To me, two of the most overwhelming parts of raising my little man has been feeling like ultimately it's up to me to calm him down, and being completely unable to predict him.
I tend to be an overly empathetic and analytical person when it comes to the feelings of others. This can be a burden and a blessing. With Noah, it has in great ways helped me to put myself in his place and try to see what he is seeing. Imagine what he may have interpreted from a situation and therein perhaps understand his reaction to it.
With Noah having such an exagerated and explosively emotional response to many every-day happenings, even my most empathetic side would often hit the wall of exasperation. Seriously? Really? Did you really have to explode for 2 hours over the fact we got a sucker from store A instead of store B?
Rey is the best daddy any kid could hope for, but I think since we came from such different parenting backgrounds--and because Noah spent the majority of his time with me--he had to wonder if Noah's outbursts had anything to do with the way I was raising him. He often wondered if I was sheltering him to much, if we shouldn't treat him as gently. However, from my experience--any kind of "in-your-face" parenting we tried only would backfire in our faces. So, this would often result in Rey taking Aleni while I took Noah in his "bad" times. Which, some days, were more than his good.
This would exhaust me, because I felt that Noah's emotions were directly plugged into my energy source. If I would have even the slightest frown on my face, he could end up in a pile on the floor. When I scolded him, I found if I pasted a big smile on my face and said with a happy tone, "That is a no-no. You should only write on paper," he would respond with an "I'm sorry momma," and a hug. If I frowned and said the same thing in an angry tone, he'd become a thrashing ball of emotions into the unforeseeable future.
I would at times hide from him, just so I could relax my face, stare off into space and think of nothing.
As you can imagine, this whole tug-and-pull of trying to draw that line between Noah's "unacceptable behavior" and what may have just been the result of a missed nap was often a seeming labor in futility. I would feel that I was pouring everything I had into raising this child into an obedient, respectful child--and receiving a child much worse than our neighbor children who ran free in the streets all day long. I felt like, "What is the point? Where are the fruits of my labor?"
I am also a social creature. I love to get out and see the world. Make plans at the spur of the moment, and hang out with friends. My chances of doing that became fewer and fewer once Noah entered our world.
Without being able to predict how he would respond to things, it made our outings much fewer, and much more limited in "time out". It seemed Noah coped best when the entire outing--from leaving to returning--took no more than 2 hours. It needed to be over no later than 7:30 pm. It also needed to be to a place that wasn't too loud, there weren't too many people over-eager to hold him and that he would be able to take on at his own pace. He didn't like being dirty, sticky or restrained.
Needless to say, not many outings fit that bill--especially not in such a warm, "touchy" culture like Mexico's. I struggled daily--not wanting to appear that I didn't want to be in the lives of our loved ones there, because I was dying to get out. But, also knowing that in many cases it would be worse if I went, because I'd be in the other room trying to calm a thrashing 2 year-old.
Not being able to predict things, not being able to make plans wore down on my soul like nothing other. I love planning parties, get-togethers and the like. I love being able to put a date on a calender and look forward to it. But, it seemed nearly everything I would plan would be cancelled because Noah was having a "bad day", or we'd do it and have an absolutely awful, I'll-never-try-that-again kind of time.
One day, we decided to hop in the car with Rey and accompany him while he drove his mom and brother out to see some relatives. The relatives lived about 2 hours away, out in the country. I convinced myself that we could do it. That 2 hours in the car was nothing. Noah would love seeing all the goats, cows, cats and dogs on daddy's uncle's farm. (Noah at that point took animals over people any time). And, I'd be scoring points with the in-laws.
So, the four of us loaded into the mini-van along with my mom and brother-in-law. Noah had a 30 minute tantrum in his room before our leaving. The trip there wasn't too horrible. We got to the farm and went out to see the different relatives living in the pueblo. The pueblo was a dusty, farm town at the foot of some mountains. Beautiful country, except for a guy who doesn't love dust and dirt.
We went to several different houses, stopping to socialize for 30 minutes or so before moving on to the next. When we got back to the uncle's house, it was time to eat. I could see all the back-and-forth was getting to Noah and Aleni was getting fussy. I wanted to try to put her to sleep, and did feed her and lay her down in their bedroom, pulling pillows around her so she wouldn't roll off the bed.
Noah became enraged that he wasn't allowed to throw balls into the well and could not be calmed down. I ended up having to hand Aleni (who was crying also) off to Rey so I could shut Noah into that bedroom. He would scream, throw himself to the floor, kick the doors and walls until he would grow tired. Then, I would go in and ask him if he was ready to say he was sorry and behave. He would go into another tirade. This lasted perhaps an hour. A line of various relatives would come into the room, trying their own methods of calming Noah--and would narrowly miss being kicked by Noah's flailing feet. Can you imagine how embaressing this was?
He did finally calm down and I signalled to Rey it may be a good time to head back home. He said ok, we just needed to run his mom down to another relative's house. In typical Mexican fashion, this turned into running to about 3 different relatives' houses with 2 30 minutes visits in each. I was getting progressively more tense, awaiting another tantrum, and trying to look as though I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
When we did point the car homeward, we still had Rey's mom and aunt on-board in the backseat, because they wanted to be dropped off at another person's house. And, Noah was in a completely different dimension by now. Out of control and just screaming and thrashing. I was sitting next to him on the front bench, trying to speak sternly to him while keeping him from hurting me or himself.
Then, I heard the ladies talking softly behind him, "Oh, poor thing. She really struggles with hin, doesn't she? Oh, yes she does. You can really see that."
Mmm. That's what every mom wants to hear. Indeed. After we dropped the ladies off, I hurled Noah's car seat into the back bench, strapped his still-screaming body into it, and clambered into the front seat, Aleni in her car seat on the floor between us. I turned up the stereo as loud as I could and sang to drown out the screaming and head-banging in the back seat. Sang to keep from screaming or crying myself.
And that, ladies and gentlemen is why it is hard to plan an outing out with my lad.
At his 2nd birthday party:
One thing he did like from daddy's uncle's farm: Getting a new kitten! (Does his face bear traces of the rough past hours he's had?)
Perhaps he's not a fan of the dusty, sweaty kind of dirty-- but muddy wet? Oh, yes please!
See? Toldja. Animals over people, folks. Animals over people.
And, I just had to put this one in... Since I've only been putting in cute photos--I figured you had me tellin' tall tales.
Part 5 here: http://lizsanchez-insidemyhead.blogspot.com/2011/10/noah-chronicles-5.html