When Baby Pushes Your Limits

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Savina is growing and thriving every day, in every imaginable way, but instead of bragging about her progress, today I want to offer a couple of tips to new parents, because I know that a lot of first time parents struggle a lot with these kinds of things. These are things I have struggled with myself in the last couple of months, so I just want to share how I handled it, and maybe this will help you understand your baby a little bit better.

My daughter is 19 1/2 months old, and she has recently started throwing a lot of tantrums, which is completely normal at her age. She’s trying to figure out the rules, trying to figure out what she can get away with, trying to get her will. She is learning. It’s a new world for her that she’s grown into, and she’s just trying to figure it all out.

So two things that have been particularly obvious in the last couple of months are communication and throwing tantrums without apparent reason.

I want to start with communication, because this came up this morning with my husband, and I know a lot of parents struggle the same way he did.

IMG_6618Savina was trying to communicate with him this morning, while I was in the bedroom–still resting. She kept going “eh, eh, eh,” and my husband kept asking, “What? What? What’s wrong? What’s the problem?” She just answered with “eh eh eh.” Obviously she was fruitlessly trying to give the answer, while he was fruitlessly trying to find the answer, asking those questions. Unfortunately he had the wrong approach, because she is too little to really communicate perfectly well, and she’s really trying hard to communicate. I’m so lucky, Savina is already fairly advanced in her ability to talk and make herself understood, so I can imagine many parents struggling with this a lot harder than we do sometimes.

So what I said to my husband when they finally came into our room, was that asking “what?” and “what’s the problem?” “what’s the matter?” “what’s wrong?” are not the questions that get you an answer, because she doesn’t know how to answer them. She can’t answer you, because you’re not asking the right questions–questions that are easy for her to answer. So what I said was, depending on the room she’s in, depending on the situation, depending on her body language, her signing, her surroundings, just ask her questions, no matter how trivial or stupid or silly they may sound to you, just ask her questions. Ask her, are you hungry, do you want to read that book, do you need help, what do you need help with? I told him there even was this instance: she was actually in the car with me at the time, and she was getting quite upset, and kept pointing at something in the seat, and I kept asking her what the matter is, and obviously it’s not going to get you an answer, because babies that age don’t know how to answer something like that. So then I asked her, “Did you make pee pee in your diaper?” and she said ya, and I said okay, you’re wearing a diaper, it’s okay, and then she was fine.

IMG_6626You see, she was just trying to communicate. It doesn’t matter whether what she was trying to say has any significance. It doesn’t matter whether action needs to be taken–it’s just that she needs to communicate, and that’s what she’s trying to do. She’s trying to make conversation, and when you don’t understand her, that’s when she gets frustrated, and that’s when she starts getting upset, and cries, and stuff like that, because she’s trying to talk with you–she’s trying to have a conversation about something that matters in her mind, and you’re not understanding it. And if you just ask, “What?” “What’s going on?” “What’s the matter?” then that’s not communication, that’s just you asking her the same question over and over and over again.

You’re the grown-up, so you are supposed to guide the conversation–you’re supposed to be able to communicate with/to your baby, and just asking the same question all over and over and over, a question that is fruitless, that your baby is unable to answer, that’s just not very adult of you. The baby is learning–you already know the stuff. So go ahead and ask the silly questions.

The other thing I wanted to talk about, give some tips about, is random tantrums, those ones you think are completely meaningless, and there is no reason behind her acting out. And there may not be, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she’s trying to get your attention and your understanding. Here again, you are the grown-up.

I want to tell you about a little situation that came up this morning when I was alone with my daughter. I asked her if she wanted to have breakfast, and she said yes, and I went with her to the dining room. I was about to put her in her chair, and she started tantruming, started screaming, eh eh no no eh eh. Some parents would freak out about their child freaking out, and I just want to say: it’s completely pointless to freak out over your child freaking out. It’s not going to make matters better–if anything, it’s going to make matters worse. Your child needs your support, your understanding, and your love, not you freaking out. Also, always remember: you’re the model for your child. Especially at this age: whatever you do, she will mimic. Why? Because she sees you do it.

