Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can AUTONOMY kill you?

It seems like I only write about parenting now when the hard parts come up. And we are in a HARD part. We have recently entered what I am finding to be my least favorite phase of parenting so far, the world of AUTONOMY. And, oh god, I might not make it through.

I forget sometimes that we are still 'new' parents, that we have never tackled any of these phases before. I become lulled into complacency, almost believing that I actually know what I am doing. The last few months, despite all the changes, have been good ones. Consistent, let's say, all things running according to schedule. Some challenges, but fun and what I came to think of as easy. Then BAM! Hi, AUTONOMY. I think I do not like you very much. Can you go away?

I know I should be happy about their growth, their development, their changes. I have never wished them to be back in diapers (until now) so why would I wish them back to pre-verbal toddlerhood? Well, because this is so damn hard.

What does AUTONOMY look like around here. Let's start with language. The word 'me' 'mine' 'my ____' is a solid and often used word from both boys, leading to the inevitable clash of wills between them and myself. Sharing happens reluctantly, if at all, most times resulting in a total removal of the contested item and the tried but rarely true attempt at distraction and redirection. They have gotten a bit sharp for those tactics.

We can now move onto to AUTONOMY in clothing choices. I have waited for the day when favorite shirts or ensembles develop.

Yes, they love their new "bombits' outfits but what they love even more is getting undressed. Their current specialty is diaper removal. We have invited the boys to use their minimal potty skills when ever possible. Something clicked in the last few weeks and they now want to utilize these skills whenever possible. They are able to tell us when they have to pee, but they prefer to literally take matters into their own hands and remove the offending diaper and pee. They each have their favorite areas...Mace prefers the conventional ones, toilet and potty chair.

Owen is a little more free in his choices, usually removing diaper and peeing in the cracks between the flagstones outside, sometimes utilizing the deep wells in the outdoor mat situated outside the patio door and occasionally just peeing right next to the diaper he just removed. It has served to create a sky-rocketing diaper bill and a lot of work for the parent on duty to monitor and clean up (or direct the cleaning) of spills. Let us not talk about poop. It is too painful to write. I can say, at least they do not play with it. It looks like we will be turning to potty training in earnest earlier than I thought.

The there is AUTONOMY in food. No, not the eating of. That I have just about given up on. I am talking about the preparing of. My children think they can prepare and serve their own meals.

They have an obsession with the fridge, opening it and grabbing this and that, usually raw eggs and pickles (WTF?) and sometimes what they refer to as "mama bottle" aka wine. I am all for independence, but really, not ready for them to make the Mac n' Cheese. Waaaay too messy, oh yeah, and the stove might be a bit too hot. So, we may have to resort to a fridge lock which will just get broken or never latched as 90 million people go in and out of the fridge daily. Including my children. I shudder to think of the electricity usage this is causing.
Dog as dishwasher

The last and latest expression of AUTONOMY is one I know a lot of other twin Mamas are dealing with right now...the ability to escape. The boys still sleep in cribs and though they can scale a full size jungle gym have yet to express a desire to climb out of their cribs. That has all changed drastically. Saturday, it was a rude surprise to be woken up by Owen at the foot of our bed. Because it is not enough to figure out how to get out of the crib in one day, he also had to figure out the way to open the doors. At 6:30 AM. Upon walking him back to their room, I found the cribs pulled together, Mace in Owen's crib, all the bedsheets and linens piled on the floor and two maniacally grinning boys. Who would not go back to sleep.

Next day there were some night time shenanigans, but no escaping. Monday was the real shocker. We put them down and had the all clear signal of quiet in the we began our nightly routine. I was in the laundry room (across the hall from their bedroom) when their door quietly opened and he walked out into the brightly lit hallway, mouth agape. As was mine. Because we have never taken those boys out of their room after bed time since bed time was established. Tim and I think Owen must have come out and thought "You mean they do stuff after we have to go in there and sleep?". My mouth was open because I was thinking "Oh, shit."

The last few bed times have been rough, with a lot of returning Owen to the room, explaining bed time parameters (like, you do not come out of your room) and going in to take him out of Mace's crib, to take his leg out of the crib slats, to pick him up off the floor, etc. I know, the beds are being converted today or tomorrow. But I am just so tired. In a totally different way then ever before.

