The last ten months of life with the Snapper have been extremely trying. Last June, just as we were being hit by the flood, he hit 18 months, or rather 18 months hit us. He began tantruming hard, daily, hitting and biting, and being oppositional to most transitions and parental directions. That summer I spent weekdays without Attic Man, as he was interning in another city, so the entire task of managing, or surviving, the Snapper’s behavior fell on me, with a little respite on the weekends.
Fall came with Attic Man home but doing his busiest semester yet. We were both extremely stressed out through the fall and spring semesters, which probably didn’t help our very sensitive boy who began to act out even more (minus the aggression, which is now almost gone) and have the occasional three-week-long bout of insomnia. I got used to it taking 2 hours or more to get him to bed and rising with him as early as 4:30. To top it off he has been sick three times since late January, a week each with the flu, and is just getting over a bad cold.
We’ve worked hard on the sleep, and between that and him being past the two-year sleep regression, he is now going to bed at a reasonable time–with me out of the house and Attic Man running the show–and waking up at an equally reasonable time. I feel like a new woman.
Once I was rested, I started to finally think rationally about my out-of-character feelings this past months. I am a person who has always loved children, always done well with them, and has always imagined her fall-back job as nanny. As I looked into part-time employment opportunities for the fall, I found my eyes wandering to the nanny ads. Then I realized how crazy that was: a miserable PT SAHM looking for MORE work with children during the day?
I began to think about how I would approach a nanny job. I would see it as an opportunity to make an impact in the education and development of young children. I would make up a schedule, I would seek out interesting and fun and wacky field trips, I would design funky art projects, have dance parties, and be mindful at every step of their developmental needs.
Like a smack on the forehead, I realized that I’ve become bored as a PT SAHM and that, while my child is certainly strong-willed, my unhappiness may be contributing to his behavioral issues. Even if becoming more structured does not settle him down, it will at least settle me down enough to calmly approach his needs.
I’m thinking of starting by trying to keep his daycare schedule here at home (we already keep his naptime the same) with circle time in the morning and the same snack and lunch times. I think circle time would help ground us both and set the tone for the day.
I’m also going to be more intentional about hitting the major areas of his development: language, music, movement, art, and math (um, really just counting). We’ll have naturally-occuring lessons on safety and kindness, of course, as we have been. I have to face the fact that I am a teacher at heart and I need to be working this like a job to be satisfied.
I’m also going to be more consistent with his potty training. He is in underwear at home and in pull-ups out and at night. I need to work in regular times to ask (I never, ever force) and re-do his rewards.
Oh, and the TV is so going OFF. I may consider adding it back in a teensy bit as a reward, but it’s off entirely for at least the first week (except for 5 minutes at bedtime, which is something he does with his dad and I’m not going to mess with success, especially if it’s not my routine).
Here’s an idea of what I might be doing. I am going to have to tweak it, but it’s the general idea.
a.m. Rise and immediately remove pull-up, go to potty, put on underwear, nurse. Breakfast. Clean up and get dressed. (Currently he will refuse to take his pull-up until as late as 10 a.m., which is just so gross; also we don’t usually dress unless going outside, but I’m going for structure here).
9:00 Circle time. Sing “What is the Weather” and use weather stickers. Talk about the day of the week, the color or number of the day, etc. You know, all that Sesame Street stuff. I have to work some of this out. It will be really short.
Nice day: 9:45-11:30 OUTSIDE!
Rainy day: 9:45-11 Outside with galoshes or inside free play; 11-11:30 Music activity.
11:30-12 Mama makes lunch. The Snapper helps if she is feeling brave.
12-12:30 Eat lunch.
12:30-3 Reading time, nap.
3-4 Snack, Movement (dance party, yoga, running around the apt, etc.)
4-5:30 Free play; Reading together; Music activity if we’ve been outside in the morning.
Evening routine, which Attic Man runs and involves going to the playground while I garden.
Wednesday–Same as Monday except focus is on art.
Friday–Same as Monday and Wednesday except public library for p.m. free-play time (our library is less busy on Friday afternoon, and we’ve had no success at all with preschool storytime on Wednesday mornings). Also perhaps a field trip for the morning.
This is just a rough sketch and I will be really flexible. The idea is just to be intentional and have a plan, however malleable. The touchstones will be circle time, mealtimes, and naptime.
I’ll do housework during free play. Naptime will remain my time to chill out.
Monday is launch day.