IMG_6635So basically, what I did instead of screaming at her, and saying “What? What is going on? You just said you wanted to eat! Stop crying. Stop this behavior,” bla bla bla–this is just not the right approach. What I did, when she started rolling herself on the floor, screaming, you know, the whole nine yards, I sat down next to her, and I let her do whatever she needed to do, and then after a little while I said, “Do you want to come and cry with Mommy?” I kept asking her that, and I wasn’t getting an answer, so I waited a little longer, and I said to her, “Come to Mommy, come to Mommy,” reaching out to her, and at first she didn’t want to, but then she reached out to me, and I grabbed her, and I put her in my lap–she was still tantruming at that point–and I asked her, “What’s the matter, baby?” (of course I just told you not to ask that over and over, but again, I only asked that once, and I’m by no means perfect either). And I cuddled her, gave her my love and my understanding, and I was patient–it’s so important to be patient. So, after a little while, she calmed down, and I asked her again, “Do you want to eat something?” and she said yes, and in my mind I went over what happened earlier: I’d asked her if she wanted breakfast, and she’d said yes, and I had attempted to put her in her chair. Well, I wasn’t going to take that chance again of setting something off, so I asked her, “Do you want to eat at the table?” and she said yes, and I asked, “Are you going to go in your chair?” and she said yes, so then I got up with her, and I put her in her chair, and she was fine.

So I guess, what I’m trying to say is, go slow, be patient, don’t overreact. Keep your calm, keep your patience–that is so important. Don’t say things like “stop that,” “stop crying,” and the like. Don’t ignore her either, or say things like “Fine, have your little tantrum then,” and walk away. You need to be present for your baby, be calm, loving, and understanding. Remember, you are the grown-up–act like one. I have no idea what her problem was–it doesn’t matter what her problem was. What matters is that you are there for the baby. If you are there for your child, and you show her understanding for her feelings, because children this little have big big feelings and big emotions, and to them they matter, to them they are something, even if to you seemingly they are nothing, you will quickly notice that handling these situations becomes easier. I know it can be hard at times–trust me, I, too, slip at times. Nobody is perfect–just know what your baby needs, and try as best you can to be there for her during tough times. Remember: don’t react–respond.

I can give countless more examples from our every day life, but I think you get the idea without me writing a novel about it.

So those are my couple of tips for today, and I hope it helps you in dealing with your baby during rough times.

Thanks for reading, and look forward to an update on my little girl and peanut next time. Lots of love to all the parents out there–you do great!

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Overcoming Challenges

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Yay, hello spring! Finally the weather has turned around. I don’t even mind the rain this year–just so tired of the cold and the snow. Most days are in the 50s and 60s now, and some days it gets as warm as 90F in the sun. It can still be chilly when there is a cool breeze or slight wind, but for the most part it’s so nice now, and we’ve been outside without socks and jackets for the first time this past weekend. Spring has also crept into Savina’s body. She’s got the spring fever, wanting to be outside all day every day–so fun!

In mid-April we had visitors lighting up the mostly still fairly cold and dreary days. My sister came to visit with her family for two weeks. Of course, Savina raked in all of the attention. We all had a grand time together, and hopefully they’ll make it back this summer!

IMG_6454During their stay, there were at least a couple of really nice and warm days, during one of which we went to the pond with Savina. I’ve always known Savina to be a little diva, but I was oblivious to her being this particular about her foot-cleanliness. She’s always been obsessed with her feet being clean. Last summer, when she walked barefoot in the house, and it was a bit dirty, she’d pick off the dirt from her feet. She’d sit down and take her time cleaning her feet from crumbs and tiny specks of what-have-yous. Then, all winter she’s been in socks, obviously, so I had no idea she’d gotten so used to being clean. At the pond, Savina became hysterical when we took off her shoes and socks. She had no intention whatsoever to let her feet touch the sand in the slightest. No matter what we did, we could not get Savina to warm up to the idea of dirty feet, and having fun on the beach without shoes. She’d scream and yell, and shout “shoe shoe!” She cried so hard and clung to me like a koala bear, always holding her feet up as if there was fire underneath, or something equally nasty. Finally, we had to give up trying and went home. Of course, I might have figured, since she’s always asked me to clean off sand from her feet and legs periodically (all the while wearing pants, socks, and shoes) when playing in the sandbox this year.

20140504_103900Yesterday, we decided to try a different approach, mostly one involving Daddy. I do remember that last year, when she was scared of the water the way she’s been scared of the sand this year, the only way she would warm up was with Papa. Last year I loved seeing that, because it demonstrated a certain level of love and trust that new Daddies need to experience in these early months of caring for a newborn, and won’t otherwise easily see. It’s normal, but no less hard to accept. I hoped, no I knew, that level of love and trust had not changed, grown if anything! So I was looking forward to the next available beautiful day with Papa around. We started Savina off by letting her run around our currently very dirty house without socks. First thing in the morning, she was hesitant to even step off her room’s carpet–silly girl! Throughout the morning, she’d sit down every now and then to clean off her feet. Trust me, our floors need vacuuming baaaaaadly! Some areas she’d refuse to go to, like near the cat box in the bathroom, as there were clearly kibbles of cat litter lying about. As the morning went on, she slowed down with her cleaning-my-feet-obsession. We prepared to visit the beach. Once there, the same scenario unfolded. Savina was not happy to be shoe-less in Mommy’s lap, left with only two options: stay in Mommy’s lap and get bored, or go play in the sand with bare feet.

