Thursday, February 25, 2010

The scream

Things are never peaceful for long when raising children, are they? Just when you think you have everything copacetic they go through some developmental stage or other and you belief in your parenting skills gets thrown for a loop again.

I sensed we might be in for a rough night. It had been a lovely day, a sweet note from her preshcool teacher telling me that she wrote "hat" all by herself on the whiteboard when they thought of words beginning with 'h', a lovely evening during which both kids scoffed down all their dinner without complaint then played nicely with each other and got willingly into their nightclothes. Geekygirl is an obsessive clothes changer, very particular about the look and feel of garments, and pyjamas are no exception. This past week she has dug out an old, soft pair that have become the only acceptable night attire. She seems to be a serial monogomist when it comes to PJ's since last week it was a newer pair with frilly pants and the week before a fuzzy footed sleeper suit.

We have also had momentous change in the geekyhousehold, the pacifier fairy came last week and took all the pacifiers away. Geekygirl decided that she was ready, we had long prepared her that four was the age it had to go (It should have gone years ago, it had been restricted to nighttime and in the car for at least 2 years, but she was so attached to it that the time never seemed right). We took the opportunity, since the dentist advised us, to take Geekyboys too. I felt bad for him since he didn't really get much say in the matter.  The process was amazingly painless for Geekygirl, she was thrilled with the stuffed pony and the batgirl costume that the fairy left for her, and has hardly even mentioned the pacifier since. I was quite amazed by how unphased she seemed by it, Last night makes me realize that she may have been internalizing some of the distress of the loss of her beloved comforter.

The trouble began when she told me she didn't want to wear a pull up. Now, she is four, she is of an age where she could be night time potty trained, but she isn't. Every single time we have tried she wakes up in a puddle. But I have to encourage her to try, and she hadn't had much to drink since dinner, and had just peed, so I said OK. But I knew that we would be woken up with wet sheets.

And sure enough, just before three a.m. a little damp figure appeared by our bed. No big deal you may think, and often it isn't a big deal, But tonight, after I stripped the bed and comforted my crying child I tried to remove the wet pyjamas. Big mistake. Hysteria ensued, along with screaming fit to wake the dead (though mercifully Geekyboy, there in the same room didn't even stir).

"I WON'T WEAR OTHER PYJAMAS" (there are about 6 perfectly good pairs in her drawer)

I cajoled, I empathized, I hugged, I spent a long time commiserating with her over the wet PJ situation, but the screaming got louder and I couldn't talk her down. I realized that we had run into that old roadblock, Geekygirl being incapable of accepting something contrary to her worldview

She wailed and screamed. I wrestled her into clean pyjamas (last weeks favourites, so I know there is nothing fundementally wrong with them), she tore them off, I warned her, put them on her again and when she took them off again I gave her a time out. I felt totally ridiculous and incompetent giving my child a time out at three in the morning. I sat near her and she screamed for almost the full four minutes, finally calming down. I got her to bed. She asked for stories and so relieved was I that she wasn't screaming any more I agreed to two. Then she asked for more. I said no. She asked me to sit with her on the rocking chair all night. I sat for quite some time but eventually told her I was going back to my bed. Guess where we ended up? Back with the ear splitting screaming. At this point both cats left the house in disgust and the dog buried her head under her tail. I wished I had either of those options, and starting to get very angry and ready to scream myself. I went into the kitchen and took some deep breaths and stamped my feet hard. This brought Geekydaddy in, and thankfully he took over. I was completely spent.

Three more four minute screaming time outs later (with Geekydaddy sitting right there with her) she was cried out and finally went back to sleep. It was just after 4.00am

I spent the day at work feeling rather shell shocked ( and rather tired). I felt so guilty, as if I had failed her somehow. But in the cold light of day I realized that yet again we have been letting Geekyirl push the envelope and run the show. She needs her boundaries. I would rather be a laid back parent. For at least the last month she has been coming out of her room several times after bedtime, and in the middle of the night too. She wants a different duvet cover, there is a tiny spot of milk on her sheet and it must be changed right now, she needs another book, she piles her bed full of costumes and toys and plays for far too long, and she insists on having the room far too light. And I comply with all this because I want to keep bedtime conflict free, and besides i don't really mind which duvet cover or sheet she has, or if she changes her pyjamas twelve times before going to sleep, or if she sleeps covered in a pile disney princess costumes. I forget that she needs me to sometimes say no.

I also realized that though she did indeed scream for a horrendous amount of time,  it probably felt worse contrasted against silence of the night, and that she didn't bite, scratch or hit me, which is a first. Usually when she loses it I'm at risk of losing an eye. Last night it was just my eardrums that were in peril. The next morning her favourite pair of leggings were dirty, and she managed to pull herself together and find another pair with nairy a tear, in fact she showed a mature and resigned acceptance of the legging situation.

Maybe last nights screaming was some kind of catharsis to cope with the loss of the pacifier. Maybe she is finding ways to cope when things don't go her way.

Tonight we reminded ourselves of the bedtime expectations. I bought a new nightlight digital clock (it is very cool, it changes colors when you press it), and kept the room dark. I refused to indulge her nighttime sillinesses. And she fell fast asleep at 8.30pm.

I've read that every 6 months young children go through grown and development spurts that can leave them helpless victims of their emotions. Three and a half was hard, and I guess we have hit four. We'll hold on for the ride. And if we have another night like that we'll call in the therapists.

Advice much appreciated.

Here she is, Batgirl herself in the ill fated pyjamas. Her super power is her insanity inducing scream.