"She's two; it's the age."
You don't know how many times I've heard that in the last six months. But I know, deep down, that Amelia's behavior is not typical two year old behavior. I've had five children of my own and two of them have been 'challenging.' Having been down this road before, you would think that I would have my ducks in a row, that I would know how to handle each situation as it came up. Surely I understand that I can not turn my back for five seconds, no matter how badly the laundry stinks or how burnt the supper is. I've written, on this very blog a series of posts about dealing with challenging children.
Then why does it surprise me so when Amelia circumvents the safety guards on the doors and gets all of the baby chickens out of their box? Why am I appalled when I see that she's dumped out their water and food and between that and the chicken poop, has made a lovely skating rink of the basement floor? Why can't I remember that she has a melt-down every time we go to get into the car and it takes a minimum of six minutes to get her to transition from whatever she's tearing up at the time to actually getting in the car?
I guess that the 20 hour long days over the past two and a half years have clouded my mind. Some days aren't as long as that, more along the lines of 18 hours, but for the most part, four hours of sleep is all Amelia needs to recharge her hyper-lithium, long-life, energized batteries. During that time I consume way more caffeine than is safe for the human body and usually end up with the jitters along about hour nineteen. I have to do something, lest I accidentally doze off during those hours only to be jolted awake five minutes later to the sound of Amelia cackling as she cracks the 14th egg into my house slippers. I've also developed horrible eating habits and consume about 4,000 calories per day because it takes food to make energy to keep up with her but I'm usually so busy keeping up that the food I eat is less than healthy.
If you have ever had a newborn, you understand what it truly means to only get about three hours of sleep per night. If you've been lucky enough to have had more than one newborn in succession (or OMG twins or more), you know that it is a repetitive cycle that usually lasts for the first six months or so and then you get more sleep. You feel like you only get three or four hours, but let's be honest, you're a tired parent and duly so but you're getting a few more than that.
I wish. I wish that I was exaggerating about the sleep I get. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating the three hours thing because sometimes it is three glorious, consecutive hours but mostly it's three hours blasted up into bits when Amelia wakes up screaming or starts kicking for no reason or just decides it's time to get up. I started putting her off on nursing at night right after she turned two, but if worse comes to worse, I'd rather doze uncomfortably while trying to breastfeed her than to hear her scream for two hours.
As for quality of sleep, well that is what I make of it. The girls sleep in a double bed and Amelia takes up about two-thirds of it. If anyone moves or makes noise she will scream. If she doesn't have her pillows she will scream. If someone else has some pillows she will scream. If she doesn't have all of the blankets she will scream. I think you're getting, now, that quantity and quality are pretty much tied together and are pretty much negating each other at this point.
Less and less frequently, there are naps. Amazingly freeing naps where I can rush around for 45 minutes to one hour and get everything done in the house and with the other three children who live here that needs to be done in the day. Sometimes, like now, I can even manage to type while she's nursing and almost asleep. Usually, though, nursing sessions are full of kung-fu type artistry and outstanding feats of high-flying antics all while 20 pearly white teeth are precariously attached to my nipple. My laptop is missing a few keys and has a dent in the top from those few times I actually got crazy enough to try and type while she was still awake.
None of this is new, really, and I've known since I was pregnant that this child was special. A few days before her birth, she kicked me so violently that my ribs were bruised and every intake of breath hurt like daggers being jabbed into my lungs. She was just about 34 1/2 weeks gestation. We also got clued in to her high needs status when it took us six weeks to get her to breastfeed without help and then it took us another six months to get her to take anything besides the breast or to have any other source of comfort than me. She used to scream when her father held her, which made for bonding between them very difficult. We had read Dr. Sear's Fussy Baby Book and his Baby Sleep Book and we new that something was different about Amelia when we read about the signs of a high needs baby on his site.
The Sears' present twelve 'features' of high needs babies, and I just looked at the computer and it was like an epiphany. SOMEONE ELSE KNEW. Someone else knew that I wasn't crazy, I wasn't exaggerating or making things up, and I wasn't just being a grouchy new mama. There in the words on the screen was the exact definition of Amelia, every last one of them. I was thinking that if your child scored a nine out of twelve, you might have a pretty high needs child, but all of them rang true for us. Amelia was about seven months old at the time and I was beginning to think that I was the one who was somehow not fit to parent. It was a relief to know that others had and were going through what we were, but it did not and does not take the edge off after a really challenging and long day of parenting.
I know Amelia's behaviors aren't typical of two year olds. I know that she is high needs and parenting her requires extra effort, sometimes, super-human effort. I know that there will be days when I fail. I know that others do this and their kids turn out okay (heck, my other daughter ain't too shabby!). I know that there will be moments of bliss in the madness. I also know that I am a tired and worn out mama who really needs to type these things out more in order to keep myself sane!