Because all this happens as we work, and take shifts, and piecemeal days and dinners together and try to take care of ourselves, and try to decide how to deal with insurrection and ineffective time outs and defiance and the occasional urge to knock my kid out because he is driving me nuts. I know that we have such a profound effect on them with how we respond and what we say and when we yell.

I love parts of AUTONOMY but other parts I hate. I struggle with letting go of the need to dictate, of finding the right way to discipline and of looking for ways to enjoy it, even it is just shreds or bits of the day.

My Dad said an interesting thing the other day, about how throughout our lives we are learning the same lesson over and over. We think it is a new challenge, but it is actually the same foible, the same struggle, the same character 'flaw' in different settings. I know what mine is...learning humility. And I have yet to learn it well. But at least I can try to process it all here.

There are probably some of you reading thinking "just you wait..." or parents with younger kids thinking it cannot be that bad or others with no kids feeling pretty bored right now. It is just that when I end up beleaguered and bewildered I turn here. To get it out, to ask for help or suggestions or just so one or two of you can tell me it will be okay...and that helps immensely. So, bring on any ideas or suggestions or comment love. This Mama could use it. Thanks for the ear (or reading eyes, rather). I needed to get a bit of this off the chest.
Tenting It

And of course I only have sweetly cute photos to go with my bitching seems I also do not tend to turn to the camera during times of screaming tantrums and I cannot post the hilarious photos of O in down dog butt naked. Though that might get my blog traffic up. hmmmmmm.


The Adventures of Carrie, Brook, Finn and Reid said...

No autonomy can't kill you, but it sure as hell feels like it when you're in the thick of it!

OOOOOhhhhh Boy! It seems the fun has begun for the boys! Fortunately, not for you and Tim. All I can really offer is reassurance that it will be okay.

Although we too are dealing with the diaper-removal, master chefs, "mine"itis and the like, we did get through the crib and bedroom escaping. It took a bit of time but they got it! Once we removed the cribs (and the ability to climb out) the novelty wore off pretty quickly.

Like you, I had a similar "Oh shit!" face-to-face moment with my two boys who were equally surprised that life exists past the hour of 7:30 pm. Sometimes I want to say, "Hey man, I will gladly curl up on your little bed in your warm room and listen to ocean waves crashing over and over again if you want to do laundry, dishes, bills, lawn mowing (or snow removal), meal prep, lunch-making, toy clean-up, garden-tending, dog walking, etc., etc...". In time I guess.

In solidarity (and with a great big hug),


Anonymous said...

I can't offer any kiddy advise, but maybe it would help you get through those tough moments if you'd take your camera to take pictures of them. It would remove you physically from the situation and looking through the camera lens would give you distance to the situation. On one of the blogs (photographic?) I read I read something similar the other day. A mom being tested to her limits by her kid(s) and she found that taking her camera in those moments gave great pics and gave her the time to deal with the situation before it got out of hand.

Cheers Eva

Anonymous said...

Our ID girls just turned two and we are in the same boat as you are. They are too often irritated by each other to really gang up on us yet, but I fear it is coming.

I keep reminding myself, yes, it is really hard right now, but we will get through this (mostly) intact. And hopefully stronger?

LauraC said...

Oh goodness, this is exactly why Nate was called "Nate 2.5" and "Nate 2.75" in our house bc he was a version from hell. HA HA! He would scream I DO IT MYSELF in this horribly screeching voice.

On the sleep front, we put doorknob locks on the inside of the boys' door. It may sound mean but it keeps them safe as we do not want them having full access to the house at night. Nate eventually figured out how to get the doorknob lock off, so we reversed the knob and lock them in.

Obviously if they cry, we go in to them! But he was just testing limits and boundaries and stopped after a day or two. Now if he needs to potty, he yells out and we go and get him.

Other than that, deep breaths. And the understanding there is another lesson here: learning to pick your battles. A great lesson to be learned in parenting.

But dang, that was a hard phase! I hear you on this one!

(And I loved the very outdated Your Two Year Old:Terrible or Tender as it explains the development that is going on inside them that causes these behaviors. It is not a parenting book. It is a biological book.)

Beth said...

