Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Highly Active Infant at age 4

So, I still get lots and lots of hits for my "highly active infant" post. I thought it might be heartening to hear how things turned out once we got past the infant stage. Also, I will note that while Charlie was very, very busy so was his sister (although she was somewhat better at self soothing). When Charlie was a baby, I was really worried that he might have ADHD. I worried he would never learn to sleep for any length of time. I worried I was doing it all wrong. I worried that I would never manage to babyproof well enough that he would see age 2. None of these things were true either for Charlie or Megan. Although, I will say my house has some impressive baby proofing at this point. :-) While Charlie never met a drawer he wouldn't open, Megan never met something she didn't consider appropriate for climbing. To round out the group, Noah doesn't seem nearly as much on the always in motion side but he is OMG fussy, fussy, fussy but, that is another type of baby entirely.

Anyway, for those staring at the infant that won't sleep, can't be put down, and seems to be in perpetual motion, let there be light...

There does seem to be something to the whole assertion that these types of children are gifted. Now, I'm not really prepared to go down the whole "gifted" path at this point but I will say that both Charlie and Megan tended to run ahead of the curve on most skills. Megan was speaking in 2 word sentences by 12 months and making 8 block towers by 13 months. Charlie got a speech evaluation at age 2.5 and was about 6-8 months above where you would expect. He's been able to read a clock to the 1/2 hour since he was a late 3. In short, they do seem to be busy, in part, because they are learning at a very rapid pace.

Charlie, especially, is a very empathetic little boy. For the longest time, he would befuddle his preschool teacher by crying every time another child cried. She would always be trying to figure out what had happened to him, assuming she had missed something while attending the other child.

Charlie does still need a lot of help to wind down and is still easily overstimulated. We bought headphones to use in the car so he can block out Noah's crying. He will often wear them, turned off, even when Noah isn't crying just to enjoy the quiet. He will go up to his bed for a break when things are too busy and we have never had a large birthday party for him. I hosted a playgroup for Megan's 2nd birthday with around 8 children and that was too much for him. He retreated to his room with my mother for most of the gathering. We are very careful to not overschedule him- skipping children's choir, pee-wee soccer and any number of other activities. But, it's a careful balance as he does get bored at home. The priority for us is to make sure we are home in the evenings as we still stick very closely to a bedtime and bedtime routine. He finally started sleeping through the night at 3 years, 2 months. So, it does happen eventually. :-) He now sleeps through all manner of disturbances with our remaining big challenge being trying to figure out how to night train him- a project for this summer.

Charlie shows no signs of ADHD and got a glowing report from his preschool teacher about his academic readiness for preschool. It gets better. It really does.


I have been thinking a lot about contentment over the last couple of weeks. The defining moment was when I had a home party. I had an idea in mind of what I wanted to "earn." I was discouraged when I managed to pick a date that wound up being unworkable for many people. But, in the end, I had a small but fun group over and we had a wonderful time. No one ordered much but I wasn't terribly concerned. I had an amount budgeted to spend and the month's specials allowed me to get what I wanted, within my budget, without any hostess benefits at all. I was content with my items and happy to have had such a fun time.

Then, when I did wind up with some hostess benefits, I struggled to figure out how to use them as I have been making a concerted effort to avoid "stuff." After that, I started hearing about other people's parties. How much they had "earned," all the neat stuff they had acquired, and their free shipping. It took me a couple of days to regain my contentment.

I continually reflect on what I would like my children to learn and what I would most like to teach them. One of the things I have been struggling with is teaching them contentment. There are constant small battles over whatever the other one has and demands to set the timer or enforce turns. While there is a time and a place for that, there are also times that I simply say, "The only reason you want that is because your sister has it. Find something else to play with." I was thinking about the way that I often utterly fail to follow that instruction myself. I am perpetually noticing things to yearn for instead of simply being content with what I have.

I struggle a lot with the whole "keeping perspective" advice. I often find myself stressed out and frustrated with a fussy baby, whining toddler, and pouty four year old and try to remind myself of how lucky I am to have them, to have food for them to refuse to eat, a house for them to wreck and toys for them to bicker over. I think of the homeless families all over, the mother's struggling in war zone, refugees, Darfur and how very fortunate I am. Unfortunately, I tend to wind up still frustrated and stressed but with a sprinkle of guilt on top. The "keep perspective" advice just pulls you back into that trap of comparison and coveting but in reverse.

I have decided to take my own advice and focus on "contentment" for the remainder of Lent as a second Lenten sacrifice (we also went with a paperless kitchen). I am going to try to give up comparing and coveting and instead be content. Notice, I didn't say "happy." I think"happy" is a trap. To be happy all the time is exhausting and ignores other feelings you might have. I can be stressed and frustrated in the moment. I can have plans and hopes and goals and aspirations. But, I can be content with the jeans that do the job if they might need to be hiked up fairly frequently while also aspiring to buy a couple pairs that actually fit next fall. I can be content with the baby I cuddle through the night if also having a plan to cuddle slightly less and sleep slightly more. I can be content with a body that is reasonably healthy and has brought 3 children into the world while also having a goal to manage a couch to 5k this summer. "Content" allows space for real feelings while also allowing freedom from the constant comparisons that come so naturally to us. "Content" leads to "enough" and I find no other feeling quite so comfortable as "enough." Now, to see if I can pull of a reasonable approximation of "content" while driving 3 screaming children to school through a never ending road construction project...

