Toddlers and Crying Babies

“Wake me up when she’s five.”

Brontë has absolutely HAD it with her sister’s crying. We know how you feel, Brontë.

The calmness of newborn babies is a trick. They have just gone through the birth process and are completely exhausted (birth is hard work for the baby too), so they are quiet for the first night or so. You think you have an incredibly easy baby on your hands and are so relieved… until you bring them home. By then, they have recovered and are ready to spend the next couple months in a sporadic Power Scream that randomly sets off like a demonic alarm clock. There is no escape.

The one upside to having a screaming newborn is that she is providing her big sister Brontë with a whole new perspective.  Brontë is deep in the heart of the “terrible twos,” meaning that we have been dealing with regular tantrums. Now she is, for the first time, experiencing the other side of this hot mess.

Bridget screams and screams while Brontë covers her ears and rolls on the ground. We tell her, “Babies cry. That’s all Bridget knows how to say. You cried a lot too when you were a baby,” as Brontë eyes her little sister with a look that says, “THAT’S what I look like!? OMG!” She seems mortified, and is throwing fewer fits lately.

Not entirely, though. Bridget has been diagnosed with jaundice which needs to be carefully monitored. Most mornings, after a long night of broken sleep, we are having to drag ourselves into the hospital lab for Bridget’s blood test. Everyone is tired, grumpy, and feels terrible about Bridget’s tiny foot being stabbed with a needle, again and again. We are hoping she gets better soon for the sake of her health as well as our collective sanity.

One morning, Brontë hits her limit and decides to test ours. We pile out of the car, holding Bridget, and Brontë decides she doesn’t want to go in today. We tell her she has to go in with us, but we will go home soon. “NO!” she yells (which most parents of two-year olds will recognize). C’mon Brontë, no one wants to be here… I feel my sleep-deprived eyes burning into my head as she winds up, shouting, “NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO!”

Sigh. We gently try to persuade her to come with us, but her refusal gets louder and louder until she is literally screaming at the top of her lungs, taking a deep breath, and screaming again for as long as she can do it. This keeps up, getting more frantic by the second. What the hell do we do now? So much of parenting involves pretending you know exactly what you are doing. I’ve read so many articles about tantrums at this age, but still haven’t mastered it. Apparently, kids get frustrated, don’t know how to handle their emotions, want to communicate more than they know how to say…

Talking in a calm voice isn’t helping. We have told her to cut it out and have tried to reason with her to no avail, so we decide to go the completely-ignoring-her route until she stops, hoping that she will learn throwing fits will not get her attention or results. She has an amazing amount of endurance for a two-year-old, however. This quickly becomes a war of attrition, with Brontë rolling on the ground, kicking and screaming at the top of her lungs as her father and I stare off into the distance like nothing is happening.

I keep reading that kids have little attention span at this age and will be easily distracted, but our kid is special. Hopefully, her incredible endurance will have great practical applications in the future, but right now it’s an Epic Battle of Wills. Brontë is rolling around the dirty ground, kicking and screaming, her cries echoing across floors and floors of parking lot. Every passing motorist must think a child is being tortured somewhere in the garage. Parking garages have great acoustics, too… normally, she would be loud, but now she is SUPER MEGA INSANITY LOUD.

John and I are really embarrassed, but are amazed at at how supportive other parents become. One woman sticks her head out of her car as she drives past us, gives us a thumbs-up, and shouts, “Good job, mommy and daddy! Hang in there! Don’t give in!’ We smile back.

More supportive cars drive by, then a group of Indian women walks up to us and starts fawning over Bridget. “What a beautiful baby!” they say, asking us how old she is, when she was born, why she was here… We show off our baby and answer their questions. The hilarious part, however, is that a couple feet away, Brontë is still kicking, rolling, and screaming at the top of her lungs. There is absolutely NO way the Indian women could be missing it–we are having trouble talking over the noise–but they pretend she isn’t there, won’t even look in her direction, and continue focusing on Bridget. They clearly know what’s going on here and support our parenting efforts by paying attention to the well-behaved child while ignoring the fit-throwing one. We are amazed by their skill. They never briefly flick their eyes toward Brontë once, even though the noise is practically blowing their hair sideways. I hope they sensed our gratitude.

As exhausted as we were, we manage to hold out to the end of the tantrum, which lasted NEARLY TWO HOURS. We have to. If we can’t hold out now, we are going to completely lose control when Brontë is older, craftier, and more stubborn.

After her TWO HOUR FIT, Brontë stops, stands up, brushes herself off, and holds my hand. We walk into the hospital and go to the lab without further incident. The next several mornings, Brontë is pleasant, polite, and compliant. Whew.

Point to Team Parents, yay!

2 Comments

  1. Hi, I’ve only read this post of your blog but I just wanted to offer something (which by the way, I never do, I do not consider myself an expert in any area of raising children). However, I have 3 kids one 15 months, one at 31 months and a 13 year old.
    I’m not sure I assign to the idea that babies just cry (but maybe I’ve been lucky). I feel there’s an underlying reason, they’re trying to communicate we just don’t know what and if it’s screaming then it’s probably pain. Your doing this blog so you must be an attentive, well read mother so it’s not gonna be neglect or hunger. When my 2 year old was little I read a book called the sensational baby sleep plan by alison wright. Some say it’s very anti breast feeding but I’m not sure I agree. But the book is mostly about silent reflux and changed my life. My one year old was diagnosed within 5 days of birth with it also and was a different child the day she was medicated. It may be worth a read. The author is certainly no earth mother I.e. No co sleeping etc but it def works. My babies sleep all night and nap together everyday for at least 2 hours. Anyway just a thought but other than that good luck. I hope it gets easier. X

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Natasha! Thank you for your feedback. Sounds like you have lots of experience and I love to hear about what has been helpful to other parents. I will have to check out the Sensational baby Sleep Plan book you mentioned.

    I’m sure you are correct that there is a reason my babies cried, but we couldn’t always figure it out… We would try feeding them, changing them, snuggling them, putting more clothes on them, fewer clothes, just anything we could think of. Sometimes Brontë would be quiet if we rocked her, but after rocking her a couple hours we couldn’t keep it up. Bridget, I think, gets overstimulated and we figured out that if we put her in her crib in quiet room, with the lights out, she would fall asleep after a couple minutes (Brontë had to be in the same room with us!). I think there was also teething pain.

    The worst has been riding in the car. I think they want to be held, but have to be in their carseats–and you can’t explain why! Bronte doesn’t cry in the car anymore, but her baby sister shrieks. Whew… sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what is wrong.

    Like

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