Mom on mom hate.

Some thoughts from a fellow blogger on how moms should stop being so competitive and instead lift each other up with encouragement and compliments.

 

Mom on mom hate..

Advertisements

20 Months – And Still Waiting to Hear “Mama”

Sam turned twenty months old this week, and as you can see from the title he has yet to start speaking. I wrote about his apparent language delay in the past post Waiting to Hear “Mama”. At that time we were preparing for Sam to be evaluated. On Evaluation Morning I felt nauseous as I anxiously wandered around our apartment once again to reassure myself that it was clean and orderly. The evaluators were coming after naptime. Hopefully Sam would be well-rested and ready to “play.” While he napped I showered and dressed, but couldn’t bring myself to eat lunch.

All my worries about the evaluation being stressful were, happily, unfounded. The key evaluator was a relaxed and pleasant older “grandma” type. “Grandma” brought with her a big bin full of toys and wonders for Sam to explore. Sam had fun while the nice lady played with him and took notes. He especially loved the mirror. We play and dance in front of the big bathroom mirrors all the time, but this was a mirror he could hold himself so that was great fun. She also had a wind-up caterpillar that enthralled him. He cried when she was leaving. I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t crying because of some instant magical bonding between him and the evaluator. More likely he was thinking “Who brings me a bin full of presents and then takes them away when they leave??? What kind of person does that? Bring back those toys!”

So thankfully the evaluation was fun for Sam, and I was relieved to have it over, but I felt ambivalent about the results. There are four areas: cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and motor and self-help skills. Sam scored below average in three areas and slightly delayed in communication. They said it wasn’t enough to qualify for therapy at that time. Contact them again in three months if we didn’t see positive progress in Sam’s language skills. On one hand, I was relieved to discover that, while I thought he might be very delayed, in truth it wasn’t that severe. On the other hand, if three months were to pass and he still wasn’t speaking, then he would be even more delayed due to the wasted three months without therapy. To pile on more worries, I was surprised that he scored below average in social skills. I think his social development has been great because he has a strong connection with us, and he loves to give me hugs and kisses. It’s all tied in together though; a lot of the social skills tested also require communication. Ultimately though I decided I was glad about the results. He didn’t need therapy. Sam would probably start talking in no time.

Two months passed. Sam still doesn’t say any words. He does recognize some more words such as “socks.” And if I ask “Where’s froggy?” he searches the room and then brings me his stuffed frog that he got for Christmas. (We also got him a mirror to play with for Christmas since he had so much fun with the evaluator’s.) But still no “Mama.”  Still no words at all.  And I haven’t had much luck with signing, although I admit I really didn’t know what I was doing, I couldn’t even get him to do the simple sign for “more.” I’ll have to call the evaluation agency back in a few weeks, and I feel disheartened by that. I thought for sure that he would be picking up language and speaking by now.

To add on to my worries over Sam’s language delays there’s my frustration with the tantrums. It’s a safe bet to say that we are now in the stage of toddler tantrums. From the horror stories I’ve heard, his tantrums aren’t even that bad. However, they are super frustrating for me because of the lack of language. I don’t even know why he’s tantrumming! He’s screaming and crying but not asking me for anything! I can’t help but think that maybe if I just knew what he wanted, I could eagerly give it to him and we’d all be happy. For instance, this morning beginning at breakfast time he was screaming and crying and screaming and crying. Perhaps he was just saying, “Gee, Mama, this oatmeal is too warm, too cold, needs a bit more cream, I’d rather have some of that lovely spinach soufflé instead, etc.” All valid requests I would have been happy to fulfill. But I have no idea what he wanted. It makes me sad, really sad. It probably makes him sad, too, and frustrated, too – thus the tantrum. He was crying like that on and off all morning.  I still don’t know what he wanted.

For once, I stayed calm and didn’t allow myself to get frustrated and raise my voice over his. I used to think that the best course of action to take with a tantrumming child was to walk away and ignore them. I know that is the common advice from most experienced moms and experts. Now, I’m not so sure. And like I’ve said at the beginning of writing this blog, I’m tending to lean towards the crunchy munchy side of things, off center from the mainstream way of thinking.

So I spent the better part of the morning holding him. (It’s similar to an idea I read on another blogger’s site. She’s a mom in New Zealand with interesting insights and ideas about children and parenting, and she wrote about Boring Cuddles.) From what I’ve understood about small children not yet mastering their emotions and self-soothing skills, it seems counter-productive to just let him tire himself out screaming. Counter-productive, and cruel. When it comes right down to it, my compassion for his frustration and my crazy love for the little guy make me want to hug him. So I hold him, firmly so he feels secure, and I sway back and forth. Sometimes it’s difficult to hold him when he’s thrashing about, but I do my best.  And sometimes it takes longer than other times (this morning took a while) but eventually he’ll calm down. Some people might disapprovingly accuse me of coddling during a tantrum, and perhaps when he’s older and throwing a tantrum in the middle of the store because he wants candy I won’t stop to hug him. But, for now, he’s only twenty months old, he can’t even say “Mama” yet, and I think he needs hugs and cuddles. Come to think of it, I could use a hug and a cuddle today, too.

 

(After he calmed down, I took him outside for a long walk. He got some exercise and to release some energy, and the fresh air was good for both of us. After our walk, he fell right to sleep for his nap.)


Another Lie That Parents Tell Kids?

Another lie that parents tell kids?

Husband and wife are fighting over something kid-related. Junior approaches Parent afterwards and asks, “Are you fighting because of me?”
“No, Sweetie, of course not.”
There’s one of those bold-faced lies that parents tell their kids. Isn’t it?

My husband and I hardly ever used to fight. In fact I couldn’t understand why other couples would fight so much. I remember a conversation with my mother-in-law where she said she couldn’t understand how we never got angry with each other, never fought. Jack and I have been together for over twelve years and friends for a few years before that. We got along like best friends. What was there to fight about? Nothing. But now it seems that we fight all the time. What changed? We had a baby.

Friday night’s fight went something like this:
Context: Sam is going to have an evaluation done because of our concerns regarding his delayed language.

Me: Perhaps it would be better if you (hubby) were not present for the evaluation.
Jack: Maybe they want parents to be there.
Me: Well, yeah, it’s important that a parent is there. I’ll be there.
Then somehow as he’s arguing why can’t he be the parent that is there, I might have said something about me being the primary parent. I admit (to myself and three days later) that “primary parent” was completely the wrong phrase to use because by default it labels Jack as the obviously less appealing “secondary parent.” He pointed this out to me quickly and angrily. However, when I said “primary parent” my thinking was that I am the parent that is with Sam for most of his waking hours, so perhaps I would have a better chance of getting Sam to “perform” for the evaluator. Back to the fight…
Jack: I can’t believe you’re doing this!
Me: Doing what?
Jack: Marginalizing me as a parent!
Me: What? I am not marginalizing you as a parent. I would never do that! That’s not who we are! That’s not what we’re about! And you know what? This is not about you! It’s not all about you! It’s about Sam! It’s about a concern that I had, and I wanted what’s best for Sam.
Jack: Based on nothing! No one told you that. They didn’t tell you that it would be best if there was only one other person there. You’re basing that on nothing!
Me: Oh! So my feelings and concerns are NOTHING?
Jack: Oh, please!
Me: And how can you accuse me of such a horrible thing as trying to marginalize you as a parent? I would never do that! Just like you accused me of thinking our son was stupid because I was concerned about him. I can’t believe you accuse me of such horrible things! I would NEVER try to marginalize you as a parent!
Jack: Well, that’s certainly what it sounded like.
Me: Well, maybe you should say to yourself “Gee, Gwen would never try to marginalize me as a parent. She must not have realized how that sounded. Let me see what she really meant instead.” Instead of attacking me and accusing me!
Jack: Well, I was hurt and that’s my defensive move.

Long pause… is the fight over? Nah, not yet.

Jack: So why can’t we both be there? I think we should both be there.
Me: I think it would be better if only one of us is there.
Jack: And why is that?
Me: I think it might be too distracting for Sam if we’re both there.
Jack: You think it would be too distracting if we’re both there?
Me: Yeah, maybe.
Jack: But not if you’re there?
Me: Right.
Jack: So what is it exactly about my presence that would be so distracting?
Me:
Me:
Me:
Silence for the next hour. Which signified the end of the fight.

Yeah, I admit, when reading the words in black and white, I don’t come out looking too great. So what was I thinking? I thought that the calmest atmosphere would be best for Sam. I thought that he might get confused, overwhelmed, or fussy if he had two parental voices commanding that he GET THE BALL THE BALL, SAM, WHERE’S THE BALL CAN YOU GET THE BALL? Or even worse, one parent tells him to get the ball while the other parent, seeing that Sam is not moving towards the ball, decides to prompt him to get the cow. GET THE BALL, SAM, GET THE BALL, HOW ABOUT THE COW, SAM, GET THE COW, THE BALL, GET THE BALL, GET THE COW, C-OOO-W, GET THE COW! BALL! Cowball?

I was also a bit worried that Jack wouldn’t want to sit back and allow Sam to play and explore on his own. Maybe he would try to guide Sam towards certain toys and activities for the evaluator’s benefit. (Although I suppose for all I know, he/she may prefer guided play for the observation.) However, Jack will often leave Sam to play and entertain himself. So, really, I’m not sure what I’m worried about. Perhaps I’m just worried, period.

But back to my original question – which bothers me because I don’t want to be the kind of parent who lies. Our whole fight was because of Sam, was it not? If Sam were to ask me if it was his fault that we were fighting, I could confidently say “NO.” It is not his fault if we disagree, even vehemently, about some parenting issue. But, we are fighting because of him. Am I just splitting hairs? Can any other parents shed some light on this question for me? I remember my parents fighting when I was young, and there was nothing wrong with my ears. I knew full well that they were arguing about me. I assume that if I had asked my mother if they were arguing because of me, she would have hugged me and said, “No, Sweetie, of course not.” And I probably would have thought she was lying.


