Emotions of Transition

>> Friday, September 19, 2008

Lucas "reading" to Caden this week. "He loves this book, Mommy!" Can't you tell? :)
This has been a challenging week to say the least. Both boys got colds and although neither progressed beyond snot and coughs, there was (and still is) a significant lack of sleep around here. Lucas has always had sleep issues. He fights it even though anyone can see he is on the verge of exhaustion. If you can ever get him to lay still, he falls asleep within seconds. He has gotten much better at bedtime, but naps continue to be a battle. They have been particularly bad this week due to sickness and just the overall complexities of learning to manage two kids.

We usually start nap time routine sometime between 1 and 1:30. After a few stories and the inevitable "one more," I kiss him and tell him I love him and that he needs to take a nap now. I usually throw in some enticing reason to nap, like something fun we can do after he wakes up. I leave the room and normally he goes to sleep within 15min. or so. But not this week. This week he cries and says things that cut to a mama's soul. He has said things like this to me before, since Caden has been born and almost always at nap time. But this week it has been every day and WAY more intense. He begs to be put in the sling. He hasn't asked for that in months until this week. He always asks me to hold him, but the sling is something new this week and it is my own doing. I wore him on my back several times when he was so sick and put him in the sling to help him fall asleep a couple times earlier in the week. Now, he wants it every time which just isn't practical. If Caden is crying, I cannot manage holding and soothing him with Lucas in the sling. But it isn't just Lucas wanting the comfort of being cozy with mama in the sling. He feels unloved, uncared for. That is why he is asking for sling-time. He says to me "I just need someone to come over... someone who loves me" or "I need someone to hold me." He cries for Daddy. "I want him to be here with our family," he said today. Does Lucas really think that I don't love him? Is there a part of his little heart that is feeling neglected and uncared for and that is coming out in these moments of tired emotion?

Today I physically held him against his will after he had cried hysterically for over an hour and asked about 20times to be put in the sling. I had tried EVERYTHING else- massage, singing, reading, patting, etc... The past two days I did let him fall asleep in the sling and, although it was precious time for me too, I just don't feel like that is a good precedent to set. So today, I sat in the rocking chair with a kicking and screaming toddler in my lap and a FINALLY sleeping infant on a blanket next to me. I was failing to compassionately mother either of them. This is just too emotionally hard. Now granted, we are ALL tired this week so it makes it even worse. But the issue still remains. How can I be the mother that both of them need when I am unable to be the mother that either need?

I held Lucas for a good 10 minutes and he eventually fell asleep once he lost the will (or energy) to fight. I then laid him in his bed, totally defeated, and picked up Caden (who woke up just as Lucas fell asleep) and nursed him back to sleep. Then I just sat on my bed, Caden on my chest, and had a good cry myself. I whispered words of apology to both boys... sorry that I let Caden cry and sorry that I wasn't able to focus on either one. Sorry that I let my frustration take over and bring words and actions that I regret. Sorry that despite my flawed attempts, both boys probably felt abandoned and like my second priority. I eventually closed my eyes, realizing that a nap would make all the difference in my mental health. Lucas woke up crying and coughing about 10minutes later. After all that, he slept for less than an hour. Swell. For those of you reading this saying he is obviously giving up his nap, you don't know my toddler. He is tired. Very tired. He woke up today at 5am and has always been an early riser. He needs this nap still, whether he thinks he does or not. And for those of you reading this judging my mothering decisions, I am doing the best I can to parent and love and nurture my boys in the best ways I know. I want there to be no question in my sons' hearts that I love them above all else. Lucas is my world. I adore him. I think he is possibly the world's greatest and smartest and cutest and most amazing child. And Caden has stolen my heart too. And that is why the depth of this sense of failure is so intense. The emotional aspect of parenting two kids is really starting to catch up with me. I anticipated that I would grieve being able to give Lucas my full attention. I knew it would be tough to balance the needs of two kids. But I never expected my 2 year old to say things in moments of intense emotion that make me feel like I have completely failed him.

