I think this is truly one of the first weeks in Ava's life where Rob and I have really questioned our ability to parent her. We have been coasting along just doing what feels natural and right by our own instincts and following the examples our parents set. Not to mention we have also taken advantage of watching our family and friends parent their own kids right before our very eyes. I guess this isn't the greatest strategy but Ava has very easily gone with the flow until now. She has been a low maintenance super easy kid to get along with and take just about anywhere. I am hoping our happy go lucky spirited girl is not lost forever because I am missing those days so much already.
I have been told that all of her new behaviors are normal although I am not sure that makes me feel better. I have been told that it gets better at two and then rough again at three. Great... I can't wait to see that "worse" entails. Sigh. Whatever our future holds I am just praying for some answers in the here and now. I am also praying that if "this" doesn't get better... Rob and I will be granted some extra bonus points on our day of judgement for just simply surviving it and sticking together. There must be a special place in heaven for parents, Right?
Let me offer you a window into our last week. Our first rough patch with Ava was on Monday night while I was at GVSU working out. Here's how this scenario played out. I started Ava's tub just before I had to leave the house. When Rob took over she was fully clean and enjoying playing with her tub toys. Ava loves her tub and is NEVER ready to get out. So we have been draining the water on her after a half an hour and putting the toys away while the water draines. In the past she would say, "Bye-Bye Water," and happily get out. Recently, she started protesting getting out of the drained tub which I am not sure what the fun is in it because I am sure a wet bare naked body in a 68 degree house is a bit chilly if you know what I mean! Nevertheless, we let her play in the empty tub because it is really harmless and what is the difference if she plays in the tub verses out of the tub before it's night-night?
A tired Rob laid on the bathroom floor with is eyes shut waiting for Ava to say, "All done." After about ten minutes of her singing, pretend swimming, and dancing naked she finally was ready to dry off and warm up. Rob took her into her room to start the second half of getting ready for bed. I understand that getting your pj's on are not the funnest of things to do in life but it is a requirement for bedtime at our house. For whatever her reason she decided she was not ready to get dressed nor did she want to be a nice girl. According to Rob, there was a lot of hollering, kicking, arching, barrel rolling, and a toddler who was trying to escape her room no matter what verbal cues he was giving. So he shut the door and calmly said, "Ava you are not leaving this room until you have your jammies on. After your jammies are on we can play babies and read books."
Seems simple and reasonable enough. WRONG. Ava then threw herself on the floor and continued her temper-tantrum. Rob sat in the chair puzzled thinking, really? After five long minutes of Ava carrying on he said sternly, "Are you done?" Ava froze in place and stared at him. Rob attempted to put her diaper on and she took her first swing at him. That was the wrong move because Rob had reached the end of his rope and Ava got a single spanking on her bare buns. This definitely got her attention and boy did she cry some serious crocodile tears. The result was our tearful baby sat semi-nicely long enough to get dressed for bed. The bedroom door opened and she ran for her dear life calling, "Mama-Mama-Mama." I am pretty sure she was planning on tattling on Daddy but I was still not home. She was so upset and broken hearted that she would not look Rob in the eyes for the rest of the night. Eventually, she crawled into his lap without actually making any eye contact and laid her head on his shoulder. He reaffirmed to her how much he loves her but she needs to be a good girl and a good listener when it is time to get ready for bed. Then after a hug and kiss she was tucked in bed and out like a light. Finally, Rob could let out a sigh....
When I made it home he gave me the run down and I thought, "Well that's not good... but it sounded like she had it coming!" I'm not sure what the answer is for times like this because this is our first real outburst of just plain naughtiness. What I do know is that Rob and I will always back each other in our parenting choices in order to not let Ava play us against each other gaining the upper hand. Rob and I don't always parent the same but all in all we have the same values and certainly wish for the same outcomes. Which is raising our child into a healthy, happy, and well adjusted adult. The bottom line is we are a parenting team and thankfully I would like to keep it that way! I am not sure how any one person can do this alone. It really takes a village to raise a child and I am always thankful and feel extremely blessed to have a hands on husband and really great family support.
Along came Wednesday. I love Wednesday's at Home Sweet Kolkman. It's my day off from work to stay at home with my Ava girl and we have the greatest of times together. Plus I get to play catch-up around our house and it's just a great breather mid-week. Last week I had to put all the fun aside and take Ava shoe shopping. She has big wide boats leaving this is an uneasy task. In fact, I am really growing to hate it because it is so expensive getting new shoes every three to four months and sometimes finding wides is like finding a needle in the haystack.
