Just when I think I’ve got this parenting stuff down, Zach goes and mixes it all up again. We’ve been having some struggles over the last few days and he’s quickly wearing me down. I flip back and forth between trying to be the tough parent who doesn’t give in and trying to be the understanding parent that knows he is just searching for comfort.
Saturday night was one of my not-so-wonderful parenting moments. We went out to dinner with my family for my brother-in-law’s birthday. The restaurant was crowded and Zach was more than just a little bit fussy. He settled down long enough to eat some waffle fries that came with our appetizer, but then he got fussy again. He refused to sit in his high chair and was only satisfied to be in my lap. I gave in and let him sit with me until our food came. When the food arrived I figured he would sit back in the high chair while we ate, but I was seriously mistaken. I let him stay on my lap to avoid a tantrum, but it backfired on me. Instead of him calming down, it escalated.
Instead of letting him continue, I chose to remove him from the situation. I picked him up and took him outside where we walked for a few minutes. Then I sat down with my almost 22-month-old son and attempted to have a reasonable conversation with him. I’m not sure why I thought it would work, but I tried to be firm and tell him that we were going to go back in the restaurant and sit down so that we could eat. He was happy and smiling so I figured I would give it a shot.
The minute we walked back into the restaurant he started up again. I tried to get him to cooperate and sit in his high chair so that I could at least eat my meal which only resulted in louder screams and a stiffening little toddler body. I finally gave up, told Hubby to box up my untouched meal, grabbed my stuff and took Zach to the car to wait while the rest of the family ate their dinner.
I was so frustrated with Zach that I strapped him in his car seat, sat down in the driver’s seat, turned some music on, and tried to ignore the pitiful little cries of "Mom, Mom, Mom" coming from his mouth. I was fuming and knew that we both needed some time to calm down a bit before I could turn around.
By the time Hubby and the rest of the family finished their dinner, we had both settled down a bit. Zach was extremely thrilled to see Daddy and Grandma walking to the car. I think he was afraid he would have to spend the rest of the night sitting in the car with his mean mama. We went back over to my sister’s house after that and he was fine, except when I refused to give him any cake. I spent the rest of the night playing with him and trying to make up for being so mean earlier.
The last couple of days have been better except for the fact that he’s been really clingy and he doesn’t want to sleep. Bedtime has become really difficult and he’s been waking up screaming a lot at night. He ends up coming to bed with me so that I can get some sleep and we both wake up tired the next morning. It makes me wonder how I ever dealt with the nightly feedings and diaper changes when he was an infant. Somehow I had more energy then than I do now.
I find myself searching and searching for answers every time a situation like this comes up even though I know there is no likely explanation. I blame it on the molars trying to break through his tender gums. I blame it on his age and his new streak of independence. I blame it on myself for not spending enough time with him. I know that when I make a point to spend quality one-on-one time with him his mood drastically improves. I wonder if he has nightmares or if there is something in his room that is scaring him when he wakes up screaming at night. I wonder if I’ll ever know what makes him break down without a moment’s notice. I wonder what I’m doing wrong and what I can do to make it better. I wonder if this whole parenting gig will ever get any easier.