Raising a toddler is starting to feel like that 4th of July contest they used to do at my neighborhood swimming pool – the one where they grease a watermelon and toss it into the deep end, and the first person who can dive down, retrieve said watermelon, and successfully swim up to the surface and put it on the edge of the pool wins a pack of Now & Laters or something.
It’s hard, it’s entertaining, and it’s frustrating.
Toddlers are magical, wild, curious little beings. Beings whose emotions turn on a dime. Beings who have more willpower than is humanly possible, and whose lives seem to be over if you put Cheerios in their snack cup instead of raisins. Ones who insist on wearing snow boots when it is 95 degrees outside, or who will boycott bedtime for SEVEN.STRAIGHT.HOURS.
Last Sunday, my son pretty much decided he was going to take a night off from sleeping. And by taking a night off, I mean standing in his crib and screaming, “MAMA! DADA! ALL DONE NIGHT-NIGHT!” from 7:40 p.m. to 2:50 a.m.
We tried everything from checking temperature, to changing his diaper. We checked on him in elongated intervals, gave him Ibuprofen, even rocked him to a dead sleep (which we NEVER do) and then oh-so-slowly we’d place him back into his crib when BAM HE WAS AWAKE AGAIN AND IMMEDIATELY STARTED SCREAMING.
At about midnight, my husband said, “Ok, we’ve just gotta let him sort this out on his own.” I agreed, though we all know it is MUCH harder for a mama to listen to her screaming toddler than it is for a dada. Within minutes, my hubs was snoring away while I had my eyes locked on the monitor. I mean, how much longer could he REALLY keep this up?!
It had already been over four hours.
All of a sudden he started trying to climb out of the crib. He pulled himself up on top of the crib rail and was balancing with his belly on the bar – head leaning toward the floor, feet hovering over the crib mattress, Superman-style.
“OMIGOD-HE’S-GOING-TO-CLIMB-OUT-OF-THE-CRIB-AND-BREAK-HIS-NECK!” My husband assured me he would not break his neck. I wasn’t convinced, so I kept my eyes glued to the monitor while my child went back-and-forth between jumping up and down in the crib and teetering his little body dangerously over the edge of the rail.
I was a mess. My emotions went from being scared, to exhausted, to emotional, to frustrated. And finally, at 2:50 a.m., I couldn’t take it anymore. I went into his room and climbed into the crib with him. I guess my hubs woke up and realized I was missing, so he ventured into E’s room, and said, “Where ARE you?!”
“I’m over here!” I whispered. “In the crib!”
“Get out, you’re going to break it!”
I was too tired to be insulted. With ninja-like stealth, I attempted to ease my body over the rails when he woke up. My wonderful hubs then decided to make a pallet on his floor and coax him to sleep while lying beside him.
We all finally fell asleep around 3:30 a.m.
My alarm went off at 6:02 a.m. Hello, Monday morning!
I called the pediatrician as SOON as they opened. After all, SOMETHING must be wrong with my kid. Who screams and boycotts bedtime for SEVEN.STRAIGHT.HOURS?!
A long talk with the pediatric nurse and pediatrician, a podcast, and some research later, we had our diagnosis – I am the proud mother of a TODDLER. A toddler who is too smart for his own good and stubborn as all get out. One who tries my patience, who will lean over, smack my leg, look at me and say, “Time out?”
Like the 4th of July watermelon game, I have to keep striving to find the humor in it all. Because really, when he’s lying on the kitchen floor screaming, “NO CHEERIOS!!!!!!!!!” like the world is ending, how do you not giggle?
And have you ever watched grown people try to swim holding vaseline-covered watermelons?
These moments are fleeting. And one day I’ll miss the way he cuts his eyes to the side with a smirk when he’s up to no good, the way he knowingly pushes the limits with a sneaky smile, the way he sometimes prefers to sleep on my chest instead of in his crib.
And while each and every day I thank God for choosing me to be his mama, because I love him more than life itself – I also ask God for the patience, enough deep breaths, and enough bottles of wine to get me through the toddler years.