Fussy McGrouchy-Pants And The “Hard-To-Get-Older” Day

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Ok, so if you know where my normally placid, easy-going baby is, could you please send her back to me?  Because this angry, exorcist-toddler is not so much fun.

After I got the boy off to school, I thought the girl and I would go to the library and run a couple errands.  My little girl had other plans.  Her plans included crying, fussing, yelling, kicking, screaming, and being generally inconsolable for the past four hours.

Oh, I forgot to mention the flailing.

I tried my usual go-to move with Emily when she is being difficult- fixing it with a hug.  I also have a little stool I call “the Settle Down Stool”.  Believe it or not, she likes to sit on it and hold her dolly while she regulates herself.  Normally either of these two tricks work, but she wasn’t having it today.

So, I tried engaging her in coloring, play doh, baking a cake, snacking, listening to music, and dancing.  All of these things triggered tantrums.  After a while, I curled up on the couch and let her have at it.  I put on Winnie the Pooh which distracted her.  She simmered down a bit.  The stillness was refreshing.  I also let her watch Kipper the Dog and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, simultaneously feeling like a crappy mom for resorting to TV, and breathing a sigh of relief that the crying had stopped.

What gives?  Emily is normally a consolable,  happy-going little soul, so a non-stop tantrum is really outside her behavioral wheel-house.  Given her copious drool and snot, I suspect her agitation has something to do with two-year-old molars breakin’ on through to the other side.

Or it could be a little cold is making her uncomfortable and grumpy.

Or it could just be what our neighbors call “a hard-to-get-older” day.  You know, those days when growing and learning is just exhausting and overwhelming?  That, my friend, is a “hard-to-get-older” day.  My son has them all the time since he was about two and a half, and I’m sure Emily has many more to come.

Adults have “hard-to-get-older” days.  There are days I would like to scream and cry and say bad words and insult people, and break shit all over the house.  Fortunately, I’ve learned a few coping skills along the way.

I stop.

I think.

I breathe.

At some point, Jack and Emily will learn to do those things too.  But there are those other days when you just have to slog through it.

I used to get frustrated with Jack on “hard to get older” days.  As a first-time mom I used to take his anger personally, like I was doing something wrong.  Mercifully, I’ve learned there is nothing personal in toddler-negativity.  It is a totally normal, necessary developmental phase through which kids must travel.

Sometimes it is not about stopping the crying, but containing things until the crying is over.  If I could go back, I think I would actually do less to try to soothe Jack when he was a savage beast.  I wonder if I had let him figure out how to self-soothe a little better back then if he would be better at emotionally regulating himself now?

I’ve learned these days- sucky as they seem- serve a sacred purpose for the child, just as our difficult days have the potential to teach us as adults.  These days also have the potential to strengthen the parent/child dyad, if you manage to keep it together and maintain access to your un-crazy side.

So, I’m riding out the storm with my raging little girl, whether she is teething, sick, or just growing.  I’m trying to stay in the moment and not freak too much over the thought that there are many more of these stormy days to come along with her entrance into toddler-hood.  And I’m not beating myself up for turning on the TV for an assist today.  Some days you gotta’ do whatcha gotta’ do.

But in the mean time, if you happen across my little girl’s pleasant side, could you send it on back to us?  Thanks!

When was your last “hard-to-get-older” day?  Does your child have them?  What do you do to try to support them during these challenging moments?  

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9 responses »

  1. My son has trouble with emotional regulation on his hard-to-get-older days. Usually singing or napping or something will help but some days you do just have to do what you have to do. Thanks for the post. It’s good to have a name for those days now.

    • Hey, you are so welcome! And thank you for taking the time to leave such supportive and kind words. I’m sure your son will learn. . . it takes longer with some kids. My son is 6 and he still struggles, but my daughter is usually a little easier going. . . they are all such individuals!

      • Individuals…isn’t that the truth! I swear my son and daughter try to be as opposite as possible 🙂

  2. My son hasn’t hit this stage yet, but I used to have these days all the time! Growing up is hard to do, no matter if you’re three or forty three. I still have my moments, and quiet time, especially outdoors, usually does me a lot of good.

    • Learning to take care of ourselves is so helpful. I find that flipping through a book of Mister Rogers’ quotes and insights is really soothing on my hard to get older days. We also have about 40 episodes on the DVR of his show, so sometimes I’ll watch one of those with the kids and it is so comforting.

  3. I love the idea of a “hard to get older” day…it explains so much! My twins both have those days every so often, and those are the days my patience as a mom is tested and tried. I’ve heard the expression, “When your kids act the worst, they need you the most,” and it’s so true!

  4. It’s almost always better the next day, isn’t it? We always had “feel better tapes” for our VCR (I’m old!) but sometimes nothing helps until the day is DONE! Kids don’t know how to say what’s bothering them even when they can talk. It’s hard to figure! Thanks for posting!

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