I love my kids, of course I do! I strive to be kind, loving, and positive-natured. I realize toddlerhood is so fleeting, but I need some tools to handle my day-to-day as an unschooling SAHM. Let me back up a bit...
I was great at mothering DS, my first child who is now nearly 5, until I got pregnant with his sister when he was 2 1/2. I feel like I suddenly developed all this need for controlling based on my own anxiety over adding to the family, and, well... there are plenty of layers of how and why our relationship got to this point. He just woke from a nap, so I will just throw in a few quick examples about where I get negative, and maybe you'll throw me some examples of ways to improve... :)
Anytime he asks for anything- permission to have or do- my initial reaction is almost never positive. Mostly, this is because he asks so often for unacceptable for the moment food choices or activities that are hard to accommodate (too loud for sleeping DD, to dangerous around DD...). I want to be more of a yes mom, but it feels SO HARD when his little sister is too young for most of his requests. I can't very well just lock her in a room and give him the all, but I also can't find much time in the day to allot just to him. Mother's helpers and such are not really an option, and he only wants to be with DH (or whole family) when DH is around. I want him to be very enriched and free to explore and enjoy his life, but since DD's appearance, there are so many limitations!
Instead of sweetly reminding him to behave safely around DD and be aware of people sharing his space, I more often snap at him to be careful. Again, most of this is due to the presence of DD. I am painfully aware that most of DS's limitations are directly related to DD, and I feel like I can't make it sound more open and generalized. I don't want him to perceive her as a pain in his side, but I can't find ways around it, either!
THanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your suggestions!
I am going through this now with my daughter, she is 2.5 and my son is 14 months. I am always having to remind her that he is not as big as she is, get off of him, he doesn't understand yet that he can't take your toy out of your hand, etc etc.
I don't really have any advice other than perhaps could you sit down with your son and ask him to help you come up with a list of things he would like to do that are quiet enough to do during her nap time? Or ways that he could play with his sister? My daughter is pretty tough at 2.5, so I imagine as long as he is not full on rough housing, there are many things they could do together.
Maybe when you have spare time you could give some more specific examples of things he asks for that you have to say no to?
Okay... Kids are in bed, and I have a moment before night time cleaning. :)
My boy is zany, zesty, vivacious, precocious, very sensitive, smart, funny, imaginative and WILD! Everything about him is BIG and LOUD and BOUNCY and FUNFUNFUN. He loves to play with anything that he can send flying through the air- cars and truck off ramps, parachute toys, balls, everything. He wants to practice lassoing and breakdancing and being a rockstar with his big, heavy real guitar. He is just so very big and strong and all over the place. But he HATES to be alone in a room, so I cannot convince him to do these things outside (we have a great fenced yard with plenty of windows and a sliding glass door that WOULD be ideal if he would just go do that stuff outside while I finish up with cooking or dishes or give the little sister some quiet safe time.
DD loves to be right up next to DS as much as possible, and they both love playing together so much. It's just incredibly challenging to keep her safe and right next to him. I think that mostly sums up the quandary. I can't get anything done when he's in wild man mode, because little sis is right there in the line of fire. So my frustrations really lie in the difficulty of completing basic chores- even though I do try to put off as much as I can in order to be present with the kids. But those dishes REALL pile up quickly, and they are very messy eaters.
I used to be able to pop on a video while they eat, or give them a table based activity with DD safely in her high chair. However, DD is now shunning the high chair and insisting on the regular chairs, which makes safety more of an issue, since I really have to be next to her until she is big enough to reach the table better. They both love play-dough and drawing, but some weeks are just sheer energy with no focus for DS. Other times, it's blissful quiet with creative play and safe, calm fun for them both. :)
Sigh... It really just comes down to my own frustration being projected onto him, and that's what I really need help with. I need to find a way to reframe my view of him from being the dangerous, self-absorbed, spatially unaware kid to seeing his bright, exuberant nature as a good thing. In retrospect (every day), I see him in that wonderful glow, but in the moment, it's all just "STOP! SLOW DOWN! CALM DOWN! GIVE ME A MOMENT! GET OFF OF YOUR SISTER! STOP CRASHING AND LAUNCHING EVERYTHING FOR A MINUTE! DON'T SWING YOUR GUITAR LIKE THAT AROUND PEOPLE!" etc... It's so hard to remember that he is still ONLY 4, when he has the build and intellect of an average 7 year old.
