Sunday, August 25, 2013


What an amazing summer we are having. I guess the "not having to go into work" thing really agrees with both me, and Owen. I need to figure out a way to do this every summer!  Sabbatical is the best.

We've been taking advantage of the AMAZING weather on the East Coast for the last month. We've been outside constantly, to the beach, hiking, to the various attractions. It's been SO much fun.

Through it all, though, I'm dealing with some difficult behavior right now with Owen. He has been going into what I'll call "rages"--like tantrums, I guess, but directed toward me with uncontrollable anger that results in hitting, scratching, and biting. It's really hard to take, especially on certain days when I am not at my best. What sets him off? The most mundane things, of course: chiefly, when I say "no" to something he really wants to have, or thinks that he should have (like ice cream first thing in the morning, yet another video after he's already watched 2, etc). Yesterday, it was leaving the park. It was time to go and lunchtime was already past, and we really needed to get in the car. I gave numerous warnings and tried to gently direct him toward the car. He was not having it. He went into an absolute rage and began scratching me (ow, it really does hurt!). At the point of no return at this point, I had to literally stuff him into the car. This, of course, only made him more angry. He raged the entire 15 minute ride home, to the point where I was worrying about his vocal chords and bruising from the car seat straps. As we were nearing our house he THREW A FULL JUICE BOX box at my head, THEN the cup holder from his car seat!  I cannot tell you how angry that made me. I know, it's exactly the wrong response---to meet uncontrollable anger of a 3 year old with your own barely-controllable anger. But wow did that piss me off. And wow, I yelled.

What a nightmare!  When we got home, I proceeded with the punishment (which he is fully aware of at this point) for hitting, scratching, etc, which is to go to his room and be in his room by himself. He hates it, of course. And he begins wailing at the door, which I need to lock for any of this to have any effect whatsoever. It makes me feel like the evil stepmonster.

After he has recovered and we've hugged (and after I have cried--I cannot help it), I try to talk to him about anger and how angry he was and what he did, something like this "boy, you sure were angry, honey, and Mommy got angry, too. Boy, we were both yelling and that was no fun at all. I love you, sweetie, but hitting and scratching Mommy is just not acceptable. And yelling is no good either. .. etc" This is the usual tone of the "reconciliation" and then he moves on happily whereas I am usually an emotional wreck for the entire rest of the day.

I want to emphasize that I don't see anything particularly alarming in Owen's behavior, at least not yet. I have had the experience of spending time with a wildly tantruming 3-4 year old (my nephew), who would wail and rage for 2-3 hours EVERY DAY, and Owen is not even close. So at this point I am not concerned that there is "something wrong" with Owen, especially given his age, and the ease with which he recovers from these events (and their relative infrequency).

But what happens is that I really beat myself up over these events. I think about how I acted in the moment (the anger in the car after being belted by two things in the head---how could I have acted differently I ask myself?). THE biggest challenge I have faced as a parent has been dealing with my own anger. I have a very hot temper and there have been a few moments in the last 2 years where I have lost my temper and yelled like a banshee. It kills me, emotionally, every time. For days. I hate myself in those moments and think about how much I hated it when my father directed his unfounded and inappropriate anger toward me. I am working on this. I know that the most important thing for me is to talk to Owen about these incidents, and to talk about "when Mommy got angry" as well as when he got angry.

At the same time, as indicated by my short reference to my own upbringing above, this is really bringing out some challenges from my own childhood---the fear that I have somehow "done this" to Owen. WOW, isn't parenting just the best at bringing this stuff up?

I also realize how we all go through this as parents, but on different issues. My best friend had a childhood where she was constantly moving and felt abandoned by her father and sometimes her mother. As a mother, she is really struggling with weaning, with separating or leaving her son for even short period, with even letting him cry for one second. I didn't have ANY issues whatsoever with that stuff. But I understand why she would.

But the anger...eegads, that's my cross. And anger has such a stigma. I've carried the stigma of being a "hot tempered" lady my entire life.  It can be hell on relationships, and I know that it has been the demise of one or two of those, or at least part of the demise. But my closest friends have also made me realize that anger (when controlled of course) has been a source of strength for me, pushing me to set and reach goals and to make things happen in my life.

I am really going on a tangent here, but it's getting to the meat of what this post is about. Owen is fine--happy, smart, creative, imaginative, loving, and sweet. I am also feeling extremely happy, strong, and optimistic right now in my life. And our love for each other is crazy intense and just the best of all worlds. But I see anger as the main challenge of our relationship, like, forever.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Snarky birthday party rant

Beware, a snarky little post to follow. If I offend anyone whose birthday party tendencies run counter to mine, then I do apologize!

We have attended several birthday parties for 1, 2, and 3 years olds in the last few months. Today was the most recent.

At one party, we were there for two hours and no cake, no ceremony, nothing. Finally the mom said just in passing that she wasn't doing a cake---"all that sugar."

