Wednesday, June 13, 2012

heavy duty

bonzo's been pretty stoked on all the getting-ready-for-baby we've been doing around here – both in the physical sense: baby stuff! and the emotional sense: playing baby!

the other day we set the co-sleeper up on the other side of our bed. it was pretty under-used for bonzo (live and learn) but i'm thankful we still have it because it's giving us some more real estate in what is, granted, an already pretty large family bed.

bonzo could hardly stand the excitement of setting it up. he was so excited to be "the first one to get to 'sample' it" he could hardly contain himself. and i get it – it's exciting! new (to him) stuff just awaiting exploration? perfect.

but of course the thing was totally more complicated to set up than chooch's memory served so it took a few minutes longer than the five we'd bargained for. and bonzo's not-quite-three and working on patience. but it's – ahem – a work in progress, you know?

enter: heavy duty feelings. 

waiting is hard. bonzo's excited. things are lagging... time to let it rip.

he had a big cry but i could tell that he was still distracted – he was just waiting for the co-sleeper to be set up and i could tell that once it was, he'd instantly shift gears into "sampling" mode. and i didn't want to hold him back from it just so he could empty the ole feelings tank – even though i would normally try to minimize (read: eliminate) distractions to maximize offloading. i just didn't want the negativity around the baby stuff. so i held him and he cried, chooch finished setting the thing up and he eagerly dove right in. and he was in a better space than i thought he'd be with it, too – but i could tell there were still some feelings there that needed to come out. and i knew they would. and probably soon. 

we laid out some ground rules right away: no standing or jumping feet in the co-sleeper! it's okay to get in it now and it'll be okay to get in it when ours baby is born – but not when ours baby is in it. we demonstrated with hooty, bonzo's trusty ours-baby-stand-in. he gets it, i know he does.

fast forward an hour or two.
we're outside in the backyard and i'm picking up fallen apricots (oh apricot season, i love you) and bonzo's hanging out, happy as a clam, sweeping and raking. then i started to water. bonzo usually loves the hose but not today. today he had an idea or two about watering. specifically where and how i was watering. at this point i see the flashing neon sign above his head: hey mama, the rest of those feelings from earlier? here they come!

he screamed at me for watering the garden. screamed. and cried. if memory serves his bitty body was even flung to the grass in a display of disdain. he was imploring me not to water there! just don't do it!

oh dear. 

i calmly turned off the hose and picked him up and put him on my lap. he didn't want to be held but he didn't want to be put down (neon sign, people) and he was hysterical and still shouting at me not to water the garden: "no, mama! no! nooooooooooooooo!"

i decided to bring him inside so the neighborhood could have some peace and because i thought it was best to move away from the scene of the crime and just let. it. rip.

part of me wanted to tell him not to scream at me because it was so 110% directed at me, in my face, and loudly and i was feeling like correcting that – we don't scream at people, friend. 

but i knew that the screaming at me was the path his feelings needed to take and that it wasn't – directly or even consciously – directed at me. so he kept wailing and screaming "no mama!" at me. it was so hard to hear and not take to heart. but thankfully my rational mind was able to keep me on track and calm. so he sat in my lap and cried and cried and cried and screamed at me with fervor. and then he calmed down about 15 minutes later. but even then i could tell there was a little more that needed to come out. but he was clearly done crying. so i decided it would be fun to laugh – we could reconnect and get silly and he could finish the off-load that way. so i decided to take the fury away from shouting "no!" at me and turn it into something else entirely. 

i said, "let's shout 'no!' some more, wanna?" and his face lit up like a christmas tree and we took turns shouting. but funny shouting this time. punctuated by big belly laughs (no pun intended on my end) and silliness. 
"no, couch!"
"nooooooo, lamp!"
"NO, walls!"
"noooooooooooooooo, rug!" 
just no! no! no! to everything in site.

we shouted and laughed and laughed and laughed. bonz got it out. every last drop – you know, 'til next time. it felt so good. after that we cuddled, nursed a bit, drank a giant glass of water and had a little snack then carried on with the rest of the afternoon like nothing ever happened. i love how he reminds me not to hang onto stuff. feel it, move on. such a teacher, that guy.

this photo is from a happier time in the garden. but... those buns! oh, i just love them so.


wildchild said...

baby buns are the sweetest. and you seem like such a good mom. your little ones are very lucky :)

Tamara said...

What a great post this is. You are a good teacher and have several times guided me to mindful ways to handle my son's expression of his feelings. You are doing so right by this little boy! I can't wait to see the path you will take when Yours Baby is born. You kiddos are really lucky - they have a very good teacher and nurturer in you. Thanks for sharing.

blake said...

