I'm just going to preface this by saying I am Rather Sensitive about the, ah, Circumstances. And that I'm not looking for advice so much as, um, I don't know. THE ANSWER? Or maybe a care package of booze?
The Circumstances are this: I find myself butting heads with Jackson an average of, and I am trying not to exaggerate here, every ten to fifteen minutes. During waking hours when it's just the three of us at home, that's about what it amounts to. And of those head butting moments, I'd say every third or fourth one escalates into something more than Head Butting. More like "If you don't straighten up and do what I am telling you to do I am going to stick your little bottom on the sidewalk with FREE stamped across your forehead."
Sometimes he's picking fights with Molly (who, to be fair, is not much of a peach herself these days, but Molly responds pretty well to a Pointed Glare while Jack thinks a Pointed Glare means he gets to have another cookie.) Sometimes he's doing all the things he's not supposed to do in the backyard, like throw the pea gravel and stomp across my garden and pick the flowers that shouldn't be picked. Sometimes he's refusing to go potty, refusing to sit the right way at the dinner table, refusing to pick up toys, refusing to go up or down the stairs, refusing to do ANYTHING we want him to do.
And while this is horribly annoying and grating and miserable for everyone and plain old suckalicious, I also consider it Standard Issue Toddler Fare. My dad would say, "Maggie, dear, this is what you get for having children." So yes. It's nothing out of the ordinary. We've struggled with particularly onerous weeks of misbehavior before, usually during a time of transition (HELLO) so we're dealing. Maybe not WELL (the "choices" thing, which I am trying in VAIN, is pointless when the person to whom the choices are positioned consistently opts for a third unlisted choice, and time outs, while nice for the parents, do not appear to be a deterrent for future misbehavior.) BUT WE ARE TRYING.
Anyway, in the MIDST of the rampant parental abuse we are experiencing, the boy has now decided he is no longer going to nap in the afternoons. NOW. I just have to say that Jack will be three in something like three weeks and I've heard of lots of kids starting to skip naps at this age and a huuuuuge reason we want him to have his own room is so he has a quiet place to hang out during nap time. I'm just saying I've THOUGHT ABOUT IT and I'm not SURPRISED and I'm even halfway PREPARED.
But it's not working the way I thought it would, and while I shouldn't be surprised about that, I'm not dealing very well. I put him in his bed with a couple of books and one of those magnetic drawing pads. That keeps him happy for a little while. Basically I'm not expecting him to fall asleep right away, and it's okay with me if he plays quietly in his bed until Molly wakes up. Yes, he's harder to deal with when he doesn't have a nap but (AND THIS IS KEY) if I get a break, I CAN deal with a less than stellar mood in the afternoons. If I don't? MY less than stellar mood ruins EVERYONE'S day.
So sometimes this works and sometimes he falls asleep. Most of the time it backfires. He's okay for a little while, but then he starts whining for more. More books, more water, more toys. Then he wants to get out of bed. Then he wants to play with crayons. Then he has to go potty, except oops!, he already went in his pants. Then he needs a Kleenex. Then he has a piece of fuzz in his bed. Then he wants covers. On and on and on. So it's not so much nap time or quiet time as it is Mommy Fetches Me Stuff Time. In other words: NOT A BREAK.
Now I know what you are saying. You are saying to yourselves, "Well stop going into his room, woman! Can you not see when you are being manipulated? This is your own fault!" And I am in full agreement with you there, I am. REALLY. I will just say that the reasons I answer 90% of his calls for "MAAAAAWWWMEEEE" are thusly:
1. What if he is giving up his nap and it's unreasonable for me to expect him to spend a full two hours sitting in his bed with two books? This is where I go in to give him more books or let him try playing in his room by himself (he just sees how far he can go OUT of his room). Because I'm OKAY if he doesn't sleep, I just need him to NOT NEED ME for a while.
2. What if he DOES have to go potty? We have regressed on the potty situation big time, something I blame on all the transition (and myself, of course). I feel like it's just a reflection of everything else, but I still want to respond to those requests ASAP.
