Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Meeting Him Where He Is

Over Thanksgiving, I hit a real rough patch with my little guy.  He fought every nap - hard, with kicks and screaming and crying. When he got angry or feisty, he bit me. It didn't help that, at around four months pregnant with #2, I was also nauseous and exhausted.  Neither of us was doing very well.

We had some moments. I yelled. I slammed doors. He cried.  I even got an"I don't like you" thrown my way. I refrained from saying it back and was restrained enough to say, "I love you, but I don't like the way you're acting."

Still...neither of us was enjoying this experience.

And, seeing as how I am, apparently, the adult in this relationship, I needed to be the one to change.

Yelling wasn't working. A swat on the butt wasn't making the point.  So, I decided to stop it all and go back to what I did before I felt dwindled down to a state of pure exhaustion.

I met him where he was.

I started taking a breath and talking in a quiet voice. I knelt on the ground, looked him in the eyes, and asked him to tell me what he needed.

I immediately started to feel better.  In turn, since I felt less tense, his recovery from meltdowns went more smoothly. Did it go more quickly? Not necessarily, but once a "hot mess" moment passed, he could transition right back into his regular little way of doing things.

It's been almost two months since my return to myself, to breathing, to patience, and I still prefer it over other methods.

This morning, after I had to work late last night and missed bedtime, my son needed me.  Of course, I also needed to eat and get ready for the day.

"I don't want you to eat. I want you to come play wit me."

"Well, that's one thing you can't have right now. You can sit with me while I eat and you can eat, too."

"I don't want to."

This went on for a while. I finished my breakfast. He leaned on me, occasionally sniffling a complaint, but all the while, holding my arm against his chest.  Finally, this:

"I want some of your sandwich."

I shared. He ate. Then we went about our morning.

Yelling would have only made us both angry. I know that there are many, many, many (I could go on...) moments when it seems that yelling is the only answer, and I can't promise I'll never yell at my son again - I'm human, ever so human, after all - but I do know that not yelling simply feels better.

So, here I am, in my 30s, finally realizing what it means to be an adult.
  1. It means remembering that a toddler is a toddler and deserves my love, not my anger.
  2. It means that we don't always get what we want - I don't get everything done that I need to; the toddler doesn't always get yogurt.
  3. It means that it's my job to guide my son through a tantrum, not have one myself.
And, though it isn't easy, I must remember these things Every. Single. Day.

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