Oh, how nice it is to know you are not alone! The hardest part for me about autonomy was not the mess, but the time. Everything took so much longer when our girls wanted to do everything for themselves, and then they'd get upset because they couldn't do it.

As for the bed issue, we moved our girls out of cribs (they were climbing and almost jumping out) at two, the same time we moved to a house in a new state. We really struggled the first year to keep them in their beds, and I was exhausted trying to sit there and keep putting them back. So we gave in and put gates up to keep them in their rooms.

Now that they are potty trained and need night time access to the bathroom, we have removed the gates. It took a while, but they have learned to stay in their rooms and beds, for the most part. I spent the first few nights coming up with things I could outside their rooms, so that I was there to put them back in bed and remind them to stay there. This nicely coincided with their day care's drive to collect money for the March of Dimes. I gave the girls two quarters each if they stayed in their beds at night and didn't cry. They loved putting their quarters in the box, and the money went to charity, so I didn't feel too guilty about bribing them with coins. And it worked.

The fight for independence is hard, but it doesn't last forever. Now, at almost 4, Cameron and Isabel love to help, and they can! They help empty their stuff out of the dishwasher; they pull waffles and carrots out of the refrigerator when I allow it; and the pick up their messes. So there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there, and remember that you are not alone.

Em Natural said...

Wow Amiee, I read astounded and how strong a woman you have to be to be a mama. Shout out to all you moms out there YOU ARE AMAZING! I want you to know that i love you so much and I think you are just about as great as it gets. Thank you for taking the lead because when it comes to me and michael having kids i am going to need your advice and your blog to get me through it! I love you ames so much. Lots of love!

Sarah-potterknitter said...

We're working on the crib climbing this week too. He's done it once when Kevin tried to change up the nap routine, and I caught him with his foot on top this morning when I wasn't quite fast enough getting him out of bed. We'll see what happens. I'm in denial until he really appears at the foot of my bed. We just don't have the communication skills yet to keep him in bed or in his room at night. So I'm counting on routine for a few more days. Some battles on the horizon.

Katie said...

Thank goodness Matt has not climbed out of the crib yet... I know the day is coming. The "mine" power struggles are tough though, and I wish Gwen (almost 3.5) would stay in her room all night. But at least we are all in it together and whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Right?

Preeti said...

Ahh, the terrific two's!! I'm going to be checking back on your blog entries when we hit this phase with our little girl. The crib/highchair climbing out has begun already I'm hoping that this phase will pass QUICKLY because there's so much fun to be had with less heart pounding (mine) ahead - once they find their way. They're just trying to find their way, that's what I keep telling myself:)

My restaurant pizza at lunch was bleh compared to the beauty you shared last time. Yum-ee!!

a li'l bit squishy said...

LOL! Nope, I promise it won't kill you. It's just preparing you for that which is yet to come. The friends that bring with them new ideas about how things should be done and the early rebellion of the preteen. There is a reason they start so small...

My babe put herself down for her afternoon nap in her big girl bed today. My husband will take down her crib tonight. I am a little sad but also relieved that she is not yet tall enough to open her bedroom door on her own and has always slept with it closed.

I have pictures of my children having temper tantrums. I felt it necessary to document all of it: the good, the bad and the ugly. I am glad I did that, though I may look crazy to bystanders, it reminds me of all stages and I look back with fondness for every moment...even if the fondness comes sometimes as just that of survival.

Claroux said...

I am so far behind with commenting....sorry! I totally agree with Carrie - it can't kill you but it sure feels like it's going to when you're neck deep in it!!!! I think I take for granted that we have two girls who prefer to play with dolls (or trains that they think are dolls) and are fairly laid back. Don't get me wrong - there are days when I actually go outside alone, sit on the back patio, cry and fantasize about getting in my car and leaving the state for a week or so. I know I'm going to get the crap kicked out of me when this baby boy comes along. BUT....maybe you can find peace in the fact that although they are kicking your a$$ now at least you won't have TWO 13 year old girls with raging hormones and attitudes to deal with. Now THAT scares me.

I always get through tough moments like you're having by reminding myself that this is just a "PHASE" and it WILL pass - then I go drink a bottle of Bordeaux *smile*

Wish we lived closer so we could get our terrors together and let them run each other ragged!!!! *HUGS*