[sound of brakes squeeling]. OKaaaaay. Your choice. Can we leave now?

Really, I don't mean to be a jerk but two hours is a long time at a birthday party full of 1, 2, and 3 year olds when your 3 year old son keeps asking when the cake will arrive.

Do I need to stop telling Owen to expect cake at birthday parties now? HAVE WE COME TO THIS oh progressive Northeast??

And what is the deal with taking the gifts swiftly to another room where they are never seen again? This has happened REPEATEDLY at kids' birthday parties lately!! It is now commonplace that presents are opened behind closed doors after the guests leave. Is it somehow unsavory to acknowledge that there will be material things given, to a one year old, at a birthday party? (It's not that I don't understand this objection, but if that is indeed the problem, then don't accept gifts in the first place I say).

If I buy a cute little teddy bear and dress it up in a birthday outfit for a 1 year old I adore (as in today's party), then by-gosh I want to see him open it. And it's not just about me---Owen was SO excited that he picked out the gift and wrapped it, and he was very confused by the whole thing.

I guess I just don't understand the reasoning behind these things. Clearly, I'm a bit of a traditionalist.

Ok, I am done now.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My little "runner"

On our way back from Western NY to New England, Owen and I stopped in NYC for 2 nights to visit one of my dearest friends, her husband, and their 2 year old boy. My friend and her husband had to move to Abu Dhabi and they spend their summers in NY to get away from the heat of the Persian Gulf. She "had to" move there because her husband did not get tenure in his professorial post at X university in my town, and was lucky to get another academic job T an American university with an outpost in Abu Dhabi. The tenure nightmare was a painful process that went on for over two years and unfortunately culminated in my friend moving all the way to the opposite side of the world with her then 2 month old son. It was a sad time. We had so many plans about raising our boys together. She was my closest confidant and best emergency support person in my town. And I haven't found a replacement.

But we had a wonderful time in New York! Wait, let me preface: I was scared. Owen is what I would characterize as a "runner." Ever since he could walk he has put me through hell by taking off RUNNING in public places. Unlike many children who run and look back at their parent and then return, Owen would just go, go, go. As he has gotten older, I've started to run after him less (if I can still see him) to show him that Mommy doesn't just start running when he does. This isn't a game. But it can be really scary, especially when there are dangers. For instance, he will tear full speed around a corner in a store and have no sense for the potential of a careening shopping cart on an adjoining aisle. Or, as in NY he will run down the sidewalk toward the cross street barely heeding my voice of warning as I run after him.

I've had many moments of hyperventilation as you can imagine. Just last spring, he "took off" (ie: I turn my back for a moment and he is gone) while we were are at a very crowded outdoor plant sale. The tables were set just so, just at his height, and on little hills, so that I absolutely could not locate him. After about 3 minutes (3 minutes is a LONG TIME when you cannot locate your 3 year old child), I seriously started to panic--chest pain, shortened breath, the whole 9. Every. single. scenario was going through my head, and I was trying to calm myself so that I could seek out the proper help. After another minute or maybe two, there he was, coming around the end of a table.

This summer we went to a large complex of retired battleships with Owen's cousins. I could NOT believe how UN-kid friendly it was. These huge old ships had almost no railings and many many drops and falls. Well, Owen took off up a very steep ladder/staircase to another "deck" of the ship. I started after him but by the time I was at the top of the stairs he was gone, into the inner cabins of the ship (circuitous does not describe it) and to god knows where. I couldn't see him or hear him, and there was a 20 foot drop onto the deck below. He wouldn't answer my calls. I COMPLETELY panicked. I was yelling his name at the top of my lungs and had lost all control of my senses except to keep looking and calling. Time ticked on. It must've only been a couple of minutes but it felt like hours. I finally found my way to the other side of the deck and there he was with my sister-in-law.

I try to impress upon him the dangers of this behavior (and how it affects me, too), and I DO think it is finally starting to sink in. Suffice to say, there was a lot of prep work for our trip to New York. And I've started to talk to him about consequences. Firstly, of course, the danger to life and limb and the danger of losing Mommy, and secondly, consequences. Like, if you do this, you will be in trouble.

Discipline does not come naturally for me. I am working on it.

It went fine (although I must say, props to you NYC moms. I don't know how you do it day in and day out! All that stroller hauling and door pulling and not-very-helpful-fellow-citizenship!). We even took a subway ride (a big fear of mine for obvious reasons) and with my consistent coaching and reminding he stayed near me. In fact, he did great. He held my hand consistently as we trudged through the world's biggest toy store and stayed within arms' reach. I think the whole thing made an impression on him. Since then, we've been to the grocery store here at home and rather than running out of my sight as per usual he stayed nearby and checked in with me. This change in behavior is a godsend, I cannot tell you. My blood pressure will surely benefit.

A picture of Owen and his friend on the piano at said toy store: