Sick Day Scare and a Miracle

For nearly three years, my patience and understanding with Brandon has been a point of pride with me. Not that I think I’m better than anyone else, but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised that the various stages and angst haven’t gotten to me more than they have that it became a prideful thing.

Well, you know how they say “pride goeth before a fall”?

Recently I wrote about our relatively new status as disciplinarians. Up until the last few weeks, we’ve had little reason to say no to Brandon. We’ve also been able, in most instances, to diffuse the situation before it escalates to a meltdown.

Life is not that simple anymore. Brandon has hit his stride as a two-year-old and he’s got the attitude to prove it. We have taken to calling him “Veloci-Brandon” during those times when we get the ear-drum bursting, bone-chilling, blood-curdling shrieks that indicate he is less than impressed with whatever is happening at that particular moment. He’s also learned how to use the word “no” very effectively.

He is fussier than he’s ever been in his entire life and I’ve been losing my patience with it. There’s no way to console or diffuse these situations. Timeouts are moderately effective, but he often comes away and enters into another shriek-fest over the same issue. Sometimes we know what’s wrong, but it is often a mystery.

Yesterday, Brandon got sick. I knew when he got up from his nap that there would be no going to daycare today - he had a fever. Matt and I entered negotiations about who would stay home. He’s carried the load of staying home on Brandon’s sick days for over a year now and, ultimately, I was the one who ended up staying with him.

There was a big part of me that just did not want to do it. This is the first time in Brandon’s life that there are times I have trouble enjoying the person he is. It’s a stress like no other to have your child shrieking and not know what the problem is or how to make it stop. I’m starting to understand how the baby got thrown out with the bathwater.

Then something happened that shook me up badly.

As an approaching-three-at-an-alarmingly-fast-rate-year-old child, Brandon has a lot of freedom to come and go as he wishes. He’s unbelievably good about not getting into things he shouldn’t and we haven’t needed to supervise his every trip up and down the stairs for about a year or so. Notwithstanding this high level of freedom, he isn’t left alone for long periods because he is, after all, still only two.

As I was cleaning up his morning snack, Brandon decided to go upstairs without me. He was there for a couple of minutes when I heard a crash as I was going up the stairs. I ran as fast as I could - which wasn’t very fast and that really needs to change - to find him in my bedroom with a TV hovering over his head. He’d opened all the drawers of the dresser the television was on, causing it to tip over.

I am more thankful than you can even imagine that the TV got stuck when it couldn’t fall between the open top dresser drawer and the bed. Otherwise, all 50(?) pounds of it would have come crashing down on my baby boy, whose hand was caught between two of the drawers.

I struggled to get the TV back up onto the dresser and free Brandon from the drawers to see how serious his injuries were. And here’s where we have another miracle.

His crying subsided and he held up his hand to me, saying, “Need Mommy kisses.” I kissed his hand, then hugged him as he said, “Mommy kisses make it all better.” That little exchange - more than anything else he could have done - assured me that he was completely fine. I like to think that he knew how utterly freaked out I was after seeing that TV toppled over. He reverted back to a game we came up with months ago to assure me that he wasn’t seriously hurt.

And I realized that my impatience is such a waste of time. No matter what is going on, why he’s upset, this little boy is precious and I love him more than I can say. Anyone who has the power to scare 10 years off my life in a two-minute span deserves better than what he’s been getting from me. We got comfortable with our expectations of him and now he’s thrown all of that out the window. It’s a hard adjustment for us, but we have to learn to deal without getting impatient and expecting him to “know better”. He’s two. He “knows better” sometimes, but not nearly as often as we’d like. It’s our job to get him there with patience, love and acceptance.

Becoming a hard-hearted mama

As we walked into the shopping centre, I told Brandon that he needed to do as mommy says while we were in the mall. Snuggled into my arms, I don’t know if he fully understood what I said since he didn’t respond. My attempt to warn him not to try manipulating or going off on his own was prompted by Matt’s experience with him earlier in the day. One that included a trip to a different shopping centre that was unfruitful as he had to take an upset little boy out of the store.

After relaying this story to me, I realized that we’ve gone too long without setting firm boundaries with Brandon. We’ve (knowingly) allowed him to manipulate circumstances and get what he wants when he wants it. In general, he’s a well-behaved child, but I know he can do better.

My two (almost three) year old should not be calling the shots and I’m done letting him. Oh, he’s probably going to find the transition difficult, as always. But it’s worth it for his long-term well-being. I want him to respect authority figures - first and foremost myself and Matt.

As Brandon and I left the shopping centre, we had a few too many items for me to comfortably carry both him and them. If he put up a fight, I knew I’d be faced with my very first challenge. He was easygoing and congenial through the whole shopping trip, willingly following me to each area of the store that I needed to visit. I didn’t have much to get, and I did get him a small treat for being so good and helpful too. (He carried a step stool half his size all the way through the store - no small distance, I can assure you.) It was slow going, but I wasn’t in a hurry. When we got to the cash register he helped me put everything on the counter for the cashier. I praised him for his good helping.

He asked to be picked up, so I did and then grabbed my unwieldy bundle of purchases to carry to the car as well. As we got closer to the doors Brandon got squirmy wanting something out of the bag and I had to put him down. I should have kept going.

After sitting on the bench, Brandon wanted to take 3 of the 4 items we bought out of the bag. Again, I wasn’t in a hurry, so I decided to go with it for a few minutes. Really, it wasn’t hurting anything.

Several minutes later, I decided to attempt to move on. I carefully repacked the bag, allowing Brandon to carry one item, knowing that this wouldn’t appease him about leaving and that he would eventually drop it.

I was right.

Thirty feet from the door, once again squirming in my arms, he dropped his one item. The nice man who walked by us, pointedly not making eye contact didn’t bother to help me pick it up, despite the obvious struggle going on. (Thanks a lot, mister.)

I had clearly asked Brandon to hold on to this one item and not to drop it. He dropped it so I would put him down, so I took it away and that made him mad. He proceeded to sit on the floor in the front of the mall, eventually laying all the way down on the floor to express his displeasure about leaving.

By then I’d had enough. I picked him up, despite his toddler-drop attempt, grabbed my unwieldy purchases and pushed my way out the door and to the car. I put him down by the car and told him how disappointed I was and that he needed to apologize to mommy. 

He did. Then he asked to hold his one item. I gave it to him.

Who can resist such a sweet face?Perhaps that was an error in judgement. I’m not sure. As I was buckling him into his car seat, he wanted to have his iPod. Said iPod was sitting nice and cozy and warm back at our house. When I broke this news to him, he got very upset. The screaming and throwing that one item prompted me to take said item away from him. I told him he needed to say sorry before he could have it back and that he couldn’t listen to his favorite song or watch a movie until he said sorry.

For 10-15 minutes, he cried and occasionally screamed, except for the odd break where he asked for a movie or music. I hardened my heart to it. I needed him to say sorry. By the time he finally did, I knew he was just saying the words to get what he wanted. Maybe I let the battle of wills go on for too long. Would I change it, though? Not until I know it isn’t working.

Because I very much fear that I’ve spoiled my child. He isn’t rotten yet and I don’t ever want him to be.

Do you take the easy way out with your child(ren) at times? Does it make you feel like a total pushover or is there an acceptable amount of easy that we as parents can get away with?