We started our day in the usual fashion reading books, playing babies, eating breakfast, and getting dressed. When we were both ready for the day I packed us in the car and we headed to Rivertown Crossings Mall. We got there around 9:30am and I power shopped with her for a full hour. She was doing good in the stroller and as long as we didn't stay in one spot for too long she was quiet and happy. Shoe shopping was a bust but since she was good I let her get out of the stroller for a while to play in the kid play area. I figured it was safe because she had a full hour to play before we had to head back home for her lunch and nap. She had a ball. She was running and playing and making some friends. After twenty minutes she decided she was big enough to climb the stairs and slide down the slide. This makes me nervous but other kids her size were doing it so I decided to let her go with supervision. She did great and boy did she giggle. I love seeing the look of pride in her face!
Slowly bigger kids started pouring into the play area. It is amazing at how much rougher the three to four year olds play verses the little tike's. Long story short the older kids didn't want to wait for little slow Ava to climb to the top of the stairs and slide down the slide. They started to push her and that's hard to watch. Then to top it off they didn't want to wait for Ava to get a safe distance from the bottom of the slide before they took their turn. I decided it was time to go for her safety and she did not agree with me.
Since Ava doesn't live in a democracy I kept on leaving the play area and headed toward our stroller. She continued to cry, yell, and carry on. I tried my best to get her in the stroller but she resisted in every way possible all while she was swinging her arms. It was in this moment I really wished, "Nanny 911" could have had a brief intervention. But the lady with the bun and English accent was no where to be seen. I was on my own. I decided to stop fighting to get Ava in the stroller and just carry her with our diaper bag over my shoulder. Ava could not get it together and would not even let me hold her nice. I resorted to carrying her under my arm like a keg. I think this is when people everywhere started staring. I even saw an old man in his 80's shake his head. Seriously, old man... NOT HELPING ME!!!
After a long hike to the opposite end of the mall where I parked I thought I would be in the clear. NOPE, Ava was still acting out and I was slipping to the end of my rope. I was hot, sweaty, out of breath, and real irritated. I put her in the car seat and she continued to be indifferent. She was arching something fierce and swing her mad little hands. I lost it. I really did and I spanked her. It just happened out of no where. I guess this is what happens when there is no rope left to hang on to. I think it surprised me really and it definitely surprised Ava. She melted into a ball of tears and sobbed, "Momma-Momma-Momma up." This translates into, "Please pick me up and hug me." I am not sure how I resisted her tears but I sternly strapped her in, kissed her head, and drove away from this nightmare.
I thought long and hard about this episode on the way home. My heart was breaking and guilt was filling the cracks. It isn't my goal in life to use the, "I love you so I am spanking you" route. I know not all parts of parenting are fun but this can't be the way. I know it makes no sense to spank someone for hitting. Two wrongs don't make a right. I know I need to separate her behavior from myself. As in I shouldn't take it personally. It is her behavior and something going on inside of her and it's not a reflection of me. I have to believe that it's a good sign Ava is having temper-tantrums. I know your thinking, huh? But it must mean Rob and I are sticking to our boundaries, keeping structure, and not being overly permissive which has started to really irritate Ava. Hey, I am just trying to see the bright side if there is one!
I think Ava is in a hard place because she is to little to understand her emotions let alone have enough cognitive ability to rationalize her feelings. Her vocabulary is ever growing but she needs more time to put her words to her feelings. I look forward to the day when she will say things like, "It makes me mad when" or "I am frustrated with you because." Parenting a toddler is like raising a monkey. Ava is my little primitive chimpanzee and I love her with all of my heart. She puts the meaning in, "I love you to the moon and back!" From here on out I solemnly promise to seek other methods for discipline.
I went straight to Barnes & Nobles and loaded up on some obviously needed reading materials. Discipline is a work in progress here at Home Sweet Kolkman so I will keep you posted on how it is going down the road.
I am currently reading...
Then next in line is...
I also ordered this series of books that have been recommend by my dear friend Kris. Her kids are a bit older than Ava but we have similar parenting styles and she really loved this series. I think it will really help with some of our hitting issues and maybe help with what lies ahead. I really like pacifiers and diapers are not forever and can't wait to read them with her. They all look very cute and I am hoping Ava will get out of it what we are hoping for... GOOD BEHAVIOR & GOOD PARENTS!
Here’s hoping this challenging stage passes soon. Although it’s probably the-devil-you-know-versus-the-devil-you-don’t. I’ll probably look back at this post later on in life, after she’s totaled our car or something similar, and wish we were right back here where the problems are small. For now my fingers crossed that Ava will not get the best of us. I’d love to hear any other suggestions for reading or comments even if it’s just to express shared misery!