PART 1 – Let’s Go Back A Bit, Shall We?

July 5, 2010

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When my oldest son, D, was just 2 years old I asked my family doctor for a referral to a child psychologist.

D had always been a sweet child, full of love and fun! He could giggle till he fell over and often did. 🙂 He hit all his milestones early, including sleeping through the night regularly at 3 weeks old. He ran (not walked) by 8 months and was saying several words by the end of his first year. He was a delightful baby to talk to and play with.

The ‘terrible twos’ first appeared at about 18 months, with behavior that was within the normal spectrum of children that age. So I began trying a few gentle strategies for redirecting D’s attention and I maintained my efforts to inspire good manners and kindness towards others. I also recognized that children will test boundaries at that age, as a way to learn about the world and the people around them.

D was tremendously curious for his age and was constantly getting into things. I did my best to child-proof our home so that he could explore safely. Doing this also meant that I didn’t have to constantly chase after him saying ‘No’ all day long. Interestingly, several mothers in the community had an opinion on my efforts. A few thought I was overdoing the child-proofing and that I should just chill out. Another mother actually suggested that moms who child-proof their homes are just doing it as an excuse not to do their jobs as parents. I found both takes on the subject bizarre and still do. Though at the time, I was a new mother and I was younger than most moms in the community, so I was slightly intimidated by these women’s opinions.

The ‘Terrible Twos’ seemed to intensify D’s emotions and his energy. He was still thrilled to try new things and loved exploring new spaces but something was different. He became increasingly frustrated at not being able to instantly master a new skill and he reminded me of a wind-up toy, always too tightly wound. He would also have epic meltdowns for no apparent reason and could scare even the most confident mother into thinking she wasn’t cut out for parenthood.

For several months, things got worse. Each day brought new challenges that there didn’t seem to be solutions for. D grew more nimble with his little fingers and managed to undo gate latchs and complex door locks. He was sneaky and brilliant. Far too smart in many ways, without the ability to understand the consequences or cause and effect of his actions.

When he climbed out the second story window of our house during his 2nd birthday party however, I was terrified that I was dealing with something that I was neither equipped nor comfortable managing alone. No amount of child-proofing had prepared me for the possibility of him knowing how to unlock and open the window and climb out of it. And all within just a few short minutes. I look back now and wish I could talk to the younger me. I wish I could give her a hug and say, “SERIOUSLY, who could have been prepared for THAT?! This isn’t your fault and you are a great mom.” But instead I beat myself up for years about that incident and several more, thinking that if only I could have been smarter, faster and sneakier, maybe I could have outwitted my toddler.

It wasn’t until many years later, when I was introduced to Dr. Edward Hallowell’s materials, that I read about similar incidents happening to other parents and finally let the guilt go.

TO BE CONTINUED….

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