Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Toddler

This afternoon, I found you at the kitchen counter, intently playing with Play Doh. Playing so intently, in fact, that you had wet your pants. You turned to me before I had a chance to notice the accident and sweetly inquired:

"Mom, are you nice today? Are you?"

It gave me pause. It humbled me. So many times over the past year I have raised my voice to you in anger or frustration or sheer exhaustion. It saddened me that you, so newly potty trained, expected that short temper from me, rather than the patient, loving mother I aspire to be.

Little Man. You have had quite a year. So much growing and changing in the year from two to three. And it hasn't been an easy year....for either one of us.

In the weeks before your second birthday, I became increasingly alarmed at your lack of speech. So much so that I had Jordan School District come out to assess you. Although you could sign easily over 50 words, you rarely voiced your needs. Through the assessment we discovered that you were in the 90th percantile in all categories except for speech and for that you were less that 5th percentile. Weekly speech therapy and intensive parent interaction was strongly recommended.

But the timing wasn't right. I was in the early stages of pregnancy and exhausted. But more importantly, my dad, your grandpa Bill, was in the final weeks of life and I just couldn't muster enough strength or momma energy to put one more thing on my plate, and so I held off.

In the six weeks between Grandpa's funeral and your 2nd birthday, when I worried the grief might never lift, when I found myself more often in tears, than not; a miracle occurred. The words just started flowing from your mouth. Like my tears, once the words began, you couldn't stop them. And boy did you have a lot to say. Your sentences became stories and my loneliness was abated by sweet conversations with you.

You, my boy, made my pregnancy fly by. I reveled in one on one time with you knowing all too soon another babe would occupy my time and attention. The last eight weeks of my pregnancy were very difficult and I was as sick as I have ever been. Kidney stones, kidney infections, pneumonia, strep throat, toxemia. We were confined to the house and mostly on bed rest. So many afternoons you would drag your books and cars and toys to my bed and contentedly play right by my side. At some point each day, you would snuggle your body as close as you could to my ever growing belly and we would nap in the comfort of each other.

But then your brother Blake was born.

It would be an understatement to say his birth was difficult for you. Our little master of the house had been completely knocked off his throne. The tantrums began innocently enough when the doorbell would ring with visitors to see the new baby. Even from the deepest sleep you would wake with a scream when the doorbell rang. You wanted to be the one to answer the door. At.All.Costs. I remember well our kind next door neighbor coming one night to bring us dinner. I made the mistake of answering the door before you, which began the downward spiral of your emotions. Our neighbor went so far as going outside and ringing the bell again just so you could answer the door. But you were too far gone. You were inconsolable and my recent C-section prevented me from lifting you in my arms to hold you and soothe away your sadness. Soon I was crying right along with you.

I felt so inadequate as your mother. It seemed a constant battle trying to find a way to please you. If I was feeding the baby, you wanted your own space on my lap. If I poured you apple juice, you insisted on orange juice. And so it went. Control of opening the door was only the first of many things you wanted to own. From which clothes you wore, to buckling your own car seat, to which shoes went on which foot (and typically you wore them incorrectly). You made it clear that you didn't much care for me or the new little guy garnering all the attention in our home.

Yet, your dad and I were determined to provide consistent discipline and boundaries for you even though your will seemed so much stronger than our own. Many times after issuing several warnings to you, in exasperation we would tell you "if you do that again, you are going to your room". And you know what? You simply turned and went to your room, slamming the door behind you. No one was going to tell you what to do, but you would certainly do it on your own terms.

Just before your third birthday, I took you in for a check up, hoping the pediatrician could give me some advice on handling your fierce independent spirit. While I loved your tenacity, I simply wanted to direct it into more productive avenues than tantrums and control. His advice to me? Give up some of my need for control, and hopefully you would follow suit. Tough to do...especially because I was desperate to potty train you. And you my little man, you were completely determined NOT to potty train, simply because it was something that I wanted.

So I let you wear your shoes on the wrong feet. You often wore your football jersey four days in a row without washing, and you frequently ate ice cream for breakfast. But you seemed a little bit happier. I was certainly learning to pick my battles, but I was still determined to get you into big boy underwear.

Just days before your third birthday, we went to Palm Desert for Thanksgiving. I put you in underwear and let you pee outside to your hearts content. I was happy for dry pants. You were happy with the freedom to run around naked. Your grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins were cheering you on at every turn. It was a win win for both of us. Within just a few weeks you were completely potty trained and I, well I was stunned. I couldn't believe you so willingly and so simply relinquished your control.

And with that accomplishment came a confidence and a happiness in you that had been missing since your brother was born. It was another miracle. My little Miles was back. Almost overnight, the tantrums stopped, the power plays were over. I dare say you began to enjoy my company again. And finally, finally, you adored your baby Blake and delighted in being the big brother.

I look at you now and I can hardly believe you are the same little boy. I've been a mom long enough to know that you will surely go through another difficult stage. But I can honestly say, this has by far been my most difficult year of parenting. There were days here and there where I really didn't like you. But I never stopped loving you. In fact I loved you with a fierceness I have never known. I hated seeing you struggle. I felt so responsible for disrupting your beautiful little life with a new brother. But I learned so very much this year, probably at your expense. I'm a better mother for weathering this storm with you. I'm so grateful for the knowledge and patience I gained this year. But most importantly I am completely confident in knowing that when the going gets tough, love never fails. Remind me of that when you're a teenager, will you?


Tate Family said...

I love this post. What a tribute to motherhood and childhood as well. Reading this makes me miss seeing you and wish that I could spend more time with you than I do. South Jordan has never felt so far from south Draper! Perhaps someday our lives will allow us to bridge the space. I hadn't heard about your new baby. I am so happy for you. My deepest congratulations.

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