Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NPR is not Always Right.

Cyd threw the biggest tantrum of her life yesterday. Over a cherry-flavored, heart-shaped sucker, which I told her she could not have. She threw herself on the kitchen floor and screamed and kicked for several days. Really, it must have been 10 to 15 minutes. I tried to talk to her and explain we were going to have dinner soon. Bad idea. Children hate to be reminded of broccoli when they want cute, heart-shaped candy.

In the midst of all this drama, I remembered a segment from NPR's "Sound Medicine": a very smart father, who happens to be a molecular biologist, described how babies/toddlers throw tantrums because they are so frustrated and are lacking in verbalization skills. To make matters worse, they become scared by their own emotions, so their tantrum spirals into an even more violent, emotional black hole that they cannot escape on their own. His solution is to first, "communicate safety" by moving close to them. Then explain to the child what they are feeling. "Verbalize their psychological interiors." Define it for them in order to make it less scary and more manageable. In his example, he told his two-year-old son, who was in the midst of a screaming fit, that the word for what he was feeling was "frustrated." According to this NPR guy, the kid looked at him with a sudden appearance of awareness and calmed down, so thankful to have this explained to him. Yeah, right.

I decided to try this with Cyd, as she was screaming her head off, laying on her back, and violently kicking the kitchen cabinets. "Cyd," I said, "you are ANGRY because you cannot have a sucker. You are MAD! And it's OK." There was no acknowledgement, much less a magical moment of revelation in her eyes. Instead, she growled a guttural growl. Like a lion. A very pissed off lion.
NPR guy: You're full of sh#t! It doesn't work. In fact, it made things worse. As soon as I tried to get near her, to ease her fear, she lashed out with escalating anger.

You know what did work? I gave her some space. I let her get it out of her system, checking on her every few minutes so she knew I cared that she was so upset. I told her I would read her "Llama Llama Red Pajamas" when she was ready. And when it was all over, I made a point to tell her it's OK to be mad and I kissed her sweet, tear-soaked cheek.

I suppose all those things I did were, in fact, a way to "communicate safety", just like the NPR guy advised. Damn it, NPR. I guess you are always right.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Precious Moments

Cyd has been waking up in the middle of the night quite often lately and inevitably ends up in our bed.  Another sleepless night for everyone involved. Deep down I cherish these moments, knowing how fleeting they are. As I was cradling her in our bed this past Saturday night, I thought about how much I treasure this time with her. I love being so needed and with Cyd, being my last baby, I want to make this time last as long as possible. I held my hand on her heart to hear its regular beat, reassured that she was safe. There is nothing more beautiful than watching your children sleep. It is one of the few times when  you know, without a doubt, that they are safe. I was thinking these thoughts and feeling grateful last night when I heard a strange rumbling sound. Next thing I knew there was Cyd, sitting up and  vomiting all over the bed. Ah, precious moments. Fleeting. Beautiful. Whatever.

After we cleaned her up as best as was possible at one a.m. and changed the sheets, we went back to bed and I thought, yes, alright, fine, this is even worth all the vomit in the world.

She threw up again that night. And we were out of sheets so we went downstairs. We had no other choice.

I went to get my hair cut by the lovely B., and felt refreshed and renewed.
I came home to find Laura and Cyd sleeping on the couch.

A few minutes after my return, Cyd was vomiting again. This time, it was the yellow, putrid kind.

I won't go on and on about how much vomiting happened that day (five incidents - three of which were the projectile kind), but suffice it say that we have been doing laundry around the clock.

Because of her fever and weakness and beautiful dependence on moi, I spent the entire day holding her and kissing the top of her vomit-smelling head, and felt completely at peace. And when she looked up at me with her feverish eyes and whispered, "Mommy, my tummy hurts", my heart broke in at least two pieces and I felt like I would do anything to make it better so she could be back to her boisterous, precocious, house-destroying, semi-independent self, while another part of me wanted to keep her just as she was, warm and cuddly and needy, so I could hold her in my arms forever.  I could handle the smell. And frankly, there was a lot less clean up in this scenario. If you can imagine that.