First, let me start this post off by showing you this super adorable video of Gracie dancing to some freaky Asian cartoon video from YouTube. I submit this as evidence that, at times, she is normal and adorable and lots of fun.
Okay, now that we all love Gracie, let’s talk about what the heck is going on with her and why I am very close to selling her on Ebay.
Parenting Bean was relatively easy. He was an easy, happy baby who has grown up into an easy, happy preschooler. The ride in between was mostly easy and happy, too. He had his moments, but Bean was very reasonable from a fairly early age. If you could explain something to him or give him a choice, then he was pretty much willing to work with you. He certainly spent his fair amount of time in the time out chair, but he wasn’t in that phase for very long.
Bean being so easy to parent is probably why parenting Gracie has been such a nightmare. Now, don’t freak out (NANA…). I didn’t say SHE was a nightmare. I said PARENTING her is a nightmare. Honestly, Chris and I don’t know what the heck we’re doing when it comes to Gracie. Whatever we’re doing, it feels like we’re doing it wrong.
Do you remember in college when you’d go out to bars with your friends and have one too many drinks? And then, in that state, you had to remember where your apartment was and how to get yourself home safely with your cell phone and wallet still in your purse? SUCH IMPORTANT DECISIONS TO MAKE AS A DRUNK COLLEGE KID! That’s a lot what raising Gracie feels like. Like you’re stumbling around drunk late at night and trying to find your way without doing significant harm to anyone along the way.
It’s very hard to describe Gracie other than to say that she is extreme. She gets extremely happy, she is extremely adorable, she is extremely funny. But she is also extremely dramatic and extremely loud and extremely frustrating. I know that a lot of it is her age. She’s 21 months old, and I can tell that some of her frustration comes from not being able to communicate what she wants to say. She does know a lot of baby sign language (they use it at school), but it doesn’t seem to help. And Gracie takes that frustration to an extreme level of anger. And her weapon of choice when she gets angry is crying. It is not an exaggeration to say that Gracie cries just about all the time. She does a whining fake cry when she wants something. She has a dramatic, crocodile tear, sobbing cry when she doesn’t get her way. And she has a high pitched, shrill cry when she reserves especially for when we’re out in public. The crying is about to undo us.
We have always been pretty firm parents. We do not give in to whining or crying at all. But Gracie makes that incredibly difficult because she will continue crying for as long as it takes, and it can take a long, long, LONG time. (Remember the “thank you” at dinner a couple weeks ago?) At home, when we are by ourselves, it is much easier to ignore the crying and whining. We usually send her to her room until she stops. But when we are out in public or even when there are people around, it becomes a whole different issue. And it becomes embarrassing because I AM THAT PARENT. I am the one with the screaming kid. EVERY TIME. And I’ll tell you, I’m getting really tired of being in that position.
The problem with being out in public is that usually, Gracie is pitching a fit because she doesn’t want to sit where ever we are – in a grocery cart, at a restaurant table, in my lap, in a chair. And no matter how much we bring to keep her entertained or happy, she is dead set on being angry. That’s a big problem we have with her, too. You cannot talk Gracie down from a temper tantrum. If she gets mad, she is mad for the rest of the night. And her mad is ear piercing and long-lasting.
With Bean, if he got upset in public, then we simply took him outside for a quick time out until he calmed down, and then we went back to wherever we had been. But Gracie is a different story because unlike Bean, Gracie has no desire to be where we all are. In fact, taking her away from the table is like rewarding her because she gets to get away from the place she didn’t want to be. And let’s talk about time outs with Gracie. She thinks they are so much fun. If you ask her if she needs a time out (which is our warning in our house), she claps her hands and says, “YES!”
Some days, I worry that I am too hard on Gracie. Four days ago, we were coming home from a shopping trip with my mom, sister and our kids. Gracie started screaming when I put her in her car seat, and she did not stop for the entire 90 minute car ride home. I ignored her for most of the drive, but it is exhausting and maddening to listen to someone scream for that long. Not to mention, my mom and sister were there witnessing this episode, so I was humiliated on top of that frustration. My mom had to stop for gas about halfway home, so I very calmly and without saying anything, got Gracie out of her seat and sat her on my lap for a minute. I cleaned off her face, wiped her nose and tried to get her to calm down. But I didn’t really have to try. She instantly calmed down because she got exactly what she wanted. She got out of her seat. Then, when it was time to get going again, she screamed bloody murder when I put her back in and for the rest of the drive home. When we got home, she had been crying for almost two hours. Since it was already close to bedtime, I immediately led Gracie back to her bed and put her down for the night right away without saying too much at all. I wanted her to know that she was in trouble. She continued to cry for another hour. And I felt terrible all night. Who wants to be that parent who is toughing it out while their kid just wails? At times like those, I feel like I’m being too hard on her.
But then, other times, I feel like I’m being too lenient with her. Gracie was helping me clean up her bedroom today. She started screaming at the top of her lungs because I put away a certain book she wanted. She screamed and threw herself down on the floor, kicking and throwing anything she could get her hands on. So, I picked her up and walked her over to time out. I got down to her level, like you’re supposed to do, and I said, “Gracie you are in time out because you are throwing your toys.” And she looked me right in the eye, hit me straight in my face, and then took off laughing hysterically down the hall, turning around to see if I was chasing her. I dragged her back to time out, like, four hundred times, each time with her laughing even harder. And the whole time I thought, “Maybe I’m being too soft?”
See? We are just all over the place with Gracie. We have tried just about every parenting solution we can think of, but it is clearly not working. I’m not asking for a perfect child. I’m not even asking for Gracie to change at all. But I need some help figuring out how to respond to her.
I could spend hours researching online and spend hundreds of dollars on stacks of parenting books, but you guys are always better than a parenting book anyway. So tell me, imaginary friends. What am I missing? What are we doing wrong? What else can we try?