Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Threenage Diaries: Pushed to The Limit

It was the night before Mother's Day. After yet another excruciatingly emotionally draining bath-time and bed-time battle, I finally got the boy down to potentially sleep and I flopped on the sofa, physically and emotionally exhausted and I sobbed. I sobbed because for Mother's Day this year, all I really wanted was a day away from my son. And then I sobbed a deeper, more intense sob (the type that generally only comes out when I dare to think about my Dad, who tragically died last Summer with virtually no warning) because all I really, really wanted for Mother's Day this year, was not to feel that way.

It's been a long time since I have blogged. A lot of that is to do with me not having any free time but mostly it is because for most of Dalton's 'Really not That Terrible Two's", things had become, dare I say it, just about manageable and, in the main, thoroughly enjoyable. I had expected the toddler tantrums to be pretty horrific, shut my eyes tight, braced myself for them and then not much happened. Sure, he threw himself on the floor on a daily basis and screamed his head off because his sock wasn't perfectly aligned several times a day but it was always fairly short-lived and generally I could just walk away or ignore the tantrum and it would stop. We had a good time-out routine that was working and generally Dalton would listen to us and calm down quickly. I felt surprisingly and unexpectedly in control of my son and my role as a Mummy and, well, blogging about how awesome my son was and how great a handle I felt I had on things finally would have just made me sound like a smug twat. So I didn't blog, I just held on to the safety bars tightly and went along for the ride.

Don't get me wrong, I still felt (as I fear I now will forever) utterly bloody exhausted every day but the highs were frequent and cloud-touching and the lows were rare and not all that barrel-scraping. I won't lie, I did feel smug. I had struggled so much for the first 6 months of Dalton's life and my new life as a Mummy, I was relieved and delighted when I seemed to be coping with one of the eras billed as a particularly challenging one with relative ease. 

And then he turned three.

When Dalton was two, I had read a number of articles and blog posts about the challenges of "Threenagers". I didn't doubt there would be challenges ahead but the articles were always written from such a comical point of view, I had no clue or indication that what was coming would lead me for a second time to a rather dark place. The type of place that Mummies don't often want to share or acknowledge. The kind of place where you find yourself wondering again if you are the only person in the world going through what you are going through. As this is a place I feel particularly comfortable blogging about, and as I am on a not-so-secret mission to stamp out the taboos and get Mummies talking about the really tough stuff, I'm going to share some stuff with you that neither makes me feel proud or comfortable (being comfortable about how I feel and being comfortable about blogging about it are two quite different things for me) but that I think is extremely important to share. Because if one fellow Mummy who is going through the same thing right now, doesn't have an outlet that allows her to deal with those feelings or perhaps is so ashamed that they are too scared to share - if that one Mummy reads this and takes comfort from the fact that they are not alone, it will be worth it.

Before I tell you about some of the things that I am finding particularly challenging at the moment, here are some facts:

  1. I still, of course, completely and utterly adore my son and wouldn't change a single thing about him. Really
  2. I am extraordinarily grateful for him and continue to cherish him when he is cherishable. When things are crap though, I will continue to feel crap about it (Please see this post if you have any uncontrollable urges to tell me to cherish every moment).
  3. All children are different. What my 3 year old is doing right now is very unlikely to be exactly the same as what your 3 year old is doing or will do. He / she probably isn't or won't, but just in case he / she is and you are currently certifiable, you, my friend, are who I write this for.
  4. I know it will pass. Which is why this is different from the first time I found myself in a dark place. (i.e., there is absolutely no need to worry about me, Mum, I'm fine. Challenges are good, and when they are bad, I write about them).
  5. You don't need to feel sorry for me. I love my life. But I really want to hear about your threenage stories too because there is comfort in solidarity.
So, here are some things, I am finding REALLY hard right now.

Sleep Has Gone All Funky Again

For most of Dalton's two's sleep had settled in to a fairly good routine where unless he was ill or his molars were making their gazillionth attempt at trying to push through, he generally slept well.  The day started between about 6:30am and 7am, he slept for anywhere between an hour and two hours after lunch and was generally in bed by around 8pm. Bedtime was a little later than we would have liked as it squeezed our evening to virtually nothing but it was manageable and, ah, the afternoon nap. How I loved and NEEDED his afternoon nap. My only chance to Get Stuff Done TM and a mandatory sit-down to recover from the extreme physical endurance event that was 'Stopping Dalton from Killing Himself'. I remember many of my real-life and virtual (social-media based) friends posting about their toddlers getting up at 5am regularly and I remember thinking, poor them. I'm so glad Dalton doesn't do that. And then the little fecker started doing exactly the same thing.

Night-time wakes returned. Largely, in part, because he has been such a superhero with potty-training that he wouldn't pee pee in his night-time pull-up so he started waking up at least once a night to ask us to take him to the toilet, which of course, we had to encourage. Around about the same time, because, hell, what's the use in just being thrown one challenge at a time, there's no sport in that, the afternoon nap died. Ah, man. That's right, the afternoon nap disappeared, like, overnight. The days of recharging those batteries and getting anything whatsoever done with your day were gone. With no warning. How I mourn. In addition, whilst the expected behaviour having dropped a 1 - 2 hour nap would be that the cheeky little muffin would perhaps sleep in a bit later to make up for it, he threw us one of his many curve balls and started getting up for the day anywhere between about 5am and 6am. WITH BAGS OF FUCKING ENERGY! Argh.

