Sunday, August 22, 2010

Don't Shake the Baby

When the going gets tough... take three deep breaths and count to ten, or phone a friend, or call in reinforcements, but never take it out on the baby. Simple, right? Wrong. Just wait and you'll see.

Last night was not one of my good nights. Rick told me he would be late getting home from work and I was on my own with the kids. Iain is only eight weeks old so the thought of having to put both kids to bed, and feed, diaper, and entertain them at night is slightly terrifying. Iain is an ideal baby until about seven at night and then he gets demanding and cranky. He just wants to eat a ton so he can sleep a long stint overnight without getting hungry. Alone, that wouldn't be so bad. When you compound that with Ada's need for dinner, her desire to watch multiple movies, her refusal to get ready for bed, and her occasional rebellious nature, you could be in trouble. That was where I was last night.

As bedtime approached, Ada's dinner and movie were over. It was time to settle down with a few books before bed. She resisted all of my attempts to coax her into bed. Iain had been crying or nursing on and off for the past hour and nothing I did seemed to soothe him. Ada kept pushing my buttons until I finally had had enough. I counted to three out loud and threatened her with a time-out. She still refused to willingly go to her room to read books so I had to resort to force. Iain was still crying so I had to set him down and listen to his cries intensify while I pulled Ada off the couch and moved her into her bedroom chair for a time-out. She was screaming. He was screaming. I was ready to scream too.

I calmed him down for a few minutes while she continued to scream. The time-out was effective in that Ada knew mommy meant what she said and it was time for bed. I explained that we have a baby as a family and she needs to do her part in taking care of the baby by listening to mommy and helping out when she is asked. She looked right at me and nodded in understanding. Iain started crying again.

Ada and I were trying to read books but his crying was foiling our attempts. At that point, I had tried everything to calm him. He was fed, had a clean diaper, had been burped, was in clean clothes and nothing was working to calm him. (As it turns out, he was just tired and wanted to be rocked to sleep. Too bad I didn't know that at the time.) At one point, I was patting his back when Ada crawled onto the floor next to me and started patting my back. It was so sweet. She was really trying to help. I then moved Iain to where he was lying on his belly on my lap and Ada and I were both patting his back. It still wasn't working but at least she was trying to help.

A few more minutes of this went by and I gave up and called Rick. Lucky for me, I sat on the couch with Iain propped up on my thighs looking at me while I swayed my knees back and forth. The swaying calmed Iain long enough for me to get a short break from the screaming and to be able to vent to Rick for a minute as I searched for suggestions and moral support. Rick recommended everything I had been trying and said, "Hang in there. I'll be home in about half an hour."

Back in Ada's room, we read two books while I patted and bounced the baby. Iain fell asleep in my arms finally. But then Ada started to rebel again and her refusal to get into bed started to get loud. That's when I decided to changed Iain's diaper and fully put him to bed so I could focus completely on Ada. With him down for the night, getting her to cooperate was much easier.

When Rick got home, I thanked him for calming me down and offering suggestions on how to maintain my sanity. I explained how, sometimes, I just want to shake my child to get him to shut up. I felt awful saying it but it was true. And sometimes I just want to smack Ada when she is being sassy and I have hit my breaking point.

You know how Rick responded?

"Me too!" he said.

Whew! What a relief. Just knowing that we were in this together and it was "normal" to feel this way was a huge relief. We have both had the urge to lose it but in the back of our minds said, "No, you can't shake the baby or smack your toddler. That's where shaken baby syndrome and child abuse come from. Your children deserve better and you need to calm down."

That's when you give yourself a time-out. Take a few deep breaths, call a friend or family member, or take the whole family on a walk around the block to burn off some steam. Parenting is not easy. I have found the most challenging part of having two kids is prioritizing their needs and attending to them when they are both screaming and you hit your limit. It helps to know that you are not alone.

Moral of the story: When parenting gets tough, control how you deal with the situation. The rest is beyond your control so accept it and do your best to remain calm.


Di said...

Returning your ICLW visit. Now I'm wondering whether Jellybean can stay in there forever since I already lack patience and a crying fit may put me over the top. No - I think we all have those moments and you handled it great!

s said...

every parent has those moments of 'what have i gotten myself into here?'
you handled yours in a most sublime manner!
the key is not to feel the guilts for having the thoughts. everyone has thoughts; it's whether you act upon them ...
and don't you worry; when the kids become teens, they are going to want to hit you and shake you too! of course, they will only be thinking it and muttering underneath their breath, but then you and they are even!

Laura said...

here from ICLW... I have to say that is one of my fears when the baby is born, because my husband will be deployed. I am worried that I will have a fussy baby and get soooo overwhelmed. I hope I can realize my feelings like you did and talk it out! I know I would never hurt my baby, but i know stress can get crazy!

Crossed Fingers said...

Not a parent yet but I remember babysitting in college to get extra money - I was watching a 2 year old and 6 month old - the 6 month old just wouldn't stop crying no matter what I tried and the 2 year old wanted attention and to play.

I wanted to lose it right then but put the baby in the crib, shut the door and walked away. I sat down on the couch and rocked myself until I had calmed down. I understand how you can reach that point but the difference is how you react to that urge.

~Katie said...

Ohhhh, I know EACTLY how you feel. They test you and test you and test you and you just want to scream at them...Mommy is OFF DUTY! I have had to just take 5 minutes in my room by myself to make sure everyone in my house stayed alive when my husband travels. Hahahaa. I would NEVER hurt my kids but don't think that i haven't thought about it when I get so frustrated I can't see straight. Then when you go to bed at night you think how hard it was and how you should have and could have done this and that differently. Ohhh the mommy guilt. ;) We have to stick together! Happy ICLW!

Anonymous said...

Crying and screaming has a way of doing that to you! But you're right-the frustration is completely normal but it's all in how you handle it! Sounds like you did a great job!


RebeccaC said...

As a nonmommy I can't really offer too much help, but I remember that when I was a toddler and my parents brought my sister home my favorite book was called "That New Baby!" by Patricia Relf. Its all about how annoying that new baby is and the sister gets in trouble and the mommy explains why they have to take care of the baby together. Its a very good book. It was published in like, 1980 but I think its still available used on ebay or amazon for really cheap. My mom actually found me a copy online a few years ago because she knows how much I love it. Happy to lend it out. : )