Thursday, March 18, 2010

Because You Said It was Okay.

Does anyone else have to physically restrain their toddler while they take a shower? 

Every day, though I have repeatedly tried to let him roam free and occupy himself, I have to strap Charles into a chair in the bathroom while I bathe.  If I’m at the gym and Tony is taking a shower, he does the same. 

You see, Charles cannot play alone quietly.  I could lock all the doors in the house except for the one in his room while I am in the shower, and if he is free, he will wail outside the bathroom door and throw himself bodily into it in an attempt to break it down, instead of playing blocks or taking all the books off of the shelf in his room.

If I leave the bathroom door open and Charles is free, he pokes his head into the shower, tries to climb over the tub, works at forcibly compromising the integrity of the magnetic child-locks on the under-sink cabinet with the bleach in it, plays with the toilet (gross!) and finds other ways to potentially kill himself. 

The kid is a tornado, and I’m beginning to sense that this isn’t normal.  I mean, many of you have toddlers… what do they do while you’re in the shower?


Charles is vexing on so many levels.  Now, don’t get me wrong, he is an adorable child, full of laughter, intelligent and playful.  But he is a tantrum-thrower of epic proportions.  This morning he got mad at me when I changed his diaper, and the resulting scream-fest lasted 20 minutes.  He hurls himself to the floor, shrieks at the top of his lungs, launches himself out of my arms, and resists the torture of a cold, wet washcloth, a sippy of water, or, God forbid, getting dressed (so we can get to work on time).  I did manage to dress him and get him in the car this morning, at which point he promptly fell asleep.  Sigh.

He is still a horrible sleeper.  In fact, I’m taking Charles to the beach this weekend because Tony might just fall over dead if he doesn’t get some sleep.  As you can imagine, Tony works late, but I think it’s the getting up twice in the middle of the night and then finally at 5 am that really does him in. 

So, here’s the trajectory of Charles’ typical night: Dinner at 6pm, followed by a bath, which is either a display of hyperactive mirth, or a total breakdown into tantrum-land, usually set off by a bonk to the head sustained during said hyperactive mirth time.  Then, if he’s happy, a quick run back and forth in his crib totally nude.  To help you visualize, I’ll describe: imagine a chunky boy with a full-of-food belly (you parents know what I’m talking about – it’s adorable on kids, their bellies all distended from the meal, looking like a 40-year-old man with a tragic beer gut) running nude from one end of his crib to the other, slamming himself into the side and dissolving into peals of laughter.  Frankly, it’s adorable.  He jumps, he stomps, and eventually, he is corralled into his super-stuffed overnight diaper (an insert and a prefold!), which makes him look even more ridiculous, as now he has the butt to balance the belly.  Then come the pjs, the tooth-brushing (which has set off the screams lately, due to the advent of several molars), and finally the kiss-goodnight from myself.  Tony reads a story, and then sets him in bed, at which point he screams for five minutes before I go in and give him his water bottle.  He drinks furiously, then flops into bed and goes to sleep.  He wakes again at 9pm, almost on the dot, and ends up crying, on and off, for about 2 hours because I refuse to sit in his room with him while he sleeps.  Which is what he wants.  He wants to see me every time he wakes up.  By 11pm, at which point I have done all the laundry and dishes and other household chores to the inspiring soundtrack of periodic screaming, he drops into a deep sleep.  Now, don’t misunderstand, I go into his room every so often when he screams, give him water, settle him down, and give him Tylenol if his gums look irritated, I’m not mean, for goodness’ sake.  But I have tried sitting with him for two solid hours (and then nothing gets done) and I have tried letting him cry the entire time, and the result is the same.  Between midnight and 5 am, he usually wakes one or two times for a drink of water, and then is up and ready for the world at 5 am, sometimes as late as 5:30, if we’re lucky.

Now, who wouldn’t be exhausted by this?  I’m fairly certain the reason the dog wants out in the middle of the night sometimes is for the peace and quiet of his kennel.


So what I want to know is, what is your secret?  How is it possible that there are these other toddlers who don’t have to be strapped into a chair for their parents to shower, don’t throw crazy temper tantrums several times daily (let’s remember that he is 16 months old, not 2 years old), and sleep peacefully every night?  What are you doing?  What is wrong with my child?  Lest you think Charles is not given enough love or discipline, I can assure you that is not the case.  I got a horrifically judgmental look after revealing the strapped-in-during-shower thing at MOPS the other day – clearly, I am a bad mom.  I was also told that I should help Charles to understand the meaning of “no.”  Seriously?  Charles knows exactly what “no” means.  In fact, he has his hand or cheek slapped so many times for “no, that’s hot, we don’t play with the stove, we don’t touch the doggie, we don’t climb on the table or the curtains or the banister, no, we don’t eat dirt or dog poo, we don’t throw things, we don’t eat pens, etc, etc, etc,” ad infinitum.  He loves to test his boundaries and to wait until my back is turned to do so.  He is mischievous to the nth degree, and it’s almost as if “no” is an invitation to do something and see if it is really as bad as mama says it is.  Consequences (whether a smack or a time-out) be damned.

