This post is going to be a bit long and probably so clueless that it will sound ridiculous. But I just need some help and I don't know what to do. I feel like I'm getting lousy advice and I think you all might be able to help me.
DS is about 13.5 months old. When he was 12 months, I felt great. I survived year one. He and I were really getting a great report and rhythm. I thought that I was really getting into the swing of being a mama. Then it seems like when he hit 13 months or so, he became a totally different child and I feel like I did when he was born- bewildered, out of my element, with no clue what to do.
I think he is just doing normal toddler stuff. So my concern isn't really that he's abnormal, it's more that like, I just don't know what I should be doing to help him at this age.
Here's what's happening...
He has begun to tantrum pretty often. But mostly for me. His daycare teachers talk about his sunny disposition. I asked them how they address it when he tantrums and they stared at my blankly and said- what tantrums? My husband, who picks him up from daycare at noon, says he is an angel in the afternoons. No fussing at all. That is not the child I get on the weekends or in the evenings (or even my mornings before work). I still see the sweetness in my baby boy, and there are moments of fun and laughter, of course. But I would say at this point, there's also a whole lot of crying and resisting, and waves of frustration/anger in him. Again, I know this is normal for his age, but I can't help but wonder why he seems to only do this with me. I don't know what I'm doing or not doing. I've sat and watched DS w/my husband and when he redirects him, it takes only a couple of tries. My technique seems the same (get super excited about this other amazingly cool thing that is incredible!), but it doesn't take.
The things he tantrums about are sometimes things I cannot discern at all. It seems like he just suddenly loses it, but I can't tell why. One second we are sitting together looking at a ball and he is cooing and the next moment he is winding up to a big cry. Again, DH saw him do this with me and he said "Boy I got nothing for you. He doesn't do this when we're at home alone." I know I'm nuts, but sometimes I feel hurt about this, like DS just doesn't enjoy time with me as much as other caregivers.
Other times, the reason is obvious- he has managed to pull the cover off the tv remote and is about to suck on a battery, which I gently remove from his hand, trying to trade it for another toy. I don't say no very often, only when there is an imminent emergency (he is crawling fast toward the oven door and the oven is on and very hot). I try to say positive things like "let's find something safer to play with." I try redirection, everything. But he almost always just throws himself on the ground and wails. We were at a playgroup yesterday, and there was a cabinet in the room. The other babies (all his age) were playing with it and the mamas decided smashed fingers were imminent so we moved our kiddos away and tried to get them onto something new. Other babies, they took 2-3 tries to leave the cabinets alone. DS went back 8 times. Finally I said kindly but firmly "We're done with this. I'm sorry but no more." And he arched his back and screamed and I had to take him out of the room for a bit to calm him down.
When this happens, I understand he is very frustrated with all he wants to explore but cannot. I just don't know how to help him with his emotions at this stage. I can't talk to him about what he's feeling b/c he doesn't have language just yet. I can't really give in- the things I typically take away I do so for safety, and I mean I can't very well be like oh sure you can play with that cheese grater, go for it.
I've been given advice to ignore him when he tantrums and just wait until he is done, but that doesn't feel right for me. I think he needs help to deal with these new and extremely powerful feelings. They might be overly dramatic to me, but I know they're real. I usually just sit next to him quietly, unsure what to do but feeling like I should at least be near him. I've also been told that I'm too permissive and should be saying "no" far more often in a more "authoritative" tone. But you know, I did that just once, a sharp "No, DS." And it was like throwing gas on a fire. It made everything much worse much faster.
He has also been having lots of sleep disturbances lately. He used to sleep through the night and did from like 9/10 months on. But that seems to be over and I am not sure why. He is not sick or hungry. He just hates being alone in his sleep area. I know, I know, we could try co-sleeping again. But he gets very excited that we are all in bed together and gets even more riled up. Plus let me tell you, he is one amazing kicker and even if he slept, we wouldn't. So that will not work for us. Again I'm being told he's testing me and that I shouldn't respond. But he will cry for hours. And in that case, no one is sleeping. So how does that help?
And the final behavior that I don't really know what to do with is eating. He will no longer eat if we are watching. Usually we all sit at the table and eat. Lately this is not working for him. He tries to push the tray of his feeding chair away and wails until we let him go free. He will only sit there and eat if I am doing the dishes or cooking and am not near him or facing him. I don't know why this is. Family dinners have always been fun for us. We put on music and my husband and I catch up on our days and the atmosphere is very positive. I am worried I've done something to make him feel shame about food but I don't know what that would be.
I'm sorry this is long. And you mamas of older toddlers probably think I'm crazy for fretting over this stuff. But this is my first child and I didn't grow up around young children, and I just feel so lost. I know my son needs me to help him with these big new feelings but I don't know how. Techniques? Books? Advice?