Monday, January 07, 2008

Letter to Swee'pea: 23 months old

Dear Swee'pea:


Today you are 23 months old. This month, I can no longer deny, you have become strategic. You've known for a long time that you can influence events, you can make things happen. First you did it with signs and then you learned the finer precison of words. But now you are learning how to equivocate. Bedtime has become a bit of a battleground, as has dressing. You will stop at nothing to delay bedtime, asking for snacks and milk. The first time, I suspected you weren't actually hungry, but I knew that if you were hungry, you wouldn't sleep well. So I took you to your high chair and plunked some noonoos (your absolutely favourite food: any kind of pasta) in front of you. You looked at the food and smiled a triumphant and mischievious smile at me. You took about 15 minutes to eat maybe 10 small noodles, despite my warnings and threats and ranting about the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Similarly, I have discovered it's much easier to get you dressed if I give you choice. You battle the concept of wearing a shirt much less if I let you choose between the orange shirt and the blue one, the turtle neck or the t-shirt. Now, however, you're onto me. This week, when I asked you to choose between the red socks and the gray ones (a bit dangerous in itself because you've been showing an obvious preference for all blue socks all the time but we were out of clean blue socks), you wanted the red. As soon as I brought the red socks near your feet, you screamed for the gray. And, surprise, surprise, when I went to put the gray socks on, you screamed for the red. This went on for some time until I finally had to be the heavy and tell you that this was your final choice. Period. End of story (I repeated myself a number of times to give you fair warning). Then it devolved into the wrestling match that typified our dressing sessions before I started giving you choices. The wrestling match was followed by intense screaming grieving, and finally a long cuddle before you accepted the socks on your feet.

I was planning to spend a significant portion of this letter complaining about your sleep - the lack of it, or more accurately your inability to fall asleep before 10 p.m. It's been going on for a week and it's seriously damaging my sanity. But, I've been going through my photos from South Africa and I came upon a photo that made me realize how far we've come in the sleep department.

This used to be our reality. I don't think I was as grumpy as I look in the photo - I think I was trying merely to look pensive - but maybe I was grumpy. Because when I zoom in on the photo I can see a sheen of sweat on my forehead.

Now, you take all your naps in the crib, unless you fall asleep in the stroller, and it doesn't usually take long to get you down in it, asleep. Back when that photo was taken, you were waking at least every two hours a night, sometimes more often (I think you were getting molars). Although your bedtime is proving extremely difficult at the moment, you mostly sleep through the night, albeit in our bed. All this to say I will shut up about the bedtime thing (although, if you could make it better, I'd be in a lot better frame of mind... think about it?).

This month your language has taken another leap into the galaxy of compound nouns: garbage truck (bobo da!), newspaper (newww bobo), papertowel (bobo wawa), vegetable soup (baba Boo) etc. You've also discovered adjectives and possessive pronouns. Everything is BIG these days, from plates to spoons to blocks to your poops (I think the daycare taught you that one). Your utterance of the word "my" is usually accompanied by a wounded, hard-done-by look.

Kind of like this. I asked you if perhaps you wanted to switch out your sweater vest for a full sweater, and you declined looking hurt that I would even suggest such a thing.

dec29 028

Christmas just passed and last week we brought your beloved tree down and put our new decorations away. The tree is sitting on our snowy front lawn and I worried about how you would cope with us throwing it out there. Mostly, you've been ok, although every time we come home and leave, you always talk about the tree and how we took the tree down (dee da) and we'll get another one (nana dee) next Christmas. (I don't think you really get the concept of next Christmas though.)

You've been enjoying your Christmas presents, although I've already learned the downside of them (they're a lot of small pieces that make lots of noise when the big box is emptied quickly on the floor, or when you rattle pieces around in a metal collander as if you're panning for gold). We got you a big box of lego blocks, a bag of toy vegetables that you can cut into pieces and peel and then put back together, and a tea set. You love them all and sometimes even combine them to serve vegetable tea or cut blocks. I didn't quite realize that the vegetables came with a toy knife, or I didn't realize quite how disturbing it would be to see you playing with your knife. More than once you've played at stabbing us, so we try not to encourage the knife play. You are an attentive server of tea, promptly asking us if we'd like more as soon as we've taken a sip. And you are not easily distracted from your quest to fill everyone in the room with pots and pots of imaginary tea. It's quite amusing really.

dec29 011

Some nights after you (eventually) go to bed, we will discover a cache of toy vegetable pieces in a collander under your high chair or a line of toy tea cups all nicely ordered along the vent. Except that hasn't happened in days (the bedtime part). As I write this you are still awake. The usual walking back and forth to music didn't work once again, so now your dad is lying down with you in our dark room. I've heard you crying for me several times -- oh! here you go again -- but I can't come to you. I have an angry snake curling around in my belly. If I lie down with you, it rises up and makes me into the kind of mother I never want to be. One who snaps with almost no provocation, one who reacts angrily to every little thing. It's almost feeling like a panic disorder, these moments when you won't sleep and won't leave me alone, and I feel like I will never escape.