3. What if he really DOES need a Kleenex or wants covers because he wants to go to sleep or that fuzz is really bothering him? Sometimes I've let him cry for a long time and I go in there and his face is covered in disgustingness and I would want a Kleenex too. And sometimes when I do that, THAT's the point where all the whining and fussing and hollering for Mommy ends.
So now you are saying, "Well, why does the hollering for Mommy bother you? Just leave him in there! He's fine!" I've heard several variations on this point recently and I would like to address it with: BECAUSE I CANNOT RELAX. It's not that I'm worried about him, not really, and it's not that I think it's mean or damaging to his little psyche or anything like that. It's that I cannot do anything else except listen to the whining and hope for it to end. I can't write, I can't work out, I can't play on the internet, I can't watch TV, I can't pay the bills, I can't do any of the things I usually do during nap time because the incessant whining makes me so incredibly tense and frustrated. And this is my entire issue: I NEED SOME DOWNTIME TO SURVIVE. So I cave. I admit it. I SUCK!
Which is why I am extremely suspicious that this is all my problem. Like, something as simple as an Adjustment In Attitude could be the answer. It's been the answer before. Or a big fat Lowering Of Standards. I am open to anything. I think the thing I'm doing most wrong is being inconsistent. I tend to operate on a by-the-minute basis during naptime. Do I think I can handle the whining? I try. Do I think he could try playing quietly in his room? I'll try it. Do I think he's being awful and needs to go back in his bed? I'll do that. It's never the same thing, even though in my head I have this Nap Time/Quiet Time PLAN. Apparently I need a Plan B.
I am tired of getting so incredibly angry at my kid for this stupid stuff. I can be firm and discipline him and lay down the law without turning into The Rage Monster, which is usually where I'm at come three o'clock. I'm tired of being manipulated, of allowing myself to be manipulated. I'm tired of not knowing if he's giving up his nap or just adjusting or just being a pill or what. I'm tired of always doing the wrong thing.
I have a few ideas in mind. I will still put him in his bed first, because I think most of the time he still needs to sleep, but I will still give him a book or two. I'm going to try putting him down earlier because someone said this worked in her similar situation. I'm going to have him go potty, get a drink, everything I can think of WHEN I put him down and try my very very hardest not to go in there again. A Quiet Time CIO, if you will, because maybe he knows he can get me to do whatever. (As evidence of his sneakiness I present the multiple Potty False Alarms.) And if the nap skipping becomes a more permanent thing, I think I am going to buy a few inexpensive quiet toys and keep them in a tub that I bring out only for Quiet Time and establish Harsh Punishments for venturing outside of his room. (Or put up the baby gate - that was Phillip's suggestion.)
So yeah. That's what's happening at Casa Cheung. You SO want to hang out with us, don't you.
Yesterday was the worst, the absolute worst, and when the FPC showed up at 5 to babysit the kids so Phillip and I could go see Conan O'Brien downtown I practically wept with gratitude. (And of course they were angels for HER.) I was determined not to go on and on about Jack when I met Phillip for dinner, but you know I did and to his credit he did not try to fix it or tell me I was doing something wrong or basically act like HE is the one who stays at home and knows how to do it all which is something I cannot abide at any time ever. It was nice to get it all out, actually. And I had a lovely gin and tonic and a massive burger at a Downtown Workers' Happy Hour Meeting Spot (a job was sounding good at that point) and then Conan O'Brien was more fun than I expected. I'm not much of a fan (mostly I really hate the Late Night Format and nearly all forms of crude frat boy jokes) but I like HIM and the band was awesome and then Local Celebrity Eddie Freaking Vedder showed up and did a few songs and fourteen-year-old me was pretty impressed, although thirty-year-old me would have preferred Local Celebrity Joel McHale. Also, I highly recommend checking out this dude Reggie Watts, who opened the show, and while every other word out of his mouth was one your mother doesn't want you to say, I laughed SO HARD.