Friday, March 11, 2011


Generally speaking I find my husband to be a compassionate, caring, sympathetic husband. There have been 2 notable occasions during our parenting career.

The first was when Megan was only a few weeks old. She was sleeping in the c0-sleeper and, as new mothers do, I put my hand on her back to check that she was still breathing. My hand didn't move. I turned on the light, shook her (gently), called her name and generally tried to rouse her. I had just announced (rather hysterically) to my husband that Megan was dead and was reaching for the phone to call 911 when she finally came out of her deep sleep. In the morning, my husband said that I have given him quite the scare and to please be sure our children really weren't breathing before telling him that they were dead and/or not breathing. I, with great restraint, didn't punch him.

The second time happened yesterday. I set the children up at the table with their afternoon snack, stepped into the next room to retrieve a forgotten yogurt container, stepped back and had Charlie ask me who that strange man on the deck was. I asked a few brief questions hoping I had misunderstood and that it was a pretend man, an animal, his father, anything other than a strange man on the deck. As we live on an acre lot, there is really no reason anyone would ever wander so close to the house as our back deck, not that I can really think of any reason anyone would ever wander onto the back deck of anyone's house. My thoughts raced. We live in a very low crime area but we tend towards random, absolutely horrible occasional crimes. Last week there had been a man wandering around outside the high school with a shotgun that led to a lock down. I wasn't sure if he had been caught.

While it probably would have been a better choice to hole up in the bathroom and call 911, all I could focus on was getting the children away from the man. I shoved shoes and coats on the older two, picked up Noah and ran us all out to the van- just outside the kitchen door. I never knew I could latch 3 children in so very quickly. As I drove down our road, that never has any random traffic, being a gravel, dead end road, I looked around for any reason a man would be in our yard- meter readers, cable guys, anything. I saw a white pickup turning out of the street but for reasons known only to my subconscious, I felt confident that it wasn't a workman's truck. I'm pretty sure it was the man who lives at the end of the road. We drove to the police station where Charlie gave a description and then hung out at Chik-fil-a until my husband would be home.

I've been up off and on most of the night and that's saying something with the level of sleep deprivation I'm fielding. I've been trying to come up with what we will do today since I'm not comfortable being in the house alone with the children. I once had a psychology teacher tell my class that once you had children, your nightmare changed. Prior to children, your worst nightmares generally involved you being in danger or your death. After children, your worst nightmares generally involved danger to them. While I was only steps away and in sight of them for most of their encounter, I keep thinking of them being in danger without their first and most ardent protector, their mother. What if the man had waved a gun, broke through the glass, or done any number of other horrible things and I hadn't been right there to do whatever had to be done to protect them. What if they had been scared, or worse, and alone for however brief a time. How will I bring myself to leave them alone in a room again to do something as basic as changing Noah's diaper or go to the bathroom? I told my husband that I thought I would get over those feelings fairly soon. Probably by Monday, I would be ok in the house with the kids alone during the day. After all, it only took me an hour to get past the strong desire to own a gun which I would carry in a holster all day; prior to this I took the long way around WalMart to get from diapers to home goods so I could skip seeing the hunting rifle display.

My husband thinks he saw the strange man with a couple other people at our sort of neighbor's house. They are selling and their house is vacant. Our hope is that they were looking at buying the house but we still have no idea why they would come into our yard much less wander onto our deck. I'm hoping to call the realtor today.

The capping point is that my husband has to go out of town on Sunday. Things haven't gone well with trip plans this time. I really need help during the dinner, bath, bed sprint. It can be done alone but it's very challenging and if you're coming off a solo parenting day (and more so, a solo parenting night), it's just that much harder. The isn't a babysitter to be found on Sunday or Monday night. Megan has been having frequent night wakings for unknown reasons the last few days. Noah is still a handful and a half at night and isn't terribly happy with anyone but me at any time of the day or night. Charlie is learning how to read which is fabulous but whenever he is learning a new skill, his behavior and sleep fall apart- happily, he no longer loses all potty skills, too. Penny has yet another ear infection and requires drops twice a day. In short, I really wasn't looking forward to my husband's absence even though this was a short trip with a Tuesday night return. Add in "strange man on the deck" and it's become my own personal little vision of horrible.

I'm pushing for us to go on the trip as a family. It's within a 5 hour drive and near my parent's house. The children and I can stay with them while he does his thing. There are several snags. Noah continues to hate the car and car seat with the heat of 10,000 flaming suns. I generally find my mother to be roughly as stressful to interact with as any stress she's relieving and double that when we're at her house. My husband has to get home Tuesday night since he has a morning class on Wednesday so our driving home timeline has little flexibility to accommodate child bedtimes, etc. At the same time, no babysitter, no sleeping, and strange man... My husband is opining that I'm overreacting. I'm showing great restraint and not punching him.