20140504_110652Papa did all the work. There’s no point going into all of the details–it could become a 10 page essay! We started her out playing with her shoes on, then placed her in my lap on a towel and took her shoes off. It took Daddy no more than about 20 minutes to get Savina on the sand. It did feel more like 5 minutes though. She called for her shoes again, and actually tried to put them on herself, but that attempt didn’t go very far and didn’t last very long. Once she was comfortable in the sand, there was no stopping her! She ran around the whole beach, up and down the waterline, and she stepped in the water all by herself. Cold? Who cares–not the Savinababy. If it was up to her, she would’ve dived right in! They played with a toy watering can–such fun! Savina had a blast, and was lastly reluctant to leave. Alas, she did get plenty wet, and for the second time in her 18 1/2 months of life we forgot the diaper bag! Luckily, it didn’t turn into a big deal.

20140504_110638The other big change happened while everyone was visiting as well: Savina’s nap times. I can always tell when she goes through her Wonder Weeks, because it takes 3-6 times the amount of time to put her to sleep for a nap or for the night, and after the leap she goes back to normal. When the family came to visit, she’d just come out of her last Wonder Weeks, and slowly the time it took to put her down was normalizing. Then, after just a few days of everyone visiting, I encountered severe nap refusal in the mornings. Frustrating as that was, it couldn’t have been the Wonder Weeks, as they had just ended. I knew at the time that Savina was slowly transitioning to one nap a day, but she was still a ways from achieving that. Every morning she just looked so very tired: red eyes, eye rubbing, lots of yawning, not too much energy, wanting to nurse, even answering “ya” when asked if she wanted to go take a nap. All of her sleepiness signs were there, yet when I sat down with her, she refused to sleep. So I had to decide, and found that even if she was that tired, it was time to switch her fully. This could not go on, and her body would just have to learn to adjust to what her awake and aware mind demanded. It took about two weeks to fully adjust, meaning she is only now getting enough sleep fairly regularly during her single nap. During the period of transitioning, she’d sleep anywhere from 1-3 hours, but over the last few days it’s been a fairly consistent 2-3 hours. I’m so glad this change finally happened, because now we can do fun stuff in the morning, instead of losing 1.5 hours here, then breakfast, then a little playtime, and losing another 1.5 hours, just to wake up to dinner time. We have the whole morning to enjoy, then a good solid block of sleep, dinner, more play, and finally nighty-night.

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I’m constantly amazed by all of the changes that keep coming. Savina is finally eating more vegetables. She chews on peppers, cucumbers, even carrots now, likes salads, and sometimes enjoys zucchini. Maybe it has to do with her teeth populating her mouth more and more as time goes by, or maybe she’s adjusting to various textures she wasn’t fond of before. Whatever the case, there’s constant progress. Her language keeps exploding as well. 20140503_163325While she does not yet put two words together (except sometimes through signing), she certainly enjoys expanding her vocabulary on a daily basis. She often tries to repeat whatever someone else says, and many of the words stick. Communicating with my daughter is becoming increasingly easier, and her great skills in ASL help understanding when she switches between German and English, and when her baby-words sound the same.

What has also amazed me lately is how well Savina is playing with her cute neighbors. There are a couple girls, five years and three years old, and they hardly speak any English at all (they speak Portuguese), but they play wonderfully together all the same. They’ve only played the second time today, and it was just so adorable to watch. Savina was so happy when she saw the older girl playing outside. She laughed and ran towards her. Too sweet.

Moving on to peanut. I’m now well into the third trimester (28 weeks today), although I think peanut wanted me to start the last third of pregnancy a little earlier, sending me to the bathroom a lot more often well before the third trimester started. At this stage, some days I seem to get exhausted a bit quicker than I did in the second trimester. I’m putting on nearly a pound a week now, which, if it continues at this rate, will put me at the ~25lbs mark. With Savina I’d gained about 35-38lbs total if I recall correctly. Lastly, my boobs have become so sensitive again, even more so than in the first trimester, I’d say.

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I’m feeling peanut move a lot now, and I think I was able to feel out his or her position for the first time this past weekend. We’ll try to play with the flashlight with peanut soon, just like we did with Savina, who always kicked at the light.

I can’t wait to see Savina’s reaction when the baby is born!

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To all who read my blog posts from start to finish every time: Thank you! I truly appreciate how much you care about hearing from us. Thank you for spending your time being a part of our lives.