Another part of this is because the two of them just have such totally different personalities.
Emily is an easy-going baby, but we expected that she would have her developmentally appropriate “moments”. Around 14 months, she started to assert some of her toddler independence. She had started walking, and seemed to know where she wanted to go and what she wanted to accomplish. Some of her desires were contrary to what I, as a loving and protective mother, was going to let her do. For example, No, Emily, you can not run straight into the ocean in the middle of March.
And just like that, we switched from Placid-Baby-Mode into Toddler-Mode.
When I needed to guide or deter my little yearling, I was met with growls, scowls, and tears.
So, I started doing this goofy thing. I would scoop her up, hold her to my chest and say, “Fix it with a hug!”
To my surprise, she accepted this with open arms.
We have done it so consistently that now, at almost 19 months, when she gets frustrated or angry she will come to us and nuzzle up against our leg or put her arms up to be embraced. And after a quick hug she gets on with her life.
There have even been times when I pick her up to put an end to her monkey-business and she will start to yell and swat at me with angry little paws, only to then melt into my arms and hug me.
I so wish I had started this when Jack was little. Poor Jack! As a first time mom, I tried so hard to do everything perfectly with him. In my zeal to be the perfect parent, with the perfect child, I was rigid and really struggled with him. Gosh darn that background in behaviorism! Sometimes life is more than antecedent, behavior, consequence. Yes it is.
Oh, if only I could go back and be more accepting!
The biggest difference between Me-as-a-mom-with-Jack and Me-as-a-mom-with-Emily, is my acceptance.
Before Emily was born, I did a lot of reading on the benefits of Baby-Wearing. I learned that in countries where babies are consistently worn in a pack on the mom (think papoose), there is considerably less colic and “witching hour” behavior. So, I went out and spent a small fortune buying a top of the line baby carrier.
I made a conscious choice that I would radically accept that Emily would need and want to be held and nursed 24/7– something I really fought and resisted with Jack.
When Emily was born, into the pack she went like a baby kangaroo. I wore her doing dishes, sweeping the floor, watching TV. I also wore her during shopping expeditions or on walks when she could have been in a stroller.
Maybe this was my very beginning of “fixing” with a hug or sorts.
I have a lot of mommy-guilt that I didn’t do this with Jack. I remember trying to put him down and he would scream his head off. I would think, Why won’t he just sit there and shut up like a NORMAL baby? I’ve got to do the laundry!!
Turns out he was a totally “normal” baby. I was just not in the know on a baby’s need for constant contact with their mother.
I don’t know if it was all the wearing, but we had a lot less fussiness with Em than with our poor Jack who was colicky, had reflux, and was just generally tempermental. As she has grown, she has been delightfully easy to redirect with hugs.
I’ve tried a similar technique with Jack, where I hug or love on him when he is having a bad time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Sometimes he is being so ugly that it is really hard to bring myself to hug him. But when I offer to hold him on my lap, stroke his hair and cuddle him, it does seem to deescalate things more quickly than standing over him and offering consequences for his nasty behavior. It seems that in some way, accepting Emily has allowed me to have an easier time accepting Jack for where he is at and who he is.
When I was a dancer, I had a professor who would tell us, “Don’t muscle it and just breathe!” when we were trying to stick a move or turn. In other words, if you don’t hold on so hard and just let your body go, you will find the right move by using a lot less effort.
With Jack, I was all muscle. And with Em, I have let go.
I think that fixing it with a hug pertains to other areas of life too, where I need to practice a little more breath and a little less muscle.
As a mom, I have done an awful lot of fumbling around. With Jack, I thought if I was super-consistent and quick to discipline that he would turn out great. I think I might have just challenged his strong will, or made him more anxious. Who knows for sure? So, I am pretty proud of “Fix it with a hug.” It works in such a simple, graceful, loving way.
Try it and let me know how it goes!