I recently shared on Facebook that the oldest tiny human has been struggling with having a really crummy attitude lately. To the point where it feels like he wants to be angry.
I think all parents know that struggle. And we’ve probably all had multiple conversations with our co-parents, parent friends, etc. about how to help our kids when we are in the struggle.
When our oldest starts going down the path of pissy attitudes and the trail of tantrums and tempers, my husband and I start to evaluate our interactions with each other and with him. We start looking for external factors that are contributing to his decline. Last week while we were discussing how to help him, it was mentioned that it seemed like he was doing things to deliberately get a rise out of us. And I had sort of an ‘aha’ moment and said “he is doing it deliberately, but he probably doesn’t know why.” He’s looking for connection. And by doing things that get a rise, we are giving him attention, even if it’s negative attention. I realized even more that this was happening a lot when I was around.
With a new baby at home, most of my time and attention have been spent keeping her alive. Which means Brett is spending most of his time with the toddlers. And the tiny toddler especially likes to try and put himself in situations that are too advanced for him. So the big toddler is missing out on the attention and connection he’s craving.
This week, I started taking evening walks with him after dinner to give him that connection. It’s just the two of us. We walk through our neighborhood and make up stories and pretend we are bumblebees, or race cars, or even spiders. We navigate a section of the sidewalk we’ve deemed ‘Caterpillar Lagoon’ and we race each other. And then we sit on a brick wall and have a “meeting” where we ask each other questions and talk. The talks never last long because 4 year olds don’t have a great attention span, and did you SEE that stick?!?! But, in these short, one-on-one exchanges, I learn so much about what he needs.
One of the first questions I asked him was if he liked having a baby sister at home. He said “yeah. I love her.” and then he got quiet for a second and continued, “but, I’m lonely.” We talked about that and I realized that he missed his mom. I do spend a lot of my time “hiding” with the new baby. Her brothers are loud, and we are working on establishing a routine and schedule for her so sleep times are important. But, so is he and so are his needs.
Without taking the time to reflect and really dig in to what is happening in his head, we would have never figured out that he just wants to spend time with us. One small shift I’ve been able to make is letting the boys play outside after we get home from school. Baby Sister usually falls asleep (is already asleep) when I go to pick them up, so it’s 20-30 minutes I get to spend with them just playing in the yard. It doesn’t always help attitudes, but it does allow them to run off some additional energy before shifting into calm down mode.
We don’t always have the answers, and we definitely don’t always get it right. Case in point, this week, we had a particularly difficult morning for seemingly no reason at all. Everything was a battle. Everything. And I lost my cool and yelled. When I was getting the boys in the car, I apologized and wished them both a really great day. And by all accounts, they had great days. Until we got home and the big one started losing his mind again and just wouldn’t listen to anything. He wanted to drive his jeep and the tiny toddler wanted to ride, but he would not stop pushing the accelerator while his brother was trying to climb in. I bent down to explain (for the 100th time) why he needed to stop doing that and noticed that he had something on his ear. So I took a closer look and realized that his ears are draining, which means he has an ear infection <face palm>.
The other time his attitude takes a nose dive is when he doesn’t feel well. But we all get caught up in the day to day tasks of running a household, and we miss the signs. So, we got his ear drops out and treated it and a couple days later, we are back to less fights and better sleep.
Our family has experienced a lot of change and disruption the last six months or so, and while I certainly haven’t handled all of it well, I forget that everyone at Suddreth Manor is undergoing these changes and not everyone will handle it the same way.
I’m not always proud of how I handle stressful situations, and I am not very patient, but I’m trying. Weeks where I feel like I’m making the right connections and adjustments to help my kids thrive definitely outnumber the moments I didn’t react how I would have really liked, though. And that gives me strength to keep parenting through the rough times and really appreciate the great days.
So, I just wanted to share some real life parenting challenges and let you know that you’re enough. You’re doing a great job. And you’ve got this.