Miss Rose has taken to screaming. It is not crying, it is screaming with rage. She isn’t hungry, she isn’t dirty, she isn’t in pain. She is just ANGRY. Usually because she wants to be picked up, and usually just when I’m in the middle of washing dishes or vaccuming. Initially I responded as she desired, I hate hearing her distressed and picking her up for cuddles and attention ended it.
Great, right? Wrong….
I do not want to turn this child into a brat. I also do not want to spend my life bending to her every whim just because she throws a tantrum. And she is tantrumming like a two year old. If she does not get the response she desires within moments the screaming intensifies to a throat ripping wail, her heels drum and her fists flail. The moment I pick her up it stops. Put her down, rage. Pick her up, smiles. Down, rage. Up, smiles.
She’s a canny one Miss Rose. She has worked out what she wants and how to get it.
The thing is, generally I am happy to give her what she wants. I want to play with her, I want to sing to her, of course I do but I also have responsibilities, and I truly believe I would be doing her a huge disservice if I let her believe I didn’t. If I let her grow up believing that throwing a tantrum gets her exactly what she wants no matter what anyone else is doing then she is going to develop into an unpleasant and spoiled person that people don’t like being around. I owe her more than that.
So I don’t pick her up. I reassure her that I’m there, that I’m listening and that I understand she’s angry. But I don’t pick her up. I don’t play with her. When she calms down and is quiet and good then I pay her attention. I am working on my mother’s principle of ignore bad behaviour, reward good. She will learn that screaming and raging doesn’t get her attention, but being gorgeously beautiful and sweet does.
Of course, as strong as I can be during the day… which is hard but I manage… come night time it’s so much harder. At night when I’m tired and desperate to sleep it’s so much harder. It would be so easy to just pick her up, put her in bed with me and snuggle down. It’s what she wants, to be honest it’s what I want, and it would mean we both get to sleep in calm quiet.
But I don’t believe parenting ends at sundown. Parenting is 24/7 and if I make a rule then I have to stick to it no matter the time of day otherwise there’s no point making the rule in the first place. It will confuse her, it will make my daytime rule pointless, and it will just make the nights harder in the long run. So I stick to it.
Last night after a booby she went back into her cot, stirred, then began screaming. She wasn’t hungry, she wasn’t dirty, she was MAD. So I started. She pulls herself up to standing so I pick her up and lay her back down. She pulls up, I lie her down. She bashes her head into the side of the cot, I lie her down and soothe her with a gentle stroke. Mostly I sit, I wait. I make sure she knows I’m there, that she hasn’t been abandoned, and that she isn’t alone, but that she is not going to get what she wants through a tantrum.
This resulted in two problems. Firstly my husband couldn’t handle it. He lay in bed trying to ignore the rage but in the end he couldn’t cope and hid downstairs until she had settled again. Wimp. The second problem was that after an hour of settling like this I was REALLY tired. Apparently more tired than I had realised. I was woken up by my husband grabbing my arm and saying “JUDE THE BABY!” and when I opened my eyes I saw her standing by the bed, holding onto the mattress and giggling. Not only had I got out of bed, removed her from the cot, and brought her into bed with us without realising it, I had also fallen so deeply asleep that I didn’t hear her climbing over me, I didn’t hear her sliding out of bed, and I didn’t hear her giggling right in my face. Normally I feel every movement and hear every noise. So then it was my turn to scream. A loud, long, blood curdling scream.
Indeed the scream was such that I fully expected my mother, who lives next door and frequently complains about hearing everything from rows to sex, to come charging over in her nightie, armed with a stuffed bear and a hairbrush, to beat my poor husband to a pulp for the attempted murder of her daughter. As it was she did say she heard the scream but actually assumed it was a “love” scream not a “hate” scream… which I find mildly concerning about what my sex noises are like… but I digress.
Another issue we are having right now, or a potential issue, is that my dear Miss Rose is something of a mountain goat. She LOVES to climb. She climbs furniture, she climbs us, and she climbs out of her cot. We lowered the mattress after only just managing to intercept an impending face plant, but she is showing signs of heaving her little baby body up and over in the near future. This terrifies me! Her cot was the safe place I could put her and know she was trapped if I needed to do anything (such as use the loo) and I could know she’s safe.
The climbing over me and out of the bed, and the climbing out of the cot, has lead me to consider alternative sleeping arrangements. Our gradual slow steps away from co-sleeping obviously have to become rather more rushed now the little madam is getting both brave and adventurous, and she won’t be able to sleep in her cot for much longer without causing herself a serious injury. To this end we’re considering, what I have since learned from my Mummy-Guru Imelda’s Mum, is a Montessori bedroom.
Miss Rose’s bedroom has the potential to be very lovely. It’s only small, a cube with walls not significantly longer than the cot, but it’s cute. Two walls are lilac and the ceiling, carpet and other walls are baby blue. It has a stunning ceiling light in the shape of a 3 dimensional star made of mirrors, a large old beam running along the ceiling, and some beautiful decorations just waiting to be strung up. But it is storage. There’s bags full of clothes she’s grown out of, a heap of toys both too young and too old, and Christmas and Birthday gifts yet to find homes. In all honesty I wasn’t expecting her to need it for quite a while longer… longer than my husband may be imagining…
We’re going to take the mattress from her cot and put it on the floor, then put all her toys, clothes, books etc at floor level too. She will be able to reach everything herself, get in and out of bed by herself, and be fully contained within her own bedroom designed to be used by someone of her size. It is supposed to teach them independence, give them space to learn and play in a way that supports them and their needs. There’s a lot of theory and research behind Montessori that when I read about it makes sense and I understand and respect. Of course, originally my plan was purely mattress on the floor in an enclosed space; keeps her safe, and gives me a way to breastfeed her in the night without either needing to buy a breastfeeding chair or cart her back and forth between her room and ours all night. This way I can just lie down next to her, feed her, then leave again. But now the plan has developed to allow a Montessori style space I am more confident, it just feels right for her and right for us.
That said, I am not confident. The whole idea terrifies me. Independence? Free will? No! She’s my teeny tiny little baby and I want her attached to me all day every day so I can feel her and smell her and love her and know she’s always safe! But that’s the slightly crazy side of me… the rational side knows that I have a strong willed, determined child who likes her freedom and her space and craves the ability to make her own decisions. This could give her what she longs for and also ensure I don’t wind up screaming the house down every night.
Will it work? I don’t know… I started clearing her bedroom this evening and might finish it tomorrow. Maybe. I’m pretty sure if I do finish it tomorrow my long suffering husband will have her bed set up and her toys in place before I can say “Maybe just another week in our room…”
Wish us luck.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!