This title has been in my head for weeks; now I'm grabbing the opportunity to write the post.
I've been noticing, as I continue to ease my way into the new rhythm of having three small children and having my husband out of the house a LOT, that I accomplish tasks differently. I have to, or those tasks just won't happen. For example, today I put lunch on the table for us and my brother and some friends, having done no planning whatsoever before getting the meal ready. I now have three children, not two, and asking anyone other than my husband to ride herd on all of them for the amount of time it takes to put an elaborate meal on the table is just unreasonable. Since nothing that I was doing required me to stand in front of the stove or expose myself to any extreme temperatures, I was able to get almost everything done while carrying Ender in the Ergo (or, if I wanted to use the proper name for the device, the "soft-structured carrier"). That's about two hours of having 15 pounds of baby wrapped around me, and that's actually easy for me. I don't have to worry about where he is or what his concerns might be, because he sleeps contentedly for awhile when the time is right.
In summary, although the plural of "anecdote" is not "data," trying to get things done with one child vs three children is like vacation. Particularly when said child is attached physically.
It seems as though having three small children involves the designation of one as the trump card, the x factor, the straw that breaks the camel's back (or that stirs the drink, baseball fans). Much of the time, that designation goes not to Ender the baby but to Meatball the toddler.
And here we find the source of much of my angst and anxiety over these past few weeks. Meatball is SO 2 right now and in such desperate need of attention that is sometimes hard for me to give. When I am able to spend time with him just on his own, out of the presence of his brothers, he is a different little boy than the way that he is when in the company of others. Unfortunately, he doesn't get that "alone" time, although with the help of Grandma, I'm hoping to make some time on Thursday morning into Meatball time.
I feel better when I walk into his preschool classroom and see a bunch of other little boys who do the exact same things that he does. Not that I didn't know that it was normal but I'm still relieved that my child isn't the only one.
Even so, there are only so many times that I can get cracked on the head and screamed at by this little angry human to whom I have devoted SO much energy into protecting before it starts to get to me. Hitting him back won't help. I've screamed right back at him a few times and while that has elicited a distressed response from him, he doesn't have the capacity to understand that what I did to him is what he just did to me. He also doesn't have the ability to comprehend correction very well. As in, if I tell him to "stop" when he hits someone, next time he'll hit someone and then say stop, because he's adding that to the script.
Musical Daddy has a great amount of patience and possesses the power to change the script more easily. It's something that I've been working on a lot, been reading about, talking to other mothers, and just testing out. And it's my job to remember that I set the tone for our interactions. The children can try but since I'm the adult, it's my job to remember that I set the tone. The link goes to the Positive Parenting Challenge, which I've referenced a few times over here. While we don't do a lot of the things she does lifestyle-wise, we strive to approach our relationships with our children in the same way.
Meatball has an extensive vocabulary and the speech patterns of a somewhat older child. He has the bathroom skills even though right now he's in a regression pattern. I love to watch him play and think and create, but it's hard to remember that he's still in the earlier half of age 2 and I may be expecting too much of him due to the proximity of his skills to those of his older brother and the disparity (obviously) between him and Ender.
One of the things that really helps me see things in perspective is to observe the positive behaviors in The Boy that weren't there before or hadn't really cemented themselves before. The Boy listens and follows directions a lot of the time. He holds doors and is polite, saying "please" "thank you" "I'm sorry" and "excuse me" in proper context. He can be more easily persuaded to stay on task by explaining to him what steps come next and what is required of him before those steps can proceed. He is able to do "his jobs" around the house and at school.
I'm curious to re-read what I'd written during this trying time in The Boy's life. It happened a little later for him, due to his illness, but I'm sure that I had to change a lot of the things I did as a result of his age and his ability to remain focused without throwing gigantic screaming fits.
I'm glad that Meatball is so willing to allow me to cut his fingernails; we'd otherwise be in real trouble.
It will be interesting to see what happens as Ender gets older and more...outspoken.