After 3 months or so of this, I am, once again, utterly zombified. Not quite at newborn sleep deprivation DEFCON 1 status, but not far off. And of course, when you are in this sorry state, all of the other things I am about to tell you I am finding difficult, are almost impossible to deal with - just because I am so bloody tired!

Every, EVERY, Sodding Thing is a Negotiation or Threat

I mean, literally, everything. It is no longer possible to do any single thing (other than stand quietly and observe as Dalton completely destructs the house or makes enormously enthusiastic efforts to kill himself) without a lengthy negotiation or threat. I can do this for a few hours. But I challenge even the most decorated negotiator to endure more than one morning or afternoon of negotiating with my son. I dream of a day when I can just tell him to: put his shoes on; get off the fish tank; put the cat's tail back on the cat's body; eat something that isn't made out of flour; stop punching me in the head; stop fecking using every single member of my prized collection of lip balms as a crayon; and so on and so forth, without having to carefully negotiate my way around which limb of his many, many transformers, I will remove if he doesn't do / stop doing said thing. I had no idea how bloody exhausting doing this all day is.

He Knows How to Push My Buttons and it's His Favourite Hobby

Dalton doesn't know what words like 'Love' or 'Hate' mean. I know that. It's one of the things which makes little people so unbelievably special. They are so very un-fucked by life. But Dalton does know that telling me he doesn't love me or words of similar stature will make me feel incredibly sad (even though I know very well that he doesn't really mean it) and, strangely, seems to enjoy the effect this has. I don't think for a minute he wants me to feel sad. He's not a sadistic little bastard. He obviously just realises that this has an effect and that it is something he is in control of and that fascinates him. It still breaks my heart though.

Why?

I remember seeing a few of my friends' children who were slightly older than Dalton and witnessing the 'Why? Phase' and thinking, sheesh kebab, that looks really, really annoying. I'm so glad my perfect child will never do that. And then, like many of these suddenly new and challenging things, virtually overnight, HE WANTED TO KNOW WHY?! Again, I can do this, for about 15 minutes quite comfortably. At the beginning it was almost an interesting puzzle to see how many different reasons I could come up with as to why I had a nose. But it never stops. I guess that's the tough element of all of these things. It is bloody relentless. And now, after three months or so, my answer to why is very quickly "because it flipping is, Dalton". "But why flipping is it, Mummy?" he says, and I admire his sentence construction skills and feel very disappointed with myself that I gave up so easily, and I try again - just for a couple of rounds. And then it just IS again. And then I have a deep, philosophical discussion with my 3 year old about how it is good to ask questions in life and that it will serve him well but just, not too many (like, only as many as I can deal with before I feel like cutting off my own ears with a blunt spoon). Why doesn't he get it?

The Person I Love More Than I Ever Thought I Could Love Someone Brings Out an Anger in Me I Didn't Even Know I Had

And this is the one I can't try to gloss over with comical quips and stories. This is the one that has made me feel so alone, ashamed, disappointed and almost too scared to share. And the reason I am telling all of you about it so openly is that when I did share, and it has always been in my nature to do so, I was once again surprised at how many people, who looked to me to be completely and utterly in control of their three year olds, had gone through the same thing, lost themselves in a dark place, come out the other side and lived to tell the tale.

I love my son so much it literally hurts (mostly because he slaps or punches me several times a day). There is nothing in the world I want more than to make that cheeky little monkey happy. And yes, with all the button-pushing I refer to above, I have been - on quite a regular basis I'm afraid - pushed so far that I have been completely and utterly bloody losing it. I mean, really losing it. Screaming at him like I didn't even know I could scream. Throwing him very vigorously on a bed because it is all I can do to stop myself from hitting him back a little harder than he hit me. Shouting so loud, I have nearly passed out. Being so out of control of my emotions, I am shaking in fear about what I might do next if I don't step out of the room. But I can't, because he is so very dangerous at the moment, that he genuinely might kill himself if I do. I have never in my life lost control of my emotions the way I have with my adorable bundle.

I met two very close friends a few weeks back when things were at their worst (I almost daren't say it, but I feel like I am possibly over the hump of this now). I probably shouldn't have met them as I was in a terrible state. Mostly, I just felt numb but on the edge of losing it at all times. They were both visibly worried about me. I knew this. I was almost too scared to acknowledge it but they left me no choice (as really great friends don't) and I opened up. This was the first time I knew I wasn't the only person in the world completely losing themselves to a three year old and, my goodness, was it comforting to know that they had struggled with very similar circumstances and emotions and that it has passed.

It's been heart-breaking this particular part of why I find Threenagers tough. Every night, I go to bed feeling disappointed with myself and make a promise to love him more calmly the next day. Most days I fail. And every night, before I go to bed and once Dalton is asleep, I lie my head next to his and I stare at him and shed a tear because I love him so, so bloody much and I want to feel my body next to his calmly and quietly and tell him I love him.

But for that moment, I am just grateful that he isn't punching me in the head.

Me? Difficult?