Up and Down

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'm convinced that toddlers are bipolar.

I don't mean to make light of the actual mental condition--I know it's very real, and very serious--but SO ARE TODDLER MOOD SWINGS. Dear lord.

Nora was such an easy baby. Seriously, she almost never cried. But then she turned one, and went all crazy. The tantrums were moderate at first, but they have slowly progressed to be the most ridiculously dramatic episodes of all time.

On Friday night, things escalated to an all new level. Nora had gone a few days with bad naps at daycare, and had been spending a lot of time outside playing. On both Thursday and Friday, she fell asleep in the car during the 10-minute drive home, which is saying a lot because she NEVER does that. I actually left her in the car to sleep for an extra 15-20 minutes or so once we were home in the hopes that it would hold her over until bedtime.

No such luck.

She was crabby as all hell, didn't want to eat dinner, and just generally seemed exhausted, so Michael and I decided to take her up to bed early. As we were attempting to change her diaper and put her pajamas on--notice I said WE because it was a job for two--it was like wrestling an alligator. And then it was like a crazy switch was turned on, because she was literally screaming her head off and going insane. She had this insane look in her eyes and I actually kind of laughed in disbelief and said to Michael, "I think we need an exorcist!"

It was nuts.

No matter what we did--pick her up, put her down, give her toys, give her milk, give her books--she just kept screaming. We finally got her to calm down by putting on a movie for a few minutes, and then she went to bed without issue.
We went through a similar episode yesterday morning, but without the proposed exorcism. She didn't seem QUITE as crazy, but she did scream and cry and roll around on the family room floor for a good 15 minutes because Michael dared to get her out of bed in the morning. She didn't want to get her diaper changed, didn't want to get dressed, didn't want to eat breakfast. You get the gist.

We've been assured by the pediatrician that this is all normal, especially considering that Nora does not have more than a few words. I've done some reading on "manipulative" tantrums vs. "frustration" tantrums and I am damn sure that I can tell the difference.
Nora's manipulative tantrums occur when something is taken away, or when we won't let her do something she wants to do--like run into the street, or stay outside longer. She's crying because she doesn't get her way. With those, we can distract her, or ignore her, and she just gets over it.

The frustration tantrums are a whole different story. Sometimes, they are easy to solve because she'll come running up to me, arms outstretched, just wanting me to pick her up. And when I do, she calms down. We talked to our pediatrician about this, and she said that in these cases, we SHOULD pick her up, because when she's coming to us like that, it's her way of asking us for help. But there are times when picking her up doesn't help, and she just gets completely out of control. I've been reading about ways to deal with this, too, like holding them tight to help them regain that control. We've tried to just let her cry it out like a manipulative tantrum, but it just doesn't work--that's when we end up with her rolling around on the floor for 15 minutes, or charging at me like a crazy person (and when I pick her up, she just keeps screaming).
There have been days that are just hard. I've come to realize that this is just a part of her development, it's a stage to get through. As all parents say, "This too shall pass," and I know it will.

But today? Today was a good day. We have good days (or at least parts of days) frequently. That's the funny thing: As challenging as she has been lately, she's also been the most fun that she has ever been. As I've mentioned, we've been outside a lot, and she is just eating it up. She loves to swing and play with chalk on the driveway. She walks around aimlessly, and points at all of the dogs in the neighborhood while saying "TESSA!" (Yes, she thinks all dogs are "Tessas.")
Nora has a sense of humor. She laughs when people burp. She smiles so big that her eyes close.

In short, she is amazing in every sense of the word. Amazingly difficult. Amazingly smart. Amazingly sensitive. Amazingly beautiful, inside and out.
It's a rollercoaster, but it's one that I'm thankful every day to be on.


Vanessa March 22, 2012 at 6:47 AM  

I love how honest you are abuot the ups and downs, thanks for that Heather.

These photos are gorgeous! You look amazing!

Tara Walencik March 22, 2012 at 12:52 PM  

Let me say how nice it is to hear that other parents are going through EXACTLY what Dominic & I are going through with Kira. It truly is like a switch & if you're not used to it-my God it can be terrifying.

We ignore Kira's manipulative tantrums also, they'll end in less than 2minutes TOPS...thankfully. She's getting better about us saying "no." I mean it is never just NO it is a "Kira, no no, please don't do x-y-z"

However we've now hit a new type of tantrum which I don't really know how to describe because HOLY HELL, Mama needs to step back afterwards & breathe. It is mainly when we interrupt her to change her diaper/dress her it is the end of the world. We kick & scream murder. These are the absolute worse tantrums that Kira has & they came right out of left field. Kira too was an easy baby but at about 15mos the tantrums started. They're not too bad like I said- her communication is actually really great so we're slowly getting away from those tantrums & the manipulative ones come & go as with any toddler. However Kira's diaper/clothes changing tantrums sound just like what you're describing with Nora. The first few times it happened, especially at night after a long day, I cried.