Seriously lucky little dude. Big feelings, big changes but best mama. And, I totally relate to the backyard screaming... ay yay yay. Sorry neighbors :)

kandice said...

oh, mama, i am nowhere near as good (or let's say... rational) as you. i think to myself the entire time natalie is having a hard time to "let her feel her emotions" like you say and i really WANT that for her and for me. i really, really do. but the real-life stuff is so different than the things that seem SO obvious when you type it out. she's screaming and i know she's doing things that she knows she ought not to do. like hitting herself or scraping her hands on her teeth (?? where did she learn this stuff?!) and shouts "no! no! no! no!" over and over and over. screams and cries of course too. and i just try to sit there with her.. maybe rub her back and talk to her calmly about why she shouldn't do those things or try to explain whatever tricky situation we're in - whether she can hear me over her screaming or not. and other times i just sit there with her and wait. but it doesn't FEEL like she's getting anything out or that we're achieving anything. honestly, it just feels like a fit. how do i learn to see it clearly? to realize what type of emotions she might need to get out and when and why. am i ever supposed to hold her when she's trying to (kind of-not really) hurt herself (i remember you saying that to do so is kind of like saying those feelings aren't okay or something along those lines)

i'm SO sorry for how long this is. an email really would have been more efficient. and, mostly, i know you're not my personal guidance counselor (not that i think a guidance counselor would have any insight on this) :p but, really, i just had to let that all out. it's been on the forefront of my mind and something we've been dealing with daily for a little bit now.

sara said...

hi! just saw this come in and thought i'd reply now while i have a minute... because who knows when i won't have a minute! could be any minute now...

i'm by noooo means an expert but here are my two cents nonetheless...

starting here - holding her when she's hurting herself:
i don't feel like holding her sends a message that the feelings aren't okay. if she's trying to hurt herself, i would calmly and as gently as possible hold her and stop her from hurting herself - like gently taking her hand away as she's trying to hit herself or scraping her hands on her teeth.

sometimes, though it's for sure our immediate reaction, words complicate matters. if you need to say something, i would just simply and quietly say "i won't let you hurt yourself, baby" as you're stopping her from doing so.

we naturally want to explain the ins and outs during upsets but it's best not to. they're not even *able* to hear let alone listen.

my rule of thumb is to be there - physically and emotionally - as totally as possible without feeling the need to explain, discuss, correct, distract etc.

our adult minds want to know exactly what is causing the upset but it's soooo frequently not that simple for them. we may be genuinely baffled at what the "matter is" but it's likely something seemingly super insignificant that was the straw that broke the camel's back, you know? she could have been storing up feelings over the past few hours (or days even) over big things, small things, confusing things, sad things, frustrating things - anything - and then one small thing could trigger a big release.

another reason why just being there calmly for the big feelings is helpful - we could be "explaining" something that doesn't even make sense to them because that's not *truly* why they're even upset.

it's not always a done-deal type of result, i've found, either. we've had big "feelings episodes" and i've totally felt like nothing was even accomplished! but i know in my heart that something was indeed accomplished even if it's not clear to me at the time. or ever. the feelings need to come out some how some way... they always will.

and it's easy to think about would-be situations or past situations and think about how we'd react. it takes practice - and again, i'm no expert here - but i can honestly say that i do feel totally and completely calm during the big upset because i've had the practice and i know that, when all is said and done - it is sooo productive. i actually find myself at my *most* calm when bonz just lets it rip. sometimes it's the lead up to it where i feel like i can't handle it and stay calm, try as i might. but when he's having a full-on cry, i feel at my most able to handle it! so, with time, i think you and natalie will both learn to trust your guts and feel really comfortable when these situations arise - however abstract they may seem.

back to holding really quickly - there's no *rule* for it and sometimes holding bonz when he wants to get away feels wrong to me. so i'll let him down. he'll usually stay near and, if not, i'll quietly follow him to where he goes (this rarely happens though) and every so often i'll just let him know i'm there - with words or by gently patting him. again, not trying to calm him out of crying but just so he knows that he's not alone or punished or banished, you know?

and that sometimes helps me when i have that huge urge to *talk to him* when he's super upset... calmly and quietly reminding him i'm there and/or saying that i can see how sad/mad/angry he is... often it'll fuel his fire but, ultimately, that's good because it keeps him on track getting his feelings out.

sorry for the long reply right back! i'm glad you wrote and i hope this helped... if not, let me know if there's something i can elaborate on... if you want! xx

Terri said...

Sara! Seriously, you are an inspiration. I so appreciate your honesty and transparency when it comes to parenting. Especially because the way you parent may not be the "mainstream" way. Good job for following your heart and gut with your boy and yourself. And thank you for sharing.