Thursday, May 07, 2009

The week of tantrums

Dear Margaret,

You have, we estimate, 3 molars coming in right now. You had a fever all weekend and Monday. Since Sunday, you have refused any consolation short of being held and rocked as we walk around the room. Sometimes we would sing to you and you would sing to us. That's what it looked like when things were under control.

But yesterday, Margaret I didn't have things under control. I had a lot to do and all I wanted was to put you down for half an hour while I got the grocery list written. You, however, were plagued by the incessant sensation of molars pressing against your gums, so when I put you down you wanted me to know you were uncomfortable and wanted me to hold you, so you cried. You screamed. You threw yourself out of my arms and threw your head back. Your voice was saying, "My life is really hard right now and you're ignoring it!" and your body was saying, "These sensations are too much for me and I don't know what to do with myself." And in my head I was saying, "COME ON! You're fever broke! Why are you so crazy? You've been like this since Saturday! Why isn't it over?"

I wasn't very nice in my head. All day yesterday, everything put you over the edge and you wouldn't sleep. When you finally got to bed last night, you kept waking all night. I kept turning you over to nurse and you kept waking up and crying. "GO TO SLEEP!" rang in my head.

When I woke up this morning I rememberd your teething. I thought about how it must be to be on sensation overload with everything piling up and not being able to do anything about it. It reminded me of myself Tuesday night.

You see, you had been sick all weekend and the dishes were piling up and the laundry needed serious doing and I lost a library book that was overdue, and McKay had to be gone all evening, which was especially unfair because he had been gone all day, too. Everything was piling up in my head and so I threw myself on the bed refusing to move. All-grown-up -like, huh?

And now, I look at you who threw yourself on the floor screaming yesterday. We are not too different, I see. Just as my frustrations piled up, your physical sensations are piling up. And just as I wanted McKay to be nice to me while I worked through that, you want me to be nice to you while your teeth break through.

I didn't see it yesterday when it was all happening. All I saw was a baby who should be feeling better because now her fever has broken and I saw my list of things to do that didn't get done when you were feverish and needed my attention. And I saw you have tantrum after tantrum, And you woke up hour after hour last night and I was frustrated. I tried being there for you: I held you and nursed you, but to be honest, my thoughts weren't very sympathetic. I was there in person, but not in spirit.

But you know what? I get it. Sometimes everything builds up and you just need to get it out. It happens to me, it happens to you. And it's ok to get it all out. If I allow myself tantrums at the age of 23, you're allowed them at 13 months.

How about we start this week over, ok? Sounds good? Great.


  1. Well put. I always find it difficult to understand my little one, and why he acts the way he does. It is hard to put myself in his point of view, but when I do, I can love him better.

  2. Have you ruled out an ear infection? I have found that often the signs are similar, but especially if the baby won't sleep I at least like to check it out.

  3. Love this post, Heather!

  4. This is a great blog post!

  5. Amen! I still have tantrums too. I just try to keep them in my head or go in the other room/take a break if I can't wait till later to let some of it out:)

  6. Sometimes it is hard to admit that we adults still have a little child in us that tantrum and misbehave. My seven year old will stomp his feet an scream no no no, and I find myself telling him to stop acting like a 2 yr old. But in reality there are times I want to do the same thing. Instead I get snappy and onry and say things I don't mean which is probably worse than stomping my feet and yelling no. I guess as a Mom we really do need to put ourselves in our childs place to have empathy. Your blog really showed that. Thanks.

  7. Isn't it funny how we often expect kids to do things we adults don't always do? Like they should be perfect always. Good for you for taking the time to have empathy. That helps the frustration too! :)


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