I keep thinking that I have some sort of anomaly living with me, a child that climbs more than other children, is more interested in the things that will hurt him than in the toys made for kids his age, and more apt to drive me out of my ever-loving mind than any other child in the universe. This one goes to eleven.

Seriously, I will NOT have another child until I can at least shower alone, because our bathroom will not fit two chairs.


Kate said...

Amelia, your blog is great birth control. Best of luck with your future shower indevors.

Amanda,, Travis, and Izabel Rainha Felton said...

I have no advice for you cause If I dont put Izabel in her chair she all over the house into things when I shower. Have you tried or you afriad he climb out or push it around the house a play yard. It suppose to keep the child in one place at time to play. We used for about a year till Izabel started geting to things more. Now we use to block of the movies and things we dont want her touch.
Anyway I am in the same boat as you.

Amanda,, Travis, and Izabel Rainha Felton said...

I forgot to add that Izabel seems to be kinda like charles. I can say no to not touch something and then few mintues latter she back at it doing it again. She can even say no back to you when you say it to her. It takes her an whole hour to just go to bed. You have to keep going in there and p utting her to bed. She thinks now that she has a toddler bed she can play with all her toys when the lights are out. Some nights Ive got all her toys that arent in toy boys outside the door. And they say 3 is worse then 2. I am dreading next year.

Our happy crazy home said...

This is really really long, sorry!

Often the smartest kids, are the most challenging behavior wise. There is a book that really helped me to understand my daughter, who as a toddler had a lot in common with Charles. It's called Raising the spirited child. (or something similar, I don't have it with me.) With my daughter I've just learned I can not compare her to other kids. All it does is upset me. I could never leave her to play for 5 minutes and expect her to still be there when I got done taking the trash out or nursing her little brother. She had to remain in my sight at all times. Even now, no doesn't work on her, and there are few consequences that will make her not do something. Satisfying her curiosity is just too much for her to resist. We also found some food triggers for her (red food coloring, high fructose corn syrup etc.)

I just started leaving her unattended while I shower, (she's 5, and it was a disaster, she stood on a chair and opened the deadbolt on the front door when she heard the doorbell ring.) in the past she came in the shower with me, or when she or her brother were really little they stayed in their crib for shower time. Otherwise, I get up at 430 and shower before my hubby leaves for the train. When they were toddlers I never could have left either of them unattended while I showered, so you're not alone.

I have a question for you though. Why does Charles drink so much water at night time? Is it possible he's using that to get to sleep? If my kids had a bunch of water at bedtime, they'd end up with really full diapers and not sleep well. We mostly cut off drinks at 7PM, unless it's really hot and dry, then they get one small cup of water and that's it till morning. Just an idea. :-)

Just wanted you to know you're not alone. Some kids are just more challenging, more curious, and more... everything. LOL And it's really hard to be their parents. I'm mostly home 24/7 with mine and sometimes I want to run screaming. But it has gotten a lot easier. I've learned that she needs to be challenged or stimulated often and that helps her too.

When I had my second child and he wasn't like the first, I was shocked. I had no idea that kids could be so much easier to deal with.

Good luck and keep venting. It helps! :-)

WSpence said...

I do not have to physically restrain my 19 month old son, but that is because he is addicted to television. I put on his favorite show and usually he will just stand,sit or lay in front of it for the whole 30 minutes, especially if it is a time of day that he is tired.

Sometimes I'll find him playing with his toys nicely though. I had a short time (between 11 and 15 months old) in which I had to take a shower when my husband was home, or when Matthew was sleeping. I think those months were harder because it was when he was first walking so I was afraid he would get hurt, tripping over his own feet or other objects and we have a few tables with sharp corners.

He used to take all of the DVDs out but now he just kicks them farther back in the cabinet when he lays in front of the TV.

Anyways, I thought he was worse than he is, but I hear horror stories and realize he really isn't that bad. Just a boy. I think by this age, he understands 'no' a little better, although there are some things he still doesn't listen to me about when I tell him 'no' (like turning the stove or the oven on now that he can reach). He also used to take all of the q-tips out of the drawer in the bathroom, but Ive learned to keep the door closed. I think as he has gotten older, it gets a little easier. P.S. I love the big toddler belly! :)

Sarah said...