It actually makes me feel like I am failing both. Giving one what they need means neglecting the other. Caden has very physical needs. I need to be engaging him, stimulating him, nurturing him so that he and I continue to bond the way a mother and child should and he hits all the right milestones. I can't just let him cry by himself. I won't do that. (Even though there are WAY more times with Caden the I do let him cry for a few minutes if I am in the middle of something. ) Lucas' needs are much more emotional. He does have physical needs but I am not having any trouble meeting those. I make him meals, I change his clothes and diaper, etc... But when he says things like he has said this week, it truly crushes me. It takes me down to zero. I have failed. If any part of him feels that I don't love him, I have failed as a mother in general and for sure as a pseudo-attachment parenting mama. If his little heart feels that my leaving him in his room to fall asleep for nap means that he "needs" someone to come over... "someone to love him," well that just breaks my heart into a million pieces. I don't know how to fix that.

It is hard to imagine that Caden will get bigger and a bit more self-sufficient and able to fall asleep better on his own. And that parenting two kids won't always be this way. But he will and it won't. I do still feel like we are adjusting fairly well. Lucas is very affectionate with Caden. He understands that mommy can't always play with him (although he says "mommy, please play with me" about 15times/day- he has always been a mama's boy) and that sometimes I have to take care of an immediate Caden-need before I can take care of something that he needs/wants. It is mostly this one area of the transition that I have not managed well.
I need a new solution, a new approach to nap time. I need to deal with my own emotions of so deeply loving two boys before I can ever expect Lucas to know how to manage his. I need to know how to distinguish between true emotion and toddler-manipulation. Both are probably in play here. I need to learn how to not hold a grudge with my 2 yr. old and be able to lovingly embrace him and show him compassion even after I have been so beaten down. I need to remind myself that we are only a month into this new journey and I need to give us all a little more time. But mostly, I need to find a way to patch whatever feels so broken in his little heart so that mine stops breaking.


TwoSquareMeals September 19, 2008 at 8:29 PM  

Oh, sweet Farrah, you are NOT failing at mothering. You are just adjusting to life with two to take care of. Everything you and Lucas are feeling is perfectly normal, and just because you can't always meet his needs does not mean that he feels any less loved by you. He is just expressing in words that he knows what it feels like to not have you there every second. That is not failed attachment parenting, it is a natural part of growing up. It is a small part right now, but those moments will get more frequent as Lucas grows. Before you know it, he will actually want them (like when he turns 4...that is our issue this week...)

These emotions are part of adjusting to having another little person, and they will not last forever. While I did miss my ability to meet all of Calvin's needs immediately once Hobbes was born, the way that they have become entwined in one another's lives has more than made up for it. The love is not diminished, it is grown with the addition of another person. The newborn stage is so short, and pretty soon Lucas will be getting and giving love from Caden, and you will be the one feeling left out. It is how it should be.

You will not be able to meet every need of your boys all of the time, and that is okay. That is why this parenting thing drives us to lean on God so much, to trust that He is fulfilling all of their needs in ways that we never can. Your boys know that their mama loves them, and Lucas has a secure enough foundation in that to get through this adjustment just fine. I promise!

I love you!!! (Though tomorrow you are my mortal enemy...Go Vols!)

Earthmommy September 20, 2008 at 2:26 PM  

I wish I had some words of wisdom about the sleep issue but I fall way short of my motherly duties there myself. I'm such a softie when it comes to sleep that our three-year-old still has difficulty sleeping alone.

However, I can tell you this. Part of the transition you're experiencing right now is Lucas having to adapt to everything in his world changing. Even though he's still little, learning to adapt to life changes is an important part of growing up. You are certainly NOT neglecting him in any way and I'm sure he knows you love him. It's obvious that you demonstrate that on a daiy basis.

