Something quite odd has happened to me over the past month. I’ve waited to write this, because if I had written this last week, it would have really sounded like I’d lost the plot entirely. There is something definitely not quite right about constantly being in dread of preschool pick-up time, or starting every morning with that sickly nervous feeling because you don’t yet know what kind of mood your child is going to wake up in.

It’s been brewing for a while. I wrote a few months ago about how Arlo and I used to be friends, and now we are always battling. To me, the separation between us feels so tangible that I can almost see it growing. Yesterday we had a nice conversation – in fact, the moment was so nice that I realised that it rarely happens any more. I miss my buddy, I’d love to have him back. I feel like an onlooker, watching other people having nice moments with him – the anger, tantrums, and aggression reserved for me.

Arlo’s behaviour is nothing out of the ordinary. I’m sure it’s very typical. I’m sure it’s a phase, like everything else. The thing that frightens me is not his behaviour, it’s how I’m reacting to his behaviour. I wonder how on earth it has got to the point where my anxiety is making me feel that my three year old son is ruling every moment of my life, to the point where I am anxious to be in sole charge of him.

It kicked up a notch when Arlo got poorly. Six days of being trapped in a small house with a puking toddler (yes, the sickness lasted six days). Fighting the overwhelming urge to run away. Six days of that was enough to send my anxiety levels sky high. It was to be expected, I’ve written before about how I just do not deal with sickness well at all. What I didn’t quite expect was that almost a month later, I’d still waiting for them to come back down.

I could write about how I’m scared to go into him at night when I hear him cry. I’m scared when he starts moaning at me because I worry that he’s getting sick again. I just don’t like the responsibility of being on my own with him at the moment.

But more than that, I can’t handle the tantrums as well as I once could. My heart just sinks when we start the day with a tantrum, because these days we rarely recover from the tantrums and it means they will happen all day. The tantrums eat away at me in a way that they really shouldn’t. Some days, we start well, but then the tantrums hit later on, and the day always ends the same – with me wishing I wasn’t here, doing this. The responsibility of being in charge of the day-to-day care of my children is feeling massively overwhelming at the moment.

Added to this, the annual winter onset of feeling like a caged animal inside the house has reached an all time low, and winter has only just started. The recently acquired double buggy helps, because I can strap them both in and get out of the house, tantrum or no tantrum. But I can still hear him crying, and it still sends my heart racing. It shouldn’t do, it seems really silly.

All my anxiety is aimed at him, or as a result of him. It feels very unfair to have none of these feelings towards Rory – babies are no problem, babies I can handle. Rationally, I know it’s not actually him. He is not the enemy. I try to remember that it’s in my head. That it’s ridiculous to allow myself to feel this overpowered by my child, who is only doing what all young children do. That I need to get a grip. It usually works …a bit.

Until recently, it hadn’t occurred to me to have a sympathetic view towards people who get really stressed when they were having a nightmare day with their kids. So, your toddler whinged all day, why are you acting like you can’t handle it, it could be worse. Children whinge, they tantrum, get over it.

But then it happened to me, and I realised that it’s not the actions of the child that determine the stress levels, as if it’s a competition about whose child is the whingiest – it’s about how it affects the person responsible for their day-to-day care, and how well equipped that person is to deal with whatever stress-inducing situation happens to be arising.

I’ve never been massively anxious like this before, it’s a new and weird feeling for me. I know it’s part of my postpartum emotional adjustment. During my pregnancy with Arlo and for some time afterwards, I experienced intense, tearful anger directed at all sorts of minor things. I could only see it for what it was in hindsight, but it is the benefit of that hindsight that also tells me that this too, is a phase that I will work through. Sleep helps too, which is something I am getting very little of right now.

Things have been a bit better this week, but the anxiety has not fully lifted. It’s still very much there, lurking in the shadows, striking at inopportune moments. For the moment, it’s clear that we are exacerbating each others’ problems. We continue to battle. But I am the adult in this situation, and he is a little boy, who needs me to not push him away.

6 comments

  1. Oh bless you. It can’t have been easy to admit to these feelings, and I hope that in a way just talking (or writing) them through has helped a bit.
    I think parenting has good days and bad days, that’s the nature of it, but whenever we get into a funk (be that behaviour or mood) I find that breaking the cycle with something totally different often helps. A completely different kind of day out, or even just planning a random day of excitement. I once built a den in the evening so that it would be there ready when we got up in the morning. It was one of the best days.
    Thinking of you, hope it all settles down again soon. x

    1. I find the same, doing something different can really help achieve a more positive outlook. Although recently all my attempts have not gone down well with Arlo AT ALL so it’s been all the more disheartening. Just trying to remember that he’s going through a difficult phase, and that one day normal service will resume and we will have fun together once more.

  2. Yes, so much nodding to this post. A lot of what you’ve said recently has hit the nail on the head for me – I just can’t put it into words on my own blog because it would probably come out as a stream of swear words.

    I’ve hated the past 12 months or so with Isabel. Being 3 has been so damned challenging – for her, and for me in reacting to it. I can think of maybe a handful of days off the top of my head in the past year where I haven’t screamed at her, and it’s sad that a) I’ve screamed at her! and b) these good days are so rare that I can remember each individual one.

    I’ve been reassured that it’s a phase that’s appropriate for this age but I think a big part of it is my own needs to. I feel like everything recently – in fact since I conceived Oliver – has been about someone else that my needs, my time has been overlooked and that makes it so much harder to be a parent who is present, aware, sympathetic and receptive.

    I even recently applied for a full time job thinking it was the answer to my problems…..

    Sigh. I don’t have any wise words to share 🙁 just wanted you to know that you’re so not alone. x

    1. Yes to everything you just said. Last week, the thought of a full time job was SO appealing (let’s just ignore the glaring childcare costs issue), even though I know it doesn’t actually solve anything, because you are always a full time parent, working or not working. Sometimes I think I’d do a better job of parenting if it was my only ‘job’, I’d have more time to focus on Arlo, he’d be happier. But then I realise that I don’t WANT it to be my only job, I don’t want to sacrifice my own interests…. but what do I do about the small child that is fighting with everything he has not to have his mum pulled away from him in several different directions? Hmmm.

  3. I can relate to parts of this post, not in exactly the same way and not with my eldest! J has been such hard work the few weeks, he cries most of the day and wakes up nearly every hour at night, last night was every 20 mins for the middle part of it. I hate not knowing if there is something wrong or why he’s so unhappy and I find it so hard to relax. I’m always on edge as I know every time I put him down in the day he will scream, it makes doing everything a nightmare. The only thing I have noticed is that my mood really does affect things with both kids, when I am happy and positive they seem to react better but when I am miserable and act as if I’m defeated then they seem to know. It’s hard though xx

  4. Like Jem i am nodding along to a lot of your post. I think we have boys of similar ages, my eldest is just 3 and drives me up the wall on a daily basis. I get incredibly anxious about stupid things and sometimes shout or get angry with him for things that aren’t even his fault, like spilling a drink. I think it’s a difficult age – frustrating for them and us. So nearly a proper little boy but not quite able to deal with emotions and communicate what they actually need/want.
    I’ve had terrible anxiety in the past that i had medication for, it’s not at that stage now but i think i will always struggle. Anyway i just wanted to let you know you are not alone and you are not at all abnormal xxx

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