Exploding, imploding. Past, future. And inbetween.

If you follow TBFKAOP you know that I blogged a few weeks ago about the dramatic and utterly terrifying meltdowns of 3 year olds. If you don’t follow TBFKAOP, why the hell not? Uh, I mean, maybe you should check that post out. Unless you’re contemplating trying to have a baby, in which case you should pretend that post doesn’t exist and sniff a newborn until your ute hurts and takes over your common sense.

So, 3 year old meltdowns have got me down. I am at a loss, y’all. I have always sworn by the parenting book Raising Your Spirited Child for teaching me how to understand Sabine, cope with her ah, peculiarities and more importantly head off freak outs. Raising Your Spirited Child wasn’t helping me with this. Nothing was helping me with this. Not ignoring, not coddling, not bargaining, not prepping, nothing. Nothing helped. And it gets to be exhausting when you’re jumping through hoops to try to diffuse a 35lb puddle of child.

Someone recommended the book The Explosive Child to me. I balked. Explosive children swear and scream at their parents. They hit them. They throw things. My child, though trying, does none of these things. Anger really isn’t her bag, baby. But in talking my friend insisted that it works for children who are prone to meltdown too. To children who have fits of hysterics. And, well, the drama IS my kid’s bag. Baby. The book goes into greater detail about how imploding is an issue much like exploding and so I decided to give it a go.

What I went looking for was guidance for my child. What I found was a greater understanding of … me. And my child and good coping techniques but what I’m really astounded by is what I learned about myself. I guess you could say I was a trying child and teenager. Rigid. Inflexible. Explosive. Yeah, sure. I did a lot of yelling. I did a lot of yelling into adulthood when I had to learn how to navigate problems without screaming in people’s faces. My poor parents. I mean, really. As I read through the book I did some, “Yeah, I can see how that could help Sabine” and a whole lot of “That is me, that is me, that is ME, that IS me, and OMG THAT IS ME!”

So I know at this point everyone is thinking, “That’s great and all, Jenn, but you already said that you learned how to work around the whole explosive thing so what’s the big deal?” And you’d be right – I did learn to work around it. But what I didn’t really realize until I read this book is that it is somewhat NORMAL to have to LEARN to work around it. That some kids don’t just develop these coping mechanisms as well as other kids. That for some kids it’s just like math being hard, except it’s your emotions rather than algebra. I have spent the majority of 30 years of my life thinking I was just a suck kid with an anger problem who finally grew up when, in reality, I was just a slow learner. This book did more for me understanding myself than years of therapists that my parents sent me to. And then I sent me to. And so on and so forth.

Now. This is not to say that I deny culpability for my actions. I don’t. I was a suck kid and I’m lucky that my parents were as involved as they were. But now I somewhat more understand why I was a suck kid, even though I didn’t want to be.

Andplusalso it has further helped me put together the puzzle pieces of what happens when a high needs baby is no longer a high needs baby (and they’re a high needs child! woohooo!) and how that translates beyond wearing them 24/7 and bouncing on exercise balls. I think this is a good thing. For all of us.

I’m already losing the Mom Wars and I haven’t even signed up.

I signed Sabine up for Taekwondo. This is her third sport/activity on the round of “what does my kid want to do?” I’m big into participating in something. I don’t really care what it is – a physical sport, a musical instrument, a creative extracurricular such as painting, whatever. But I think kids need to be a part of something to learn practice, pride, and to have an outlet. My parenting philosophy aside – the kid started class today and, one class in, she’s enjoying it far more than she did a whole season of gymnastics or swimming.

The first session was a comp. She got to participate to see if she liked it, I got to observe to see if I liked it, then we got a one on one meeting with the Gyosa (I hope I spelled that right) to discuss the program, our expectations, and his. It was different than what we’d participated in the past because in the past the instructor’s expectations were pretty much “You’ll participate” and mine were, “You’ll teach my kid to not drown/do some forward rolls and stuff”. I liked this program though and the goals of teaching self-discipline, self-respect, pride, and helping others. They even have this neat oath they have to memorize about having knowledge in their minds, peace in their hearts, strength in their bodies, etc. It was good.

