I naively believed that Hannah hit the terrible twos early at 18 months and that life henceforth would be smooth sailing. Sometimes I forget the number one lesson I've learned since becoming a mom: no phase is ever over, it just hibernates. The terrible twos have reawakened, and they are accompanied by a much stronger set of lungs and a far greater level of persistence.
There are a number of occasions throughout the day that throw Hannah into a fit, but the most difficult happen at night. Once again, Hannah refuses to go to sleep or be in her room by herself. She wraps her arms around my or Eric's neck very tightly and insists that we stay. If we leave anyway, she protests by screaming so loud that she gags and chokes and has to take 5 (seconds, that is) to clear her throat before continuing, and continue she will. On and on and on and on...screaming and screaming and screaming. If you do stay with her until she falls asleep (and this process often takes more than hour so good luck hanging in there), you'll need to return a few hours later (and then a few hours after that...) when she wakes up and realizes you've left. Last night she was up at 10:30, 2:30, 5:00, and 5:45. Insane. I was seriously insane by 5:00, and I lost it. I screamed at her to go to sleep, and I slammed doors, and then I cried crib side (I moved her from bunk bed to crib before throwing my own temper tantrum). When I started to cry, she stopped. She patted me on the back, and said "shhhhh..." and kissed my head. Sigh.
Hello bad mommy with the terrible temper, not so nice to see you again!! (I apologized to her this morning.)
Her day time tantrums are much easier to handle. I still sometimes feel like my head is going to explode, but if I can just get some music going, I can get through it. This morning she launched into one of her fits when i told her that I couldn't remove the shoulder pads from her car seat strap. I flipped on the radio and rolled down the windows to keep the screams from reverberating around the car. I pulled up to a red light like this and a gaggle of picture-snapping tourists stopped to stare and smile sympathetically at me. Some of them laughed. I think they were genuinely impressed by her decibel level.
She went down for a nap without too much insanity, but woke up from nap screaming and could not be convinced to do anything else. She screamed when I picked her up and screamed when I put her down. She reeked of the poop that she had filled her diaper with but kicked me if I tried to change her. Eventually I gave up, returned down the stairs, flipped on the iPod, and resumed squash chopping. She stopped crying shortly after and started bumping her butt down the stairs while announcing to me "Stopped crying mommy."
Since I was close to rock bottom last night, I spent much of the day doing some serious thinking about how to get us out of this phase as quickly and painlessly as possible. I decided that the bedtime coddling has to stop because all it does is make her want to be coddled every single time she wakes up at night, and I can't deal with that. Tonight I hugged her for at least 10 minutes before pulling myself out of her boa constrictor grip and making my way guiltily to the shower.
Blood curdling screams serenaded me while I shampooed and rinsed and dried and dressed, and when I was finished, I returned to her room and sat in a chair for more than 5 minutes (a modification of the Sleep Lady's shuffle), all the while talking to her about what I expected of her and reassuring her that I would do everything in my power to keep her safe, happy, and healthy. Then I took off again. She only screamed for about 10 minutes after that and has been quiet since so hopefully this tough love approach will get the sleeping thing back on track, because I can handle it during the day time hours, but it's downright unbearable in the middle of the night, especially after a number of previous wake-ups.
The only other solution I could come up with was to assume that her needing our presence was normal and give in to that. Frankly, I think that proponents of attachment parenting and the family bed are probably right on--it definitely seems more natural, especially when you think about tribal cultures all bedding down together in one hut--and I think that Hannah would probably prefer that style of parenting and benefit from it greatly. Sadly, I can't provide it. I don't have it in me. I need just a little bit of space at the end of the day and have no desire to sacrifice that and go to sleep with her at 7:30 or to have to tiptoe into a darkened room later on and skip books before bed so as not to wake her. Nope. As ideal as it sounds, and as much as I'd love to be that mom, I know my limits.
I hope Hannah doesn't get some crazy complex or have attachment issues as a result of these limits...