Friday, August 21, 2009

What to do

Look at that smile. That beautiful little face, those chubby little cheeks, those bright eyes. My darling boy. I love him with all my heart.

But he vexes me. This is normal, you say, and yes, it is, but Bubba is a master vex-er. He has vexing down to an art form.

It's funny, when Bella was a toddler, I never purchased a parenting book. I didn't need one, really, because she was an easygoing baby. And I had the maternal-know-it-all that comes with a first baby (sometimes). The second time around, I should be even more sure of myself, but I am at a loss. I am currently reading four parenting books, all by different authors, all with different ideas. I've learned the secret to reading parenting books is to always have a backup. Because with almost every parenting book I've read (with the exception of 'Raising Your Spirited Child' - I recommend!), I have encountered SOMETHING that made me say, "Oh, no way would I ever do that, that is ridiculous" and then I put the book down in disgust and move on to something else. Then later, when Bubba has done something that has particularly bamboozled me, I decide to overlook whatever part disgusted me so and read further, hoping for an idea or just anything, anything that might help me to help my boy.

My concern is that I am not entirely certain whether he is exhibiting normal toddler behavior, just slightly amplified, or is there is something else afoot. He does exhibit plenty of normal toddler behavior, we have toddler behavior coming out of our ears over here, but some things he takes to an extreme. Examples? Well, let's see...he is a head banger (and I don't mean in a 80's hair band kind of way). And he's not just a headbanger in a mild way, he is a full-on, almost violent and somewhat distressing to myself and other people head banger. We actually had to leave the crying room Sunday because his headbanging was freaking out the other parents. One mother asked me if he was ok, and I just wanted to scream "I DON'T KNOW! AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO!". Not out of anger, but out of frustration. Because I think he's doing it out of frustration and I can't help him.

And temper tantrums? Oh, my sweet boy has raised the temper tantrum to an art form. He does not deal with with transitions, my Bubba. I have been trying to get him outside in the mornings, for some fresh air and running around. According to my myriad of parenting books, you can ease transitions with warnings about how much longer you have to be involved in a particular activity, which is a great idea if an 18-month old had any concept of time. "Five more minutes and we have to go inside" or "We will have to go inside soon" means nothing to him - but I still say it, possibly just to make myself feel better. So two mornings in a row, once we went back inside the house, there was a temper tantrum of epic proportions. The first one lasted for an hour. An hour of screaming and throwing himself around the living room, flopping from place to place, hitting his head on the furniture. I feel so helpless. He can't be soothed when these big tantrums happen - he doesn't want to be held (although I still try, sometimes), he can't be distracted. The second morning he went for about twenty minutes, and then I just scooped him up and took him to my mother-in-law's house. Once we got to maw-maw's house he was better (because maw-maw makes everything better). We haven't tried going outside since. And if I leave the room to shower, he will lay outside the bedroom door and scream the entire time. THE ENTIRE TIME. And it's not like he's by himself - this is with my husband there in the same room and he is. This is why I try to shower at night, to avoid such scenes.

He doesn't like going to stores or restaurants, either. Restaurants are better than stores, possibly because there is food involved. But stores? Forget it. He does pretty well for about ten or fifteen minutes, and then he is done. And it is full on tantrum mode again, and he is inconsolable. He doesn't want to sit in the buggy, doesn't want to be held, doesn't want to walk. He just flings himself around, yelling and coughing and sputtering. When it first started happening I thought maybe it was because he wasn't getting out enough, so I tried taking him out more. FAIL. Then I thought maybe he would do better in the mornings. FAIL. So I thought maybe evenings would be better. MISERABLE FAIL. Afternoons? STILL FAIL. Regardless of the time of day or how well rested he is, he melts down every time (EVERY TIME!) we go to a store. Bookstore, toy store, Wal-Mart, it doesn't matter - he freaks out. But as soon as we are outside? He is fine. He stops crying immediately, he'll happily let you carry him or ride in the shopping cart, and the only remnants of his meltdown from mere minutes before is his tear stained face and snotty nose. I joined a 'parents of spirited children' e-group, and I posted something about this to the group, and the consensus seemed to be that this is a phase that he will outgrow. I sure hope so, but it's been literally months now and it only seems to be getting worse.

He has some other peculiar habits - he has a very sensitive gag reflex at the SIGHT of food, and will gag while he is eating, but he hasn't thrown up and doesn't seem to be bothered by it, he just gags and then continues eating. He chews on everything, almost like a puppy - he actually chewed his crib rail down to bare wood. His toy golf clubs - his favorite things in the world - are all chewed up on the club heads. He eats things that should taste bad - and I don't mean he just tastes things, I mean tastes and then keeps eating - thus far he ate three bites from a bar of ivory soap and about the same amount of my husband's deodorant. And I'm not a bad parent, letting him run around and sample the personal hygiene products or anything, I promise. He's just quick. And he's stealthy. He has some other odd little habits, too, that I can't remember now. I keep a list in my purse, actually, so the next time we visit his doctor I can mention it. Which is all I can do at this point. And I'm pretty sure I'll feel silly, but my maternal instinct tells me I need to bring it up, even if the doctor poo-poos it and says he's just being a toddler.

I'm not entirely certain why I shared all this, except maybe that I needed to get it out of my system. I've been talking to my sister and my Aunt about this, so they are probably sick of it, but maybe I needed to put it in writing. I feel so bad for him, really, because even though he is a happy baby when things are going his way, his lows are so terribly low and upsetting, to him and to the people around him, that I feel like maybe...I don't know what. Like he's not enjoying life like he could, I guess. And then I feel guilty, too, like maybe something I'm doing or something I'm not doing is the key to all this, and once I figure out what that is then things will be better for him. Kids get upset, I get that, it's a part of life and I get that, too. But he gets so upset, and it becomes such a huge scene and ordeal, and I just wish I could help him to cope. Part of that is selfish, yes, because when he gets worked up it's very stressful, especially if we are out somewhere, but that's not the heart of the matter - the heart of it is that I want him to be able to handle things better so he can enjoy more.

As it is, he can handle going to homes without issue. My in-laws, my sister, my aunt, my dad, he will happily spend time in their homes without having a major meltdown. He seems to reserve the really big blowups for home or while we are out somewhere. And he loves to be outside, but the only problem with being outside is that eventually, you have to go back inside, and you've already read about how that works out. He doesn't mind being in the car - he is a fairly decent car rider. I just can't figure it all out. But I want to help him. I just have to figure out how.


Aimee said...

I'm on my way out the door, so I can't comment like I want to right now. I will come back :). Hang in there.

Jennifer K said...

Uggh, I hate to say it, but in some respects Kids will be Kids, however I wouldn't rule out the possiblity that there might be something amiss. My daughter has Aspbergers Syndrome, an autismal spectrum disorder. She is VERY resistant to change and other things. I wouldn't say that this is the case with Bubba, but I would recommend doing what you're doing and watching him closely and conferring with the pediatrician about anything at all that you think is concerning. If it gets bad enough, have him tested. It's much easier to deal with kids with any form of Autism as early as possible as in some cases it can be treated by modifying the way we interact with them.