But what threw me was that the Gyosa asked if we had any long term competitive goals. And I sorta went … “Uh, what?” I mean, I realize that sports are competitive. Hell, I figure skated competitively for nine years. I’ve been to Nationals. I’ve “vacationed” by traveling around the country for competitions. But, for some reason, it never entered my mind that my kids would compete in well, anything. And then it hit me – I really don’t give a shit if they’re the best. In anything. Ever.

I wrestled with this for the remainder of the day. Does this make me a bad mom? To not want my kids to be the “best” or “smartest” at something? I want them to be the best THEY can be. Sure. But if they never win a competition, or are never ranked tops in something, I won’t be upset. Of course, if they WANT to compete, if they WANT to win, I’ll encourage them and support them in any way I can. But it’s not in me as a parent to care whether or not they do from the get go. Which is odd because, legend has it, before my first skating competition (at the age of 7) I looked at the trophy display and said, “I’m bringing one of THOSE home.”

I’m competitive. I will slit your throat in a tight game of Monopoly. But for my kids? I want them to be happy. I want them to have fun. I want them to be proud of their accomplishments in whatever they chose to participate in. But to excel? I am rather ambivalent.

Phases of Childhood: Newborn, Infant, Toddler, Emo.

I’ve read a lot of blog posts recently about 3 year olds. Perhaps they’ve been there all along and I’m just noticing them because I’m now living with a 3 year old. But it seems like there’s this new realization that 3 is, in fact, much worse than 2. You know that whole “Terrible 2s” thing? Well, it’s a lie. No, maybe not a lie, because in some ways 2 is terrible. But 3 is much worse. And no one ever tells you about it so it’s even THAT much worse because it’s all, “Hey, you thought things were going to look up? SURPRISE! You’re just getting started.”

WHY do people not tell you this? Maybe because those bitches are hateful. I don’t know. But I’m telling you: It is worse. And you will look back longingly for year 2, when those tantrums still bordered on cute, because 3 year old attitude is anything but.

Anyway. Those blogs covered the 3 year old attitude pretty well. But what was still utterly shocking to me was the crying. Not the tantrum freak out crying. But the total sadness meltdown crying. Maybe this is a girl 3 year old thing but the hysterical sobbing fits are just, well, frightening. Remember the pregnancy hormones? The crying over soup commercials? The inability to watch the news because it was just “too tragic!”? Well, 3 is like those hormones were transferred into a baby, festered and multiplied for 3 years, and then came exploding out into a sea of salty tears. And usually also snot.

Let me give you an example. Maybe your 3 year old is having a bad day. Maybe she has cried over the cheese hashbrowns (which she requested for breakfast) having cheese on them. And maybe she has cried about having to nap, because she’s not tired. And then maybe she has cried upon waking up from said nap because she’s “still tired!!!”. Maybe your husband has also developed holes in every freaking pair of underwear he owns and maybe you are out of groceries and maybe you don’t have a Target and maybe you know that one thing that ALWAYS makes your 3 year old happy is those stupid grocery carts shaped like cars so maybe, just maybe, you decide to go against all of your EF notions and “damn the man!” sensibilities and do your grocery shopping at Walmart. Then maybe you get there and Walmart is swamped (like when isn’t it?) and maybe there are none of those car carts left. So maybe your 3 year old falls all puddle like on the dirty ass floor of Walmart sobbing and yells, “IT IS ALLLLLLLLLLL MY FAULT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Then maybe everyone in Walmart assumes you’re obviously verbally abusive to said 3 year old and maybe you’re off to an awesome shopping trip at Hell on Earth.

It is pure insanity, people. You trudge through every day, walking on eggshells, because you have no idea what will send your sweet child into hysterics. It could be the weather. It could be dirt on her shoes. It could be the same thing that made her erupt with smiles just yesterday. Making it to the end of the day with minimal tears is a triumph. Because you know your child is just one step away from dragging a fifth of gin into her room and listening to Dashboard Confessional on repeat.