We have long played this version of peek-a-boo with our son where he covers himself up with a napkin, a curtain, a blanket, etc., and we say, “Where did BG go? Have you seen him? Where is he?” And then he removes the cloth to reveal that he was, in fact, there the whole time, and we all giggle wildly. We have always loved the game, but it seems that the game and our realities are becoming a little blurred.
With our son’s sleep deprivation (some nights waking up every hour for five hours!), the work he’s doing on his last two two-year molars, his transition into a regular bed, and his other transition away from daytime nursing, it’s as though our smiley, mellow, eager-to-please little boy has hidden himself away, and in his place, we see daily this crabby, irritable, boundary-testing, mom-hitting, book-throwing, tantrum-having child. Occasionally, he peaks out from beneath his hiding place to giggle and snuggle, but then moments later, the two monster comes roaring back to tell me I’m not allowed to sing or wear glasses or cross my legs or say, “I love you.” And then he kicks me.
Having spent a lot of years taking care of toddlers, and several when I cared almost exclusively for two-year-olds, I know this is normal, especially given this specific set of circumstances, but it’s so hard to be the parent of one of these creatures.
Take clothing changes, for example. We used to change clothes with a good deal of ease. He would get dressed after a bath with no problems, and he would gladly have his clothes changed, especially if he had spilled something. Today, he spilled water on himself, and he asked me to change his clothes. We then proceeded to struggle for the next thirty minutes to change his clothes–and these were clothes that he had chosen. Oh, it’s exhausting. Just giving the kid a beverage is mind boggling. He has never fought simply drinking, but now there are like fifty criteria that must be in place before he will not fling the beverage across the room and disintegrate into tears and whining.
And oh, the whining! It’s endless. It’s obnoxious. It’s so frustrating!
I should say, though, that we have a few little glimmers of hope. We have been working hard at getting our cute little monster (did I mention he glares at us and that it’s really hard not to laugh?) to communicate what he’s upset about. A week or so ago, he told me for the first time that something was frustrating him (I believe it was a whisk). Now, he tells us what frustrates him a little more regularly. This week, he has started to tell us when he is mad at us, and in the past few days, he has told us why he is mad. Tonight we were sitting down for his pre-bedtime stories, and he kept hitting my wife. He didn’t want to read. He just wanted to hit her. Finally after a few minutes of us sitting there baffled, waiting for our normal son to return, he told my wife, “BG mad at Mama that bathtime is over!” Aha. She apologized to him for ending his bath and asked him to forgive her. He kissed her, hugged her, and was then ready to read stories, especially once I offered a bath in the morning. This was fairly illustrative of where we are right now, but this I can understand. Until he has the words to express his feelings, he’s going to stew in them, and will grapple with them as any little wild animal would–with physical expressions.
The fact that we’re beginning to talk about feelings is a little mindblowing to me, but I see–or rather hope–that this is going to work in our favor soon, that the outbursts and throwing of objects and kicking and hitting may soon decrease in favor of more verbal expressions of his feelings. I know we’re in for more challenges and tantrums, but to be able to communicate about them, even afterward, makes such a difference.
Whether or not this endless game of peek-a-boo will be over once the teeth come in, and we start sleeping through the night again, and he’s used to his big boy accommodations is something I cannot predict. I can say, however, that I miss my happy little jokester