It scares me that I want to escape motherhood sometimes. Makes me wonder if perhaps I'm one of those women after all -- one of those mothers who abandons her child(ren) forever, or simply buries herself in other work, barely sparing a distracted hug or chuckle or pat on the head for her child(ren). Not that I'm going to do it right now, just sometimes I see clearly that I could become - permanently - the kind of mother I really didn't want to be. I had one moment when I thought maybe you would be better off without me, that I'm not good enough for you because I'm so angry. I imagine that's how mothers who abandon their children feel too.

I don't know why I'm so angry. So much of my life is really quite pleasant, including you. I just don't seem able to appreciate it at certain moments that overwhelm me with little warning. It used to be that at the points I knew I just couldn't take anymore, you would suddenly sleep well, and the edge I was perched on would recede to a safer distance. This has not been the case the last few nights. I hope these moments aren't all that you remember of me. I hope that overall, you find comfort and love in your memories of me. I hope things get better really soon.

I'm sorry I've spent so much of this letter going on about me and your lousy sleep habits, but they are a part of you, as am I. And besides, if you're reading this, surely we did something right?

Love Always,


bubandpie said...

Messing with the bedtime = no sanity. That is absolutely the way it is. (I don't mean you messing with the bedtime, to be clear - I mean the sleep gods taking away the lovely lovely bedtime. Very bad.)

Jennifer said...

I think every single mother on the planet has has the thoughts you're describing. Every mother who thinks about mothering and wants to be a good mother, that is. The thing is, it's difficult to talk about, so people don't, very often. But, I can relate. And lack of sleep doesn't help. At all. Wishing you and your cutie boy some peaceful ZzZzZzZzs!

Mad Hatter said...

Oh honey, the dreams of escape are so necessary. I look back on posts that I wrote when Miss M was almost two or just over two (my rage post, my panic post) and I am frightened by the intensity of my feelings. Things are a lot better now just as you can see the difference between last Feb's SA picture and now. That picture is amazing btw. I had all but forgotten the baby that is now that magnificent boy.

Don Mills Diva said...

Love the pictures. Hope the sleep situation gets better - lack of sleep is absolutely devastating.

Beck said...

When I don't get enough sleep - even AN HOUR of not enough sleep - I become this snappy awful jerk person, the sort of mother that I don't want to be. They DO start sleeping better, very very quickly.
I can remember my excape fantasy very well: I was going to work in a diner and live in a trailer and do crossword puzzles and occasionally sleep with a trucker. And then one day my real life was better then that 100% of the time.

cinnamon gurl said...

I should clarify, I'm not lacking sleep so much as I'm lacking guilt-free me time.

Christine said...

there is an angry mother like this in all of us. and you are the best person in the world for that little angel. your frustration only demonstrates your humanness.

hang in there.

Running on empty

Serendipity, baby! said...

I can't get over how grown up he looks! The pics (as always) are beautiful.

Bon said...

god, i love these letters. especially for the honesty, the unwillingness to turn them into something facile and false...someday, Sweepea will read these and he'll know, because of that honesty, that all the love and detail in every observation - all the warmth i read in this, the appreciation of HIM - was real, too.

and bad bedtimes make me want to run for the hills, and we've never had it nearly as hard as you.

andrea said...

I feel that angry snake rise and hiss when my twins (seven months) mess with bedtime and nap times. It is unbelieveably frustrating and yes, it makes me feel like a bad mum too. I worry frequently that I am just Not Enough for them: not good enough a mother, not patient enough, not loving enough. But what what jennifer said above resonates - perhaps those who are truly bad mothers don't have these thoughts because they just don't care. If you (general 'you') care enough to worry about it, it is likely your love and care shine through in your interactions with your child/children. I hope that is the case, anyway. I hope my girls know how much I love them even when my frustration is clear or I have to walk away to calm myself.

Lisa b said...

Cinn this is a beautiful and honest letter.

I am totally obsessed with sleep and bedtimes.
I really believe everyone has these terrible thoughts. This is the hardest job I have ever had.


NotSoSage said...

Beautiful. And true. I was just thinking - after reading a post of flutter's - that I've never been angry as often on my own behalf as I have been since becoming a mother. It's scary and guilt-inducing...if you figure out how to feel better about it. Let me know.

And god, he's all Sugar D in that black and white shot, isn't he?

slouching mom said...

we are all that angry mother sometimes, you can be sure of that -- especially when we don't get enough sleep or downtime.

you're just wonderfully honest about it.

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nomotherearth said...

Aside from the sleeping issues (I have my own lack of sleep issues right now), I think I could have written this post. Swee'pea and the Boy sound a lot alike. I also feel bad for being so angry, selfish and grumpy when, mostly, I have it pretty good. It's so hard. Just so hard.

He's gorgeous, btw. He has the hair colour I only wish I had..

Aliki2006 said...

Sleep--such a simple yet taken-for-granted thing...I used to bash my head against the wall and wonder how something so simple as sleep could be so elusive and difficult for my boy...

Hang in there-- you are doing SO very much that is right--it just shines through.