Max is now sleeping with papa and Camus. He has shunned his own room and settled for the bed closest to mommy. I don’t mind because at least he’s no longer in my bed cramping my joints. Papa doesn’t mind because he never got to co-sleep with Max as a baby and feels like he is bonding with him even more so as a toddler. All is good.
However, Max is either very clever or the sweetest kid ever.
Last night after story time and lights out we heard Max whimpering. Then came the tears. We kept asking him, “what’s wrong sweetie? What’s wrong, Max?” All he could get out between tears was, “Bella.” So Hal asked, “are you sad that Bella is sleeping with mommy and you can’t?” He either said no or didn’t answer so we kept asking him, so what is wrong, then? Why are you sad?
Finally he said in his sweetest voice, “I’m sad.”
Okay. What are you sad about? Hal and I were both moved by his tenderness and his communication of feelings.
“I’m sad about Bella.” We consoled him some more and asked, what about Bella makes you sad?
“I sad about Bella’s skin.” And then the floodgate of tears opened up in him.
We assured him we are going to help Bella get better and then…
He asked to crawl into mommy’s bed because he wanted to hug.
Once he was in he instantly fell asleep. Hal had to carry him back into their bed. So I’ve concluded, Max is both very clever and the sweetest kid ever.
Max in his ponies (and what we imagine Bella will look like at his age):
Max is well aware that Bella is uncomfortable and itchy. He knows what “itchies” are like because he too has eczema. He knows mommy is very sad that Bella is itchy and that I don’t have the magic cure for her, yet. He also knows that while him and Papa are going to the movies today (Max’s first movie theater experience!), mommy is taking Bella to the doctors. He knows all of this because I talk with him about what happens in our home.
One thing I make a point to do with my kids is to talk about life and feelings. When stuff comes up, we talk about it. Toddlers may not understand the abstract ideas behind what makes people “feel” but they do need a language presented to them to start the education of learning about their emotions. An education that I think generations before us neglected. I try to weave this education into our daily life without it seeming like some kind of weird classroom lesson that needs to be repeated and memorized. Saying something as simple as, “mommy is so sad that Bella is suffering but we will find a way to help her.” And then move on to what ever is next – playing with toys, cleaning a poopy butt, ect.
If it is a big feeling that Max is having – usually anger – I talk with him like this, “Max, I know you are very angry right now because mommy won’t give you any chocolate but please don’t hit me.” Then I give him an alternative, “You can scream, I’m angry!, or hit something soft like your pillow – but we don’t hurt people when we are angry.” This conversation happens several times a day. Sometimes he remembers to say (with force), “I’M ANGRY!” and sometimes he doesn’t. Eventually, he will remember all the time. It is the same thing with him having to be reminded about “manners.”
The tricky part is when I’m angry. I need to appropriately express my anger as well. And when I was angry at him and dealing with 5 different life crises, I didn’t do so well. So, I have figured out that hitting/hurting my kids doesn’t work on ANY level – duh, right? There was a part of me that was *hoping* that Max would “get it” (re: hurting Camus or Bella) after being spanked. This hoping (mixed with being at one’s wits end) is probably the reason many of good and loving parents resort to spanking their child.
Where does this lead? On the whole, when the day only presents it’s usual list of challenges, I’m pretty laid back and rarely raise my voice. I am very proud of this personality trait, but my pride stops there – at “when the day only presents it’s usual list of challenges.” I need some more “tools” in my box for those extraordinarily difficult days – because I’m sure there will be many more to come. And you better believe I’ll get those tools sooner rather than later – for both mine and my kid’s sake.