Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Parenting? I'm working on it.

I found out some good news today, and it reassured me in many ways. It seems a known problem caused by tongue tie is sleep depravation for the baby and their primary caregiver. Those of you that follow me on Facebook know that Dori has struggled with sleep since birth, and especially in the last month and a half, where he has been waking, almost without fail, hourly, night after night. For a while I thought it was comfort nursing. Anthony deployed a month ago, followed by the three of us getting the flu pretty severely, and no sooner was that over then Dori learned to crawl. I exhaustedly put off sleep training, hoping that once things settled things would get better.

And they didn't. Nightly he changed things up, between falling asleep easily at the breast, to wanting to be bounced/held to sleep, to allowing me to pat his back to sleep. I tentatively tried letting him cry, but thankfully gave up on that one quickly. He's a chronic face-scratcher and if left to his own devices would give himself bloody cuts no matter how I manicured his nails. Swaddling averted that, but then he would get hot and super sweaty...overall, there was just no safe way to do it. I strongly suspected he might be nursing for comfort, in which case letting him cry would be completely counter-intuitive. He just wants a snuggle and reassurance.

I am so glad I stuck with my gut on this one, in light of what I've learned. I've concluded that he's probably just hungry. He's eating enough to grow a little and stay healthy, but I think it's still alot of tough work for him, and he doesn't have the mouth muscle to nurse long enough to get a good dose of hind milk. I think he's essentially drinking enough to satisfy himself, and only gaining weight because he gets that one hour cat nap, then has the strength to nurse a little more and continues thus. This is the problem my little brother had as a tongue tied baby, although in his case it was far more severe, he was so tiny after four months and really struggling.

I've been re-evaluating my parenting skills with Ray as well. My patience with him was wearing oh so thin, and he was really exacerbating the problem by being very obstinate, constantly running away from me (usually out into the street/parking lot) when in stores, and in general just being ornery. My techniques with this were not only unsuccessful, they really disturbed me. I noticed when we first got married and got a puppy that I have a bit of a violent streak, and I'm still not sure where it came from, but coupled with my temper...I am so ashamed of the ways I yelled at and spanked that dog (one quick swat, but a smart one), and that I ended up treating my sweet, sweet boy the same way. Every time I would just hate myself and feel so guilty, and swear it would never happen again, and then he would do something and I'd find myself doing it all over again.

So I've really been digging in and examining why I do what I do, and how I can be better. I discovered that what was so enraging to me, was his lack of acknowledgment of my emotions (anger, generally) and that he wasn't equally distressed by the situation. I wanted to yell and scream until he reacted. When he would just go against my wishes without a hint of emotion, without even giving me any visible attitude, it drove me insane. I've begun reading a book called For Your Own Good, and it's a tough read. Tough in that good way, that makes you think, makes you feel. I am not even far enough in to have received any advice on what I should be doing, rather than what I should not (indeed, I'm not even sure the book offers any), but already I am seeing vast changes in myself and my interactions with Ray (and thusly, his interactions with me), and I hope those continue.

For example today, as we got in the car. (This being after I had to cajole and coax and wrestle him a bit to get him dressed.) I put Dori in, and Ray wandered about our yard and near the neighbors yard. He didn't go into the street, which is a plus, though he did pointedly walk along the very edge of the gutter. I called to him that it was time to go, and naturally, he giggled and took off. Before, I would have run after him, yelling, demanding he come back. I would catch him, and roughly sweep him into my arms, scolding him all the way to the car. Depending on if he struggled, I might sit him roughly in his seat and continue talking to him about how he MUST listen to me, as I strapped him in. (God I am so ashamed.)

Today, I just stood by the car. I reminded him that we needed to go, and calmly asked him to come get in the car. He continued running around, and I informed him that I wasn't going to chase him, because it wasn't a game. After a minute or so of him playing by himself while I waited, he shouted "coming!" and ran right to me. Once in the seat he started to struggle, diving to one side to make it impossible for me to buckle him. I found a toy car, and showed it to him. He wanted it immediately, and I held it out of his reach, saying that once he was buckled he could have it. He made a few more futile lunges for it, then settled into his seat and allowed me to buckle him. I gave him the car.

Just in reading bits of this book, and taking the time to understand a little better how my treatment really does affect him, and makes him feel, has done wonders for my patience. Things that before would have me hollering and beyond frustrated, don't phase me. I calmly assess the situation, and act as gently as possible while still getting the same point across, without bullying him and scaring him. I am working on accepting him as he is, strong will and all. I hit a point in Dori's pregnancy when I realized I had not fully allowed myself to love this new baby. That I was afraid I might not like him. And I realized it was silly to worry about, that in a family, you don't LIKE each other all the time. You don't get along hunkey dorey every moment of the day, but you still love each other. I resolved then to love Dori no matter what, and our bond blossomed in that moment. For the first time I really felt connected to that little man.

I am re-finding that connection with Ray. I am going back to the basics, and loving him as is, and spending less time trying to mold him into something he's not. So if you see a little boy with wild blonde hair, running through a store happily shrieking, do not think less of his mama for not howling after him, scolding him up one side and down the other for not listening. I'm just working on working WITH him, on his terms, in ways that are gentle to his vulnerable little self.

(Again, I highly highly recommend this book to everyone with a pulse, current parent of small children, adult children, or having ever been a child themselves.)

(Edit: This is not a judgement on anyones parenting techniques, what works for one will not work for another. It just became clear to me that what I was doing was not working at all, and could be hurting as well, and needed a change.)

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