Being aware of other people and their space is not quite age appropriate just yet, and I am mentally aware of that, but I find so much of my emotion and anxiety wrapped up into that need for him to get there. I know it'll come with age, but I don't want to get him there my making him feel ashamed or wrong for being a normal, if not above average, little man? If he were an only child, I would not be this wound up over all this. We would be wrestling, kicking balls, playing with baseballs and bats, and all the other stuff that is normal and fun for a little boy (but is terrifying for a mama with a little girl who's always underfoot). I am just constantly holding DD or redirecting her and it ends up putting DS on the bench, so to speak. I am so tired of feeling like I have to put one of them aside so the other can have wishes fulfilled and needs met. It is HARD! DS is not at all interested in taking classes or playing sports or any other activity that doesn't allow parents to be fully engaged in the activity. We attempted Kung Fu and talked about tee-ball and soccer. But when he realized we couldn't be on his team, he decided it was not for him. He's very attached to us and does not want us to drop him off or watch from the bleachers. He needs us doing it with him.
DH and I try to take turns giving DS individual, undivided attention and opportunity to be his wilder self on the weekends, but more often than not, it still ends up being all of us or just DH and DS. DS still naps with DD in the afternoons. If he wakes before her, we get a little bit of special time, but it has to be quiet time so we don't wake DD. I don't have any family in town, so having someone watch DD while I give DS my all is almost never an opportunity. We do what we can, and hopefully I can more than make up for this time once DD is bigger and more able to understand how to stay a safe distance from swinging bats and flying trucks. I know we'll be doing all kids of fun, adventurous, athletic, daring things in a few more years... all together as a team. There's my bright side. I really do see it. I just need a little help with keeping that sweetness in our lives at present. How do you other mamas keep a calm, loving, encouraging presence during this time- filling all those little love tanks and keeping your cool?
Now... I'm off to tackle those dishes, put away the food, and all the other post-dinner necessities before DD wakes for her night nursing (my cue to go to sleep). Thanks for the space to vent and the support. I love this site and all of you parents who chime in with support and advice. :)
Maybe this will just be my "thinking aloud" post. :) I want to add now that after reading more about highly sensitive people, I understand that I am one. So is DH and DS. Hard to say about DD yet.
With that in mind, I realize that a lot of my issue has to do with overstimulation and introversion. I get easily overwhelmed and overstimulated (thus anxious) being with my youngsters all day as a SAHM. Funny thing is, though, that it is rarely easier (and often harder) once DH is home in the evening or on the weekends. He really wants to just relax, so I know it can be tough for him, too. I find that having all of us together can just be so exhausting for my need to have everyone feeling cared for and happy. I know it's not my job to make people happy, but it is still something I strive to have as part of our whole dynamic whenever possible.
I find that my coping mechanism is retreat/withdrawal. I will purposely make more work for myself- household chores- when I need some space and time. I sometimes struggle to strike the balance of making sure I'm not rejecting my children with my need to withdraw. Both of my parents were big on withdrawing- forcing nap times and creating work for themselves that would not easily involve kids- and my mind just blew open to this realization and the impact it had on me (and is likely happening now with my own kids).
Hopefully some wise HSPs can chime in with some help here. I desperately do not want to push my kids away, shame them, or make them feel less than amazing. How do I get myself some of that great energy I need to make sure they are always welcomed into my presence and undeniably cherished? It all feels dreamy to type about, and I really hope I can transpire some of it into our reality.
And I would keep trying to encourage DS to play independently too. Don't give up on that just because he is fighting it. Just keep having reasons to leave the room for 30s even, that sort of thing, he'll get better about it eventually even if he always prefers playing with you and DH.
Katie - Married to Mike 06/02/01, Mom to Sydney Anne born 11/21/09 and Alice Maeryn & Oliver Thomas born 04/24/13
UPDATE: Thanks for the tips and ideas, ladies. I have made a few changes to some of our toy use rules, and what's appropriate where/when. We also found a great book called "Hands Off, Harry!" that is helping him understand personal space and boundaries. This was the key ingredient for us, as he pays great attention to books, but little attention to my words when I try to talk about it with him. HOORAY!