this week would be a little rough. He’s a pretty shy kid and starting in a new classroom with new teachers (even though he knows them all and a bunch of his friends were moving too) is something that would stress him out.
Surprisingly, the morning drop-off went very well. When I picked him up at the end of the day, they told me that he’d had a pretty good day, although he’d refused to nap and cried for me throughout the nap time. Not the worst and actually not as bad as I had expected.
My husband was working night shift so I was on my own with the boys. I’ve been struggling with the fact that I feel like I’m always nagging and fighting with Littleman when D isn’t around, so I promised myself I would try to be more patient with him. I don’t want all of our time to be spent with him misbehaving and me yelling.
Our evening got off to a good start. We played outside for a bit and then brought Bo inside. We had some watermelon for a snack while I prepared dinner. Littleman ate his dinner while I fed Bo. He asked if it was bath night (we typically give him a bath every other night). I said no, but that he could have one if he wanted. He wanted to have a bath with Bo (they had a bath together at the farm for the first time and Littleman was so excited!) I explained that Bo would be waiting until tomorrow for his bath. I told Littleman he could have one on his own tonight, or wait until tomorrow to have one with Bo. He decided to wait.
At this point, Bo seemed to be getting tired so I decided to take him up to bed. I still don’t have a great routine established for when I’m alone with the two boys at night. Bo’s needs and timing are still changing a lot and D’s shifts rotate so I just kind of wing it when I’m alone. On this particular night, it was clear that Bo would need to go to bed first.
Littleman stayed downstairs and played quietly by himself (what?) while I nursed Bo and put him down in his crib. I was pretty pleased with myself when Bo was asleep by 7:45. I went downstairs to play with Littleman for a bit and then it was time to clean up his toys. He helped me without any complaining (again, what?) and we headed upstairs to get ready for bed.
This is when shit hit the fan. When I asked him to take off his clothes and put on his pajamas, he started to freak out. He wanted a bath. By this point it was too late and I knew it was an attempt at stalling bedtime. I said no. He went into full-blown meltdown mode and started crying, kicking and screaming. This is new for him. I tried talking to him but he was going nuts. I walked away for a moment and tried again. Then, the screaming woke up Bo. Ugh. I picked up the baby and tried talking to Littleman again but to no avail. He was a mess. I decided to let him have some time to settle down while I tried to get Bo back to sleep. Partway through nursing Bo, I heard Littleman start kicking (or hitting?) the wall. I jumped up and yelled for him to stop, totally startling and scaring Bo. The poor little guy started crying. I felt so awful. It was the first time I’d ever seen his tears (he doesn’t cry much at all and never enough for actual tears).
By this point, I was so frustrated and trying so hard to stay calm so that Bo would settle again. I knew that giving Littleman a bath would stop his fit, but I also didn’t want to give in. I needed him to know that freaking out was not a way to get what he wants.
Finally, finally, we did FaceTime with D at work, who was able to calm him down enough to talk it out. D is usually the stricter parent so I think Littleman was a bit nervous when I first got his dad on the phone. But, it seemed to help.
After that, I managed to get Bo back to sleep and then Littleman into his jammies with his teeth brushed. The kid was exhausted so after one story and some snuggles he was ready for sleep and didn’t argue when I left his room. By the time the whole ordeal was over it had been an hour and I was pretty much ready for bed myself.
I’m glad I didn’t give in and give Littleman what he wanted. It’s important to me that he learns that crying won’t get him what he wants. But, holy shit, that was hard. Today, I find myself wondering how I’m supposed to handle these situations. Did I do the right thing? What do I do when he wakes up/scares the baby? How do I juggle the baby’s needs while trying to discipline my older kid?
I’m still hoping this behaviour is a result of our week-long vacation and lack of schedule/consistency, and that it’s not going to become the new norm. I hope that, once Littleman settles into his new class at daycare, he’ll feel more comfortable and confident and won’t try testing me so much.
I know this is just one of many parenting challenges that we’ll face as the boys grow up. I just hope we make the right decisions as we navigate our way through.