Monday, January 25, 2010

Disturbing the peace

I learned this morning about the downside of what I had previously thought of as "our lovely new neighborhood". The downside is related to the upside, which is that people will know you. If that's confusing, let me explain...

I got back on Saturday morning from a week in the US, a work trip which I thought best to do since taking on managing a US-based team in October and with not that much longer before I go out on leave. It was a good week - productive but emotionally draining and not that relaxing (e.g. 5:10 a.m. train to NYC on Wednesday, to return that evening into Boston at 10:40 p.m.).

I arrived back in London so ready to be home, to see Blake and Matt, and to hopefully return to that now-seemingly aspirational "normal state". Blake was sweet when I walked in the door, giving me a very quiet hug which made me think he was just realizing that I had been gone. Fortunately I was able to nap with him that day which did me good...I was soooo tired!
We spent Sunday around the house doing various chores like laundry and trying to get organized for the week ahead.
On Friday Matt had reported that Elizabeth had not been able to get Blake's coat on in order to get him out of the house to nursery, but I had no idea what that must have been like until this morning.
The early-bird antics continue, and Blake woke up at 5:00 a.m. asking for a bottle, and then would not go back to sleep. So, we all woke up at 5:00. If you have not had to wake up at 5:00 a.m. recently I can assure you that it feels like the deepest, darkest hour of the night, and nothing could make it easy to try to pry my eyelids awake to face the day. By about 6:00 the house had moved into action, and Matt headed off to work by about 6:30 leaving me and Blake in the living room, Blake watching tv and me frantically reading various chapters out of the books Toddler Taming and Pocket Parenting. Part of our issue, I concluded this morning, is that we have let Blake become a complete tv junkie. He is totally addicted to the BBC's children's channel, CBeebies. This morning I let him watch a few shows but then we needed to get in gear to get ready to take him off to nursery, so that I could come home and do my working from home day.

Attempt #1 to leave here took place at about 8:30. As I put on B's coat, he started to ask for one of his favorite tv shows, a train cartoon called Chuggington. It became almost chant-like..."Chuggington, Mommy. Chuggington. Want Chuggington." "No, Blake, it's time to go to nursery." "Chuggington, Chuggington." His face erupted into a mix of anger, frustration, sadness (can someone actually be sad about not getting to watch a train cartoon? I'm not sure...I think the stronger emotions were anger and frustration). I had started sweating by this point and tried to get him into the stroller. It wasn't happening as he wriggled and strained against getting strapped in, so I abandoned that plan.
Before I left for the US we had a nice little thing going where we walked to nursery rather than taking the stroller, so I somehow managed to get him out the door on foot. Whereas I then turned left to go to nursery, Blake turned right and insisted on going that way. That way wasn't really the best way for us to get to Rosendale Road, so I insisted that he follow me. He didn't. He then also started on with the Chuggington thing again. I can't actually remember the order of what happened next but I think I went back inside and tried to calm him down by holding him quietly for a bit (didn't work) and then offering him a bottle (didn't work either). I then decided to try to get him in the stroller. As with the first time, it didn't work and he at this point started flinging himself on the floor and screaming at the top of his lungs. I smiled sheepishly at the mother and her two daughters who passed by the open front door at this point. If I could have disappeared into a hole in the ground, I would have preferred that to every passer-by concluding that I was abusing my dear child.

Ten minutes had probably passed at this point, so I decided I would just pick him up and carry him to nursery. The problem is that he is pretty strong, so when he went "boneless" as they say in one of our favorite books, there was nothing I could really do apart from let him fling himself out of my arms. We had made it about 6 doors down when the fairly elderly lady in number 33 (or was it 35?) came out of her door to see him screaming and heading back toward the direction from which we had just come. She reassuringly told me she remembered when her own children did similar things, so I just smiled again and rolled my eyes as if to say, "What can I do?!" Blake had marched back to our front door and was now standing in front of it saying repeatedly, "In the house" with tears streaming down his red face.

At this point I leaned against the car and phoned Matt. No answer. Hmmm. I decided to just keep leaning against the car in the hope that Blake would recognize the futility of his pleas to go back inside. I had no idea what time it was at this point apart to know that I was most definitely not going to be starting my day at 9:00. Although we've been here now about a month, I hadn't had a chance to meet the next-door neighbors to our right, so it was of course at that very moment that they all decided to exit their front door. Cue more blushing and eye-rolling from me. "Any idea how to deal with an unhappy toddler?" (or something like that) I merrily called out. "I'm Meg, by the way." Nice first impressions.

The phone rang and it was Matt who suggested I call Lin. Yes, Lin, the Baby Whisperer. Although to give him credit I have mentioned her name recently and have wondered whether I should just hand over my monthly take-home pay to obtain her services to help us out, I don't think she works like an emergency plumber and can offer tantrum-related advice in the heat of the moment. I think the tone of my response was pretty clear that I wasn't going to be calling Lin without a little more contemplation. Matt then wisely reminded me that I didn't really have any options on getting him to cooperate so suggested I get him in the stroller. Matt calmed my fears by saying he didn't think I would actually be able to hurt him in the manoevering to get him strapped in. So back inside we went to try this again.
At some point, I won and in he was. I offered him a car from his toy train as well as a Thomas the Tank Engine book in an attempt to provide replacements for the train cartoon which had started this off. He promptly flung the train car - twice - on the pavement, so that tactic can't quite be considered a success. With him wailing at the top of his lungs, I pounded the pavement off to the nursery.

When we got there he immediately started calling for me to "Sit down, Mommy". I waited with him for about 20 minutes by which point he had at least stopped crying. I realized I was missing a meeting with a colleague in Asia, and admired a little girl's runny nose as being one of the worst I'd ever seen. At about 9:40, I extracted myself from the toddler room, totally exhausted, overheated and demoralized. I had to trust that they'd be able to calm him down.

I spent much of the rest of the day literally feeling as if I had been sapped of all energy, like a plant who had been deprived of light and water. I turned to the leftover Christmas chocolate for consolation, but that didn't help much. It also did not help that evidently delivers in utero and the new baby has somehow managed to have a trampoline delivered which he (or she, I suppose, but probably he) spent all day trying out. It was just generally a pretty uncomfortable day.

At 5:00 p.m. I headed off to get Blake. He greeted me with smiles...oh, how short his short-term memory is. We walked home holding hands and of course did not encounter a single neighbor along the way.

I decided to deal with one aspect of our problem which is the tv dependency, so I let him watch the tail end of one show and then the infamous Chuggington, before turning it off for the evening. When Matt got home we sat around and talked, gave Blake some dinner and then I spent some time tickling Blake and enjoying the sound of his giggles. Without that, I might have had nightmares played to the soundtrack of his morning tantrum.

And so, I realized with a heavy heart that once again, I'd been proven wrong about thinking we were actually in a certain "stage" of childhood, only to discover that the phase was only probably just starting. With his 2nd birthday just now a month away, I guess what I thought was the "terrible 2's" wasn't. What happened this morning certainly was an example of how a strong, willful, determined, and senseless toddler can bring a mother - and a morning - to a standstill. I wonder what tomorrow morning will be like?! Won't the neighbors be curious to know...

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