We are starting time outs because as the tantrums don't seem to get AS bad she is starting to throw things & hit out of frustration. No fun.

Sorry for such long posts, it truly is a relief to see I am not alone.

Thank you for your posts, Heather. They truly are helpful in so many ways- glad you stayed ;)

Melissa March 22, 2012 at 1:18 PM  

I think Nora and my little Rowan would be two peas in a pod!

Gia March 22, 2012 at 1:32 PM  

Thank you so much for publishing this. Logan is going through exactly the same thing. Can you provide some links to the resources you have been reading?

Emily March 22, 2012 at 1:53 PM  

oh man this makes me nervous :)

PhaseThreeOfLife March 22, 2012 at 2:02 PM  

I could practically copy and paste this into my own blog. Ryan is very similar. Little ball of joy or big mess of tantrum. He also only has a few words (and "bye bye" and "cookie" and "dada" aren't particularly helpful) and I know he gets so frustrated when we can't figure out what he wants. He tends to get over the tantrums fairly quickly unless he's tired, in which case it's a downward spiral until he falls asleep.

Anonymous,  March 22, 2012 at 6:14 PM  

I can say that as a mommy of two, after age one it is all about their personality changing and development, and them testing you. They are testing to see what they can get away with, and how much they can run the show, because if you think about it, for the whole first year they are the center of all attention and made to feel like they can get anything they want. It's hard being little but every year it gets harder, wait till age five and six, when they can actually talk back and disagree, fun fun. You are doing an amazing job, it's all just a part of parenthood, but oh the rewards later in life when they grow up to be great people. Just soak in those beautiful moments along with the challenging ones and live in the moments of them being small because they definitely don't stay that way long:)

Anne March 22, 2012 at 6:44 PM  

I think what you're going through is totally normal. My brother and sister in law had a baby and the same thing is going on now--she was super duper easy and is a "ticking time bomb" now :)

Megan,  March 23, 2012 at 7:40 AM  

We are going through the same thing right now, our son is a month younger than Nora. He was so easy as a baby and is a really happy kid until the crazy switch gets flipped. Hoping for our sanity and yours that this phase passes quickly!

Weigel World March 23, 2012 at 11:01 AM  

Have you been living in my house?! I have a 21-month-old daughter and she is so sweet and fun to be with all day, but holy hell, every morning this week has been a crying, tantrum mess. She has a great vocabulary, but seems to loose it when she is crabby or over-tired. I've done some reading but am also curious what you've found (books/articles). Hang in there, treasure the good times and know you are soo not alone in a tantrum times! Emily p.s. I was a June 2008 lurker since 2007 and am so sad the board is gone. I used your card box tutorial for my own wedding on 06/07/08 :)

Heather March 23, 2012 at 8:11 PM  

Hi all, thanks for the comments and sorry for the delay in answering some of your questions.

First of all, it's comforting to know that so many parents are going through the same thing! I mean, I'm sorry you're going through the same thing--but HOORAY for it being so normal. :)

Secondly, here are some of the links I read:
Ask Dr. Sears
Dr. Sears Taming Toddler Tantrums
Parent News

Hope that helps!

Heather March 23, 2012 at 8:13 PM  

Emily/Weigel World--Nice to "meet" you. Regarding June '08, why did you lurk so long and never post? The site was getting insane and frustrating to deal with so everyone bailed.

Weigel World March 25, 2012 at 9:26 PM  

Thanks for the links!

I really don't have a good reason for not posting. Stupidly I used my last name in my ID when I got engaged in 2007. I used to post on my local board, but when it came to the larger boards I guess I felt shy. Which is funny because I am not shy IRL. The longer I lurked the more shy/embarrassed I got about lurking then 'coming out' so to speak...does that make any sense?!

Funny, because now I really miss the board and missed my chance to chime in on various topics. Who knew you ladies had such an "impact" ha ha! Your blog post about your toddler hit so close to home last week, I decided I needed to finally "come out" and say thanks for your honest blog post (awesome blog as a whole).

If you'd like to view my blog (and to see that I am not an Internet weirdo ;), I can send you an invite. We felt better about making it private after our house burned down (six weeks after our daughter was born). Oh, the drama life deals out sometimes! The newspaper and TV ran stories with our address and jerks were breaking into our house (what was left). Anyway, if it isn't too weird, feel free to email me at eloyborg at yahoo dot com.

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