An appreciation of routines and rules

I always thought I would be a relaxed Mum. Not too bound and restricted by routines and rules, allowing my children to grow and develop into their own little personalities. Well I got half of that right, they certainly have their own personalities.  I’ve learnt, and am reminded daily, that my children like and need routines and consistency. The minute their routine is messed with, we give in to their demands or there are significant changes to their environment, all hell breaks loose.

Our eldest (2.5 years old) daughter has always been good at going to bed. One night we decided to put her in the room with her baby sister, this is our dream, to have as a permanent arrangement. She was excited super excited, she refers to this room as “the holiday bedroom” as we have the travel cot in there.

Well, we won’t be trying that again for a while/ever!

The baby woke up screaming at 1am. This caused our eldest to wake up not long after looking petrified, she then proceeded to join in the screamathon. Consequently instead of having one screaming child to contend with throughout the night we had two. Eventually we were able to calm both girls down and by about 4am they were both asleep in separate bedrooms. Despite this rather distressing night she still asks daily if she can sleep in “the holiday bedroom”, at least my response is consistent.

There are many times she will insist on doing something that we know she is physically unable to do. However no amount of explanation will make a determined and stubborn 2.5 year old see sense. Yesterday she demanded to push the double pram uphill with the baby in it. When I said no, for obvious reasons, she performed a terrifying tantrum that would have you quaking in your boots. In the end I thought maybe allowing her to try may help her realise herself that she couldn’t do it (without the pram rolling backwards and mowing her over). Ensuring I was stood closely behind to prevent any squashed children or damaged cars, I let her try. She leant all her weight on the pram, as expected it started to roll backwards. I put my hand out to help but it was instantly pushed away with a slap and cries of,

“Noooooooo. I wanna do it, I wanna do it”

Surprisingly she did manage to hold it in place, preventing it running her over, but no matter how hard she pushed her little legs bent as low as they could go, she couldn’t get it to budge. After a few minutes watching her struggle I suggested,

“You are doing ever such a good job sweetheart, it is a very heavy pram after all. How about we do it together now?”

If looks could kill! Never before has an offer of help been met with such utter disgust.

“I wanna do it, I wanna do it, get off now” she screamed at me, tears pouring down her face.

The more she tried, the more frustrated she got and the more she screamed.

After about 10 minutes of this game I decided enough was enough, I’d like to get home this side of Christmas and quite honestly this was a totally ridiculous situation. I went to pick her up, resulting in a wrestling match. This was not the first time, and I know it won’t be the last time, I was forced to carry her home under my arm. Her little legs and arms flapping around, screaming at the top of her lungs whilst I’m trying to navigate pushing the double pram uphill.

This particular tantrum continued when we arrived home for at least 20 minutes, no amount of me doing silly faces or dancing around the lounge like a horsey was going to put an end to it. Only one thing for it, thank goodness for Frozen.

What’s worse about this story is today the exact same thing happened, this time with the single pram. I had the baby in the carrier. She began peppering me with the usual demands,

”I wanna push the pram, I wanna push the pram”

Feeling rather frazzled and worn down from it all I relented. Allowing her to try it as it was a flat surface and single pram so I thought may be easier (when will I learn, once you let them try something they want to do it every time?).  All was going swimmingly until we got to the hill. A repeat of yesterday’s performance ensued. No matter how hard she pushed, it wasn’t budging. As soon as I offered help I was met with the same look of disgust, screaming and tears. Today I was in no real hurry so decided to park my bum on the pavement next to her and wait until the tantrum had ended and she had calmed down. At this point she hid underneath the pram.

Mexican stand-off
Mexican stand-off

The next second the pram fell over and the Mexican stand-off was over. The shock making her weirdly calmer and in need of Mummy again.  Does this now mean she has learnt that pushing big prams is dangerous for little people? I suspect not but at least it put an end to the drama for today.

This last week her tantrums have been particularly horrendous. There have been three main periods in her life when she has had these ear piercingly terrifying tantrums:

  •  Just after her baby sister was born. My husband had returned to work. She’d gone from receiving our devoted attention pre-baby, to all of my husbands and her grandparents who were visiting’s attention to  just me and having to share me with her sister. One occasion she had fallen and hurt herself at the playground, I tried to console her, resulting in her running away screaming “Nooooooooooooooooooooo” at the top of her lungs. I swear it looked as though I was trying to kidnap her.
  • A few months ago when I was rushed into hospital for an emergency operation, staying away for a few nights and then away again the following week at sleep school with her sister. Apparently she performed an epic 45 minute tantrum when her Dad tried to get her out of the bath. Preferring to sit in an empty bath in the freezing cold (middle of winter) for the duration of the tantrum.
  • My husband had recently been around more for 3 months whilst setting up a business. Now he is leaving the house every day again she is stuck sharing Mummy again.

All 3 of these occasions are when there has been a considerable amount of stress or change happening in our family.

At Christmas we took a trip back to the UK with, shock horror, ‘2 under 2’. It was meant to be a holiday but felt more like an endurance test. It was the hardest few weeks I can remember. On the one hand it was of course wonderful to be reunited with our families and friends. For months we had looked forward to spending our first Christmas in 4 years back home. I was full of romantic notions of a white, cold Christmas, drinking mulled wine and chatting around log fires whilst our children played with their cousins and grandparents.

Unfortunately the first hurdle was a 27 hour flight with 2 kids under 2. My husband definitely drew the short straw as he was left to deal with the toddler (I’m breastfeeding so it was only right I had the baby – of course).

Basically we took a 3 month old baby and a 23 month old toddler out of their usual routines, into a confined space, with no seat for the toddler, for 27 hours. Mmmmmm, so many things wrong with that scenario.

Every time the seatbelt sign flashed on the flight attendant instructed me to lift the baby out of the bassinet. This consequently woke her up several times after I’d  just managed to get to sleep. So frustrating.

Meanwhile my husband was wrestling our eldest, attempting to pin her down on his lap. She thought this was a great game as she climbed over seats, under people’s  legs and down the aisle into business class to escape. I could see my husband’s patience dwindling as the air stewardess came over to U.S. again, a forced smile on her face,

“Sir, please could I ask you to put your daughter on your lap with her seatbelt on”.

The fourth time she said it, all his restraint gone, he sarcastically suggested

“Perhaps you’d like to try?”

She didn’t bother us again after that.

On arriving in the UK we had a week of jet lag to deal with. Our eldest, usually a wonderful sleeper, was waking throughout the night ready to start the day. First time midnight then 1am, 2am, 3am etc. It took 5 nights before it started to be a more acceptable 5am. The only way we could get her to stay calm and not run around waking everyone else up at my in-laws house was playing Peppa Pig on repeat.

I swear if I hear ‘da, da, da, da, daaaa, da, da da da da da’ or ‘Peppa and George are off to see Dr Elephant” one more time, I might actually shoot myself.

After the week of jet lag, we all got sick. Just as we were starting to feel better, getting back in the swing of things, it was time to leave. We had to deal with the journey and jet lag all over again, minus the family help.

These situations have given me an appreciation and new found respect for routines and rules when it comes to toddlers. They are a winner for all involved. Our little ones can’t actually cope with too much change in their daily lives. If we falter from the norm they get confused and often feel unsettled. They expect that every time, not understanding why it can’t be so and creating havoc when their demands aren’t met.

 

 

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