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I had a parenting win this week.
We’ve all been getting less than optimal sleep lately, thanks to the existence of the Daylight ‘Savings’ time change.
What would otherwise be such a nice first few weeks of mild spring inevitably turns into grumpy town, every year.
Oh, and the kids struggle with the transition, too. 🤣
(Write your senators, people. Moms say no to DST!) 🙂
I had taken my kids on a walk in our double stroller. We played at the park and had a great old time, but suddenly out of the blue my toddler just lost it.
And I do mean lost it. I’m surprised she didn’t lose her voice!
Amidst the shrieks and screams I made the obvious choice that it was time to walk home. I buckled up baby number 1 in the stroller, and went back to grab the screaming tot.
I tried to put her in the stroller, but she just continued with her melt down.
I reminded myself that I wasn’t in fight or flight mode, and that I could remain calm. I tried to tell myself that her exhaustion from getting less sleep last night wasn’t my fault and she wasn’t misbehaving, her brain was just fried.
(I’ve learned that talking to myself in my head is a great way to stay calm. True affirmations can change the way you think!)
Well, turns out she didn’t want to sit in the stroller, she wanted to walk. So we tried to walk, but she decided she actually did want the stroller. So I put her in the front seat of the stroller once again.
More cries,. No, she wanted the baaack seat of the stroller.
I wasn’t about to unbuckle the baby and trade them places, so I tried one of my favorite parenting tips, distraction.
“Look, lets pick a very special rock for you to put in the stroller cup holder, and you can take it home and it can be your treasure!” It worked. She picked up a tiny smooth rock.
We started walking home while and about ½ way there she decided she didn’t want the front seat in the stroller anymore and slid down her chair and onto the ground and I almost ran her over.
My internal motherly eye was doing a serious roll.
I buckled her in and ran that stroller home.
(Hold on for that parenting win I promised, its almost here!)
I didn’t know how to respond to this behavior.
I was quite stressed and my ears needed a break. Luckily our only neighbors are bees, sheep, and a horse. They didn’t seem to be bothered.
(I’m happy to say tantrums are kind of rare around here. But It turns out that this one was a good thing…)
I decided to try something weird and new that I wasn’t sure would work, but that I read about in Laura Markham’s book.
I decided to not deal with it until I was ready.
We got home, and my daughter was still crying. I acknowledged her desire to play outside and told her I would love to try again later or tomorrow.
I took the baby into the bedroom and nursed her for a while. We rested on the bed and listened to her older sister run around the house crying about how she wanted to go outside.
I heard her scream once, loudly, then stay quiet for a minute. I think she shocked herself. I could tell she was having a thinking moment.
I didn’t like letting her “scream it out”, but I didn’t bar her from entering the room with me, I just allowed her do what she felt like she needed to get her energy out until I was ready. She kept asking to “go back outside.”
Probably 10-15 minutes passed. Since we had to walk home, she had been crying for about 20-30 minutes. She had a lot to get out.
It was interesting for me to observe the situation from a kind of ‘outside’ view. I wasn’t in there screaming right along with her. I was removed and able to think rationally.
After a few minutes of rest and time to compose myself, I went to her and scooped her into my arms, She immediately melted and laid on my shoulder.
I took her to the bedroom and we snuggled together. I told her that when she screamed and cried, it was called a ‘tantrum.’ (“can you say tantrum?”) I explained to her that when her body was so tired and she was crying, it meant her brain was very tired and needed a rest.
I told her that even though sometimes she didn’t like to nap, her brain and body needed sleep and rest to feel much better. I also explained that ANY time she wanted, she could go snuggle up with a stuffed animal, a water bottle, a book, a blanket, and sleep or even just lay and rest.
She said “grandma doesn’t have tantrums” then jumped up from the bed and ran out the door.
I followed her and found her down the hall in another room, under a big blanket on the bed with 4 bunnies.
“Good job sweety.” I said. I asked her if she wanted me to stay or leave the room so she could rest. She didn’t answer so I asked again.
“Stay” she whispered. So I did. I sat next to her and rubbed her hair, and sang her a few songs. I made up a prettier version of ‘Old Macdonald” and just sat with her for quite a long time while the baby played nearby.
It was tender and very sweet.
She opened her hand and showed me that this entire time, she was holding tightly to her special rock. She never let it go.
That made my heart happy.
Eventually I could tell she was finally feeling rested. She looked at me in the eye and said:
“I feel happy.”
That was it.
That was the magic of connection.
I wanted to cry. Those wins don’t happen all the time. But they feel really good.
She got up, and the magic was over. I put her special rock in her ‘treasure box’ so we wouldn’t forget this day.
She told me she was happy several more times that day.
What was it that turned this stressful and long situation into a sweet and tender experience?
There are a few things I think helped me turn this tantrum train around without boarding my own 🙂
- Preparing beforehand by reading about what to do in these types of situations
- Removing myself until I was ready to respond rationally
- Explaining to my daughter what was going on, (I think she was confused about why she was feeling and acting in this way. I got the sense that she needed some information or help understanding.)
- Using connection time to meet her needs
- Pondering on it afterwards.
I am very pleased with how that afternoon played out. I think it was needed for both of us, and we both came out on top.
Sometimes practice is the only way to figure it out. We sure got practice, but we sure figured it out!
(Side Note: When reading parenting stories like this, I imagine some people are thinking “this is why I will never be a parent!!” That thought saddens me. I am so glad this experience happened to me this week. There is something incredibly healing and powerful about bonding with another being who is your child. I would never trade motherhood—even with all its challenges. There is nothing more fulfilling or noble than leading a young soul to goodness.)
Later that day I also heard her say: “my voice hurts.”
So I explained to her that screaming could damage her voice and make it sore. I also talked to her about how sadness is a feeling that comes sometimes, and that crying can be good and okay, but that screaming usually is not appropriate.
I think she really understood.
She and I both learned the valuable skills of self observation and self regulation this week.
Thanks daylight savings. I can’t wait to do it again next year.
This has been A Mother’s Tale
One of the most important things I am learning is that the little people I call my kids are just that, little people. Like you and I they spill milk, have fears, and deserve respect and patience. Life is best approached with a little reverence, a little endurance, and especially a little humor.
Any one else have a “Mother’s Tale” to share?
Laura Markham’s book “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids” is one that I read again recently. I appreciate her tips and insights but as always, don’t always agree with her 100% That’s okay, every mother needs to find the information that she feels is best for herself and her family. That being said, I do love a lot about her book and would recommend it to you to glean from it the wisdom she has to share.
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