Waiting to Hear “Mama”

Red lights when you’re running late. Picking the slow check-out lane at the grocery store. Insomnia. Seeing red splatters decorate the wall after the spaghetti sauce somehow flies out of your grasp. Dealing with in-laws that are staying for three weeks. Listening to the new upstairs neighbors stomp back and forth across your ceiling.

As frustrating as those events may be, none of them reach the level of frustration involved with trying to understand a pre-verbal toddler.

Sam’s wailing cry is implausibly both guttural and piercing. It means that he is unhappy or uncomfortable. Or he is hungry or thirsty. Or he wants to play. OK, I admit I really have no idea what it means. Oh wait, I do have some idea; it means that my head is going to start hurting. Not that that helps.

Sam is 16 months old, and doesn’t say one recognizable word. If only I knew what his little crying heart desired, I would most gladly offer it to him, silver platter and all. Our saving grace is that Sam is overall a very content little boy. But when he lets loose with a demanding howl I wish so much that he could tell me what he wanted. As frustrating as this is for me, I can only imagine it is even more so for my Sam.

It’s not as simple as teaching Sam a few signs. See, not only does Sam not speak yet, but he also shows no (or very little) sign of comprehending anything I say. Some kids are late talkers, and that’s usually A-OK, because you can see that they understand everything that is said to them. Babies begin to build their receptive language vocabulary first. After developing their receptive language comprehension, they’ll eventually start speaking. My son, however, never responded to simple directions such as “Give me the ball.” And he wouldn’t turn towards me or Jack when we would ask “Where’s Mommy?” or “Where’s Daddy?” Sam seems to have gotten stuck somewhere on the path to language comprehension.

It has been, at times, so frustrating to decipher his grunts and yells and to feel that sense of emptiness where there should be comprehension. But even worse is the creeping fear that something is wrong.

So I’ve grown more and more anxious about his lack of language. I almost never mention it to anyone. I spoke about it to my sister once. She quickly replied with assurances that Sam was fine, all kids are different, Sam is so smart, don’t worry. I’ve always found that uninformed knee-jerk assurances are utterly useless and insulting to my intelligence. Worse, it’s like a quick dismissal of my feelings and concerns. I haven’t spoken to her about it since. I was anxious and worried, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to.

My husband believed, or wanted to believe, that Sam was understanding everything we were saying. I knew better. Jack argued that Sam would respond with happiness when my husband would propose their various fun activities, like running or swimming. I pointed out that Sam always responded with happiness whenever Jack would speak with a happy tone. That wasn’t clear evidence of comprehension.

Then we had Sam’s 15-month check-up with his pediatrician. He agreed that it sounded like Sam may have a language delay. And no, I didn’t really want to be right, but finally, I felt like my concerns were acknowledged and validated. Our next step is to set up an appointment to have a speech evaluation done.

The creeping fear didn’t have a concrete shape, but the scary A-word was almost certainly driving it. Autism is a huge terrifying monster for most new parents. It definitely was weighing on my mind as I waited to hear “Mama.” I don’t pretend to know a lot about autism. I know that language problems are one aspect, so understandably this was a root source of my anxiety. But as our pediatrician explained to us, social problems are far more indicative of autism than are language delays. My sweet Sam, I am happy to tell you, has great social skills.

Sam is my Snuggle Monster. He is very affectionate with both me and Jack. He makes eye contact and smiles and laughs easily when we’re being silly. He plays peekaboo. He also has his own version of peekaboo that he made up. While in his highchair, he covers his eyes with his hands. I say “Where’s Sammy?” until he peeks out from behind his tiny fingers with a twinkle in his eye. Of course I call out “There’s Sammy!” and he giggles and hides behind his hands again. It’s adorable.

While we were sitting in the doctor’s room, the pediatrician observed Sam giving Jack hugs and kisses, unprompted by us. A good sign, he said. Also, Sam carefully watched the doctor throughout the appointment, which the doctor said was very much expected behavior for his age. He said that an autistic child would more likely be gazing towards the corners and not paying attention to the stranger in the room. That half hour with the pediatrician did a lot to allay my fears.

In the past two weeks since then, I’ve had the joy of seeing some progress. It would look insignificant to the casual observer, but it feels momentous to me. Being careful not to look in the direction of the ball, I said to Sam “Get the BALL! Can you get the BALL? Where’s the BALL? Get the BALL Sam!” Where’s the B-B-B-ALL?” Four out of six times, Sam has turned, crawled straight to the ball, and grabbed it and looked at me with a big smile! You know I was whooping and clapping with joy! Such a seemingly little gesture, but I was overwhelmed with happiness and relief. I call that clear evidence that Sam understood exactly what I said! In the past, when I have asked him to get the ball, he would sit and give me a blank expression. He wouldn’t even glance in the direction of the ball. Now 4 out of 6 times, he made a beeline for his ball. And as for the two times in which he did not move towards the ball… well, he’s one. One-year-olds don’t always listen. They get distracted by other toys. That’s what I’m telling myself.

I still need to call to set up the speech evaluation. Hopefully we can get some advice on how to help Sam build his language skills. Until then, I’m still waiting to hear my sweet boy call me “Mama.” I can’t wait!