Kids are smart and it doesn't take them long too figure out exactly what to say or do to get their way and I think he probably knows he can get your attention by saying some of those things. My little one is about his age and will tell me no one loves her whenever she is over-tired and competing for my attention. Does she really think no one loves her? Nah. She just knows how to push mama's buttons.

I think you are doing a great job, and its obvious you care deeply about your boys. They will make it through this transition fine, and so will you. The illness and lack of sleep is obviously a big factor. Just stick to your guns about naptime, be consistent and it will work itself out. Oh, and cry whenver you need to!

((((Hugs))) I hope this was at least a little helpful.

Heather @ Not a DIY Life September 20, 2008 at 7:41 PM  

Farrah, I don't have any words of wisdom for you, as I haven't been in this place. But I want you to know that you are doing a GREAT job as a mother - to all of your boys.

I pray that rest comes for all of you. Rest for your bodies and for your souls. That rest helps with perspective.


Atwood-Family of 3 September 21, 2008 at 8:26 AM  

Sometimes motherhood is an incredibly thin balance between what we need as mothers/parents/adults/humans and what our child needs. Sometimes we have to make those tough choices where someone is unhappy-either us because we are doing something we don't want to do but know it's better for our kids or for our kids because we need to do something for ourselves and they will be unhappy.

One thing I learned deeply when Anne was an infant was that if I didn't take care of myself, I was a horrible mother. My line, where I need to do what I need to do for myself, is much higher up than it sounds like your line is. It sounds like you have incredibly more patience and understanding and tolerance than I could ever hope to imagine. And still, it sounds like the other day you reached your line. I won't give advice on what you could or should do w/ naptimes with Lucas, just give you something to think about or relay my experience where I've been in that place where I had to do things that made Anne uphappy so I could take care of myself first then be able to cater to her needs so much better than I ever could if I didn't take care of myself.

Good luck-as everyone has said, you are an amazing mother and I know whatever choice you make, it will be with love and thoughfulness.


Atwood-Family of 3 September 21, 2008 at 8:32 AM  

Ps. Someone said to me when Anne was about 6 months old and I had a moment like you had "They don't remember and we try to forget." I thought that was so true and so poniont (bad spelling.) I hope that saying might encourage your heart somehow.

Katharos September 21, 2008 at 2:38 PM  

Sweet friend, you could be reciting what you see if you were to look in our windows around any bedtime.

The demands of two, in addition to the physical and emotional needs of myself and the regular absence of my husband (for work), quite diminish my ability to be the mother that I truly want to be.

Katherine begs for "someone to help me go to sleep." When I have a squirming (or screaming) infant to soothe and/or daddy is out of town it is impossible to gently parent her to sleep. It quickly escalates to an unpleasant scene for all involved. Add her volume and tenacity to the mix and we are all miserable, tired, and feeling wholly inadequate.

I don't have an answer for you, just the assurance that you are not alone in loving your kids more than you can express yet feeling like you fail them.

You are a loving and attentive mother. Your boys are blessed to have you. One of our La Leche leaders always tells us that they (our kids) will eventually sleep through the night, on their own, in their own beds. I wish eventually were now, but know that it will come.

Anonymous September 23, 2008 at 10:36 AM  

It sounds to me like you really need some time for yourself so that you can clear your head: sometimes, we become so devoted to our kids (and we work ourselves soooooo hard), that we utterly exhaust ourselves. Then we lose our ability to have some perspective on our problems.

Take a few minutes to do something that feels relaxing. It can be some deep breathing, a five-minute magazine dive, or a headstand. It can be laughing at a cartoon or drawing a picture. Something that has nothing to do with your little boys. It will remind you that you are a strong, connected, instinctive woman and mother, and that this too shall pass!

Elizabeth Pantley's "No Cry Sleep Solution" is a great book, by the way, put out by the same publisher who published my book, "Mothers Need Time Outs, Too!"


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