Congratulations, you've got what's knows in some circles as a "strong willed child". Sounds bad, doesn't it? Well, if it makes you feel better, #1 you're not alone, and #2 when he finally picks up the good character you're trying to model for him day in and day out, he'll totally stick with it because he's got such a ridiculously strong will. James Dobson has a book called "The Strong Willed Child". I'm not sure if you're a Dobson fan or if you've heard of it, but I read it and it made me feel better. I was just gearing up because I had a patch that lasted a few years where I was hell on wheels.

Also, strapping him to a chair during shower time is so totally kosher. I mean, he's safe, you're getting some therapy in the form of hot water and good smelly stuff, and he's in the same room with you. Don't let the MOPS women let you feel like a bad mom at all, they aren't Charles' mom.

Know what, this is gonna get long, so I think I'll just email you. Love you!

rogerhol said...

Hi honey,
Remember, you didn't sleep all the way through the night until you were 4 years old. Fortunately you didn't get up as early as Charles, so getting ready in the morning was never an issue. As my mother used to say - fairly frequently as I remember - "this phase too shall pass."
Love, M

Carole said...

Oh, Amelia... I don't know what the secret to success with toddlers is, but if you find out, will you let me know?

I am the parent of not one but TWO "spirited" children, and our pediatrician confirms that bright children are simply very inquisitive and therefore get into things (and trouble) frequently.

Fortunately I am a nighttime bather; I like a bath rather than a shower. Could you switch to showering at night, thereby avoiding the morning ruckus? Or maybe take Charles in the shower with you?

I have no suggestions for you so instead I offer only commiseration. I think rather than changing the kids it's easier to just change ourselves; there are less tantrums if I'm willing to just put up with more messes. Was that helpful?

Sylvie said...

I second the book "Raising your spirited child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.
I often joke that my middle one is the kind of kid that, usually, parents point out saying "he is the reason we did not have more children"...but I guess I am crazy 'cause we went back for another round :-)
The only reason I can somewhat leave him alone in a room is that his big brother would come to tell on him if he starts something too crazy (but if it's fun, he may join in...)
I also second the fact that it seems like Charles drink way to much at night.
Hang in there. It's hard to not sleep all through the night after 16months but he is NOT the only baby like that. And remember that sometimes (often) mothers like to present their children only on their good side and forget to mention all the bad/hard stuff also happening. Because in our society, mothers must be super-mom and any "bad" things from their children can only be a reflection of the kind of mother we are. This is big time BS.
You're doing great. Charles is thrieving..keep on at it.

K Schimmy said...

I think a couple folks have mentioned the "Raising Your Spirited Child" book... I looked into it when I was expecting, since I am married to a man who is a, well, "spirited" adult and I fully expected Ruary to take on his disposition. He proved me wrong and became my mellow father, so we did not need the book. But I am here to tell you that Charles is NOT an anomaly... he sounds so much like Ruary with the volume turned up. Our tantrums don't last long, but oh my, are they frequent. And except for a couple times when I STRAPPED HIM INTO HIS HIGH CHAIR IN THE BATHROOM, I have not showered without either A) Rick being home, not having left for work or B) waking up BEFORE him. He simply does things that are unsafe, and I refuse to put his life in danger because someone would accuse me of over-restraining my child. I would rather have him alive and healthy, thank you.

We have the same problems. It simply sounds like Charles is one of those kids that is so muy inteligente that he can't turn off the brain and mellow out. He's going to change the world. So just try to think of the amazing things he's going to accomplish with that energy when he's older and will know how to channel it.

I wish I had strategies for you, but with Ru's tantrums, we just ride it out for the couple of minutes of body-thrashing, squirming, shoulder-slipping, limp-body boy and wait for him to laugh at the dogs again. And as for "no", you can't do any more than you are already doing... they simply test, test, test those limits because they are programmed to do so. Ruary does this same thing... runs right over to the TV and pokes it, despite JUST being told to leave it alone. Tries to climb the gate after JUST being told that it will be "ouch" if he does... it's maddening.

Amelia said...

So, the water thing, though... It's really dry and I drink a lot of water at night. His double-insert diaper actually keeps him pretty dry as the moisture appears to be sucked through to the second insert. Maybe I have been leaning on this as a comfort, though - it appears to calm him down. I'll try not to offer it right before bed anymore and see if that helps. Since he doesn't use a binky or have a lovey, it seems to be the only thing that will quiet him sometimes. Hmm, I'll have to experiment a bit more.

Thanks for the book suggestions, I'll be checking them out from the library this week!

And extra big thank you's for the reassurance. It's tough being a mom, but I do love it, despite the travails. And I love you guys for the advice and comfort!