Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I live with a bipolar, schizophrenic little person…

Or so it feels when you have a 2-year-old in your house. No Followers, I wasn’t referring to Mommy B in the title of this post… I was referring to the walking contradiction that is my lovely daughter Alli.

As Mommy B has mentioned in previous posts, Alli is rather prone to the “Terrible Twos” meltdowns these days. But it goes beyond just your basic temper-tantrum. The whole series of events is a real mind-teaser, and it truly tests the limits of your sanity. Let me indulge you in a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

Last Saturday was the first “regular”, non-event filled weekend we’ve had at home in a few weeks. With traveling for Thanksgiving and the Reindeer Run and other various things going on, Mommy B and I were looking forward to last weekend to get the kids back into the groove. Most notably, taking Alli to gymnastics class on Saturday morning – which I’m sure she’d been missing the last couple of weeks. So Mommy B and I agreed that she would take Alli while I put Aiden down for a nap and got some stuff done around the house.

About an hour later, Mommy B pulled into the driveway with an utter look of defeat on her face. I asked, “Are you OK?” She replied by telling me how horrible Alli behaved at gymnastics class. It’s only a 30-minute class, and she spent at least 10 minutes of it face-down on the ground throwing temper tantrums. She wouldn’t listen to the teacher’s instructions, didn’t want to participate in the activity the teacher had planned and just wanted to run off and do her own thing. While I appreciate that she’s using her imagination and wanting to exercise her independence, a structured teacher-led environment isn’t the best place to do so. The other kids sat quietly and performed the stretches the teacher instructed, while Alli was having nothing to do with it. She yelled and screamed and cried for much of the time – all of which get amplified by the echoes of an empty gym. Mommy B felt totally embarrassed that it was her kid misbehaving in such an awful manner – especially since it seemed that all the other kids weren’t having any issues listening and following directions.

I tried to remind Mommy B that every kid goes through this type of thing, and every parent gets embarrassed in public with a temper-tantrum-having, bad-head-throwing, flailing-arms-and-legs-around-on-the-floor child at one point or another. Mommy B was so horrified at Alli’s behavior in those 30 minutes that she considered never taking her out in public again until she reaches age 10. I told her that sounded a bit extreme, until Alli continued this behavior for the majority of the morning and afternoon.

Everything was “No, Mommy! No!”, “Go away, Daddy!”, and the like. Any time we asked her a question, we got the negative response. “Alli, do you need to potty?” “No Daddy!” “Alli, do you want to eat some lunch?” “No Mommy!” “Alli, it’s time to go upstairs and take a nap.” “Noooooo!” While these types of back-and-forths may not sound like much – most parents know what else comes along with them: the forcing her into the bathroom so she’ll use the potty, the dragging her over to her table so she’ll eat lunch, and the kicking and screaming carrying her up the stairs to her room for nap time. All the while we’re trying to entertain and care for Aiden, even though he can sit up and somewhat entertain himself.

To make matters worse, she’s been starting to take a swing at the nearest adult when she really doesn’t want to do something. I don’t know if she picked up this bad habit from the other kids at school or if it’s just a natural response at this age – but hitting is something Mommy B and I simply will not tolerate. So each time she responded with “No, <insert parent’s name here>, no!” and a right hook to one of our thighs, it was straight to the time out chair (thanks Aunt Bacon, we’re getting quite a lot of use out of it these days). Needless to say, Alli spent quite a bit of time there that day.

But the difficult part about the whole scene is afterwards… when she comes out of time out. We tell her to say that she’s sorry (and what she’s sorry for) and to give the respective parent that she verbally abused and slightly maimed a hug. She slowly walks over to us and in the most pathetic, remorse-filled voice says “Sowwy <insert parent’s name here>,” and gives us a great big hug. It literally melts my heart every single time, and it’s damn near impossible to stay mad at her. Until 2 minutes later when the entire meltdown process starts over again…

As Followers can tell, it was quite an exhausting morning and afternoon. Then evening came around and Alli seemed to be turning the corner. The meltdowns had subsided and were becoming fewer and further in between. She actually sat and ate her dinner while I fed Aiden his baby food (which he devoured, duh!), which was rather surprising given that she hadn’t sat still all day.

Then she did something that I’ll never forget. With her bowl of applesauce in hand, she climbed up into the chair I’d been sitting in to feed Aiden and began spoon-feeding him her applesauce – completely unprovoked! Mommy B and I turned around to find her spooning little bites of applesauce into his mouth as if she’d been doing it for years. Followers should know that we’ve never taught her how to do this – never sat her on our laps and helped her feed her little brother. So not only did she figure out how to climb up into my chair on her own (without spilling her bowl or losing her spoon), but she mastered the art of feeding an infant just by casually watching us do it.

I was so impressed by the whole scene that I had to get out my phone and start recording it. Mommy B grabbed the video camera out of the closet and began filming as well – because we both quickly agreed that we may never see this act ever again, so we better have some visual proof that it happened at least once. Alli would take a bite of applesauce for herself, then give another to Aiden – putting the spoon perfectly in his mouth (not too far in that he gagged or choked, but far enough that he could get it all) and holding it there just long enough for him to get it all. Rinse, repeat. Once the applesauce was gone, we handed her a bowl of sliced carrots – which she took out one by one and placed in front of Aiden so he could grab them and put them in his mouth as well. Given that he had just downed a whole container of baby food, we had to put a stop to things so he wouldn’t explode. Afterwards Mommy B and I were able to get them both in the bath and off to bed without incident – which was a relief.

After they were both in bed and Mommy B and I came back downstairs to unwind, we both just looked at each other – completely dumbfounded at what had occurred in the last 13 hours. Alli had gone from complete psychopath to serene angel and back again so many times that we lost count. Wikipedia defines Bipolar disorder as “a mood disorder in which people experience disruptive mood swings; these encompass a frenzied state known as mania usually alternated with symptoms of depression.” Hmmm, that sounds rather familiar…

Hopefully by now Followers are picking up on my sarcasm here – I’m not saying that my daughter really is bipolar nor am I trying to diminish the harsh reality that people who truly have Bipolar disorder must face on a day-to-day basis. But any parent of a two year-old can relate to this story. The mood swings of a toddler pull you in so many directions that it’s often difficult to keep up. We try not to take it personally or let it bother us, but it can be hard. I try to remind Mommy B to have a short memory with this kind of stuff… because Alli does. You just have to roll with the punches (no pun intended) and try to keep in mind that one day they’ll grow out of it.

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