A Toddler

Despite the challenges he has faced, in many ways our Gavin remains a typical two-year old boy. He comes out with things that have us rolling on the floor laughing, he charms everyone he meets with a sweetness and engaging light, and he frustrates his mama to the breaking point with stubborn-stop-everything tantrums.

Last weekend we took a family trip to Bubby and Da’s cottage, an experiment in going away with Tankie and hypertension meds. All went well, and Bean enjoyed tobogganing and playing hide-and-seek in unexplored territory. While we were out playing in the snow, (a frosty but brilliant -10 day) he was initiated into a time-honoured Canadian rite of passage: the snowy face-plant. I admit I freaked out a bit more than a normal mum would if her child got a bit of snow on his face, but the kid is wearing oxygen prongs!

Gavin’s new game is pretending to be a baby. (I’m a baby, wah wah wah) Some of us are still in the habit of referring to him as a baby and this is no longer acceptable to “Big Boy” Gavin. This baby game though involves someone picking him up and cuddling him and pretending to feed him milk. As we played this on Sunday, he suddenly shouted out, Wait a minute! (Newsflash coming) I’m not a baby! I’m a big boy!

Our two and a half hour drive home was marred by the fact that Gavin refused to go to sleep. He spent the whole first hour asking questions, What’s that? What is that building? What are those lights? Every time Craig and I would try to have a conversation he would get annoyed and shout us down, NO TALK! Our thing on long drives is to ask the car how long it’s going to take to get somewhere, and Gavin was not happy with the answers he was getting. Finally we heard from the backseat, I’m frust-er-ated. I’m frust-er-ated. And Why does life have to be so hard? (Where did he get that one from?!) I finally had to sit in the back with him and sing songs the rest of the way just to keep him settled.

It can be very trying dealing with a child who has had such a different experience for the last seven months of his life. There has been no such thing as “discipline,” and we have mostly given him what he wants in order not to upset him too much. Unfortunately, now that we are home there are schedules that need to be maintained and sometimes we can’t give in to his every arbitrary whim. I know that toddlers are prone to meltdowns, but I’m not sure with Gavin how much of his behaviour is due to regular toddler-ness, or a side-effect from the steroids and other medications he’s received.

He and I have had many talks over the last week or so about listening to what mama has to say about something and the reason why I’m asking him to do something. But several times a day there comes a moment when he’s decided that he needs to do something right now, his way, with no deviations from how he sees things evolving. For example, one day he and I made a lentil salad for Craig in the afternoon. Now every day, at lunchtime, he insists on Make something for Dada’s din-dins. Saying “no” to this request results in a full-on, twenty-minute crying jag, as he simply can’t understand why I would want to make lunch for us at lunchtime, and not chef up Craig’s dinner a full seven hours in advance.

Naptime is a huge struggle every day, and takes an hour and a half lead-time to get him up the stairs and in bed. We then read books for half an hour, then I have to pretend to be asleep while he rages next to me and finally falls asleep. Once in dreamland, he sleeps for two or three hours, so clearly he still needs it, but goes SO unwillingly.

Yesterday morning we went to Da and Bubby’s house, where Gavin had a brilliant time scampering all over the place and playing with everyone. He threw a minor fit when it was time to go but agreed to get dressed, so I thought the battle was won. Unfortunately, when we got to the car, he decided that he wanted to ride home in the trunk and refused to go into his car-seat. When he finally got in his seat, he refused to let me do up his seat-belt. He just wanted to ride home with his seat-belt undone, and each time I attempted to do it up he writhed and screamed like I was burning him with hot pokers. (Yes, I did just try to force the situation but he wouldn’t hold still enough for me to do up the clips.) We ended up sitting in front of my parents’ house for more than 15 minutes, me in the back seat with him. He finally calmed down and said I sorry, mama between sobs, and we did up the seat-belt and drove home. He fell asleep on the way. I tried to carry him inside still asleep but couldn’t manage it with the O2 tank, so he woke up in the bedroom and threw another fit, because he wanted to have his nap in the guest bedroom! (He has never napped there before.) Tempers were lost on both sides and shouting ensued. I shouted at him to stop shouting, and he responded with I won’t stop shouting, I won’t stop shouting, I won’t stop shouting ad nauseam. We finally gave each other a big hug and agreed to go for a walk in the stroller. I bundled him up in his winter things again and strolled around the block watching those eyes close… only to spring open at the slightest noise.

I finally had to admit defeat (ungracefully) and took him back to the house to buy tickets for a Max and Ruby show that is coming to town in April. Just for fun, you should try to buy tickets for something online with a small child helping you and pressing random buttons. It only takes half an hour!

I am not a saint, I cannot be patient with him all the time, and in perfect truth, the whole family is realizing what a toll our last 6 weeks in hospital took on all of us. One cannot survive such stressful circumstances without going through a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. I thought that I had dealt with things rather well while we were going through it, but am realizing now that there are a lot of unresolved emotions to sort through, fear, stress, grief, and survivor’s guilt. They are all heavy and hard to bear. And getting into a fight with a two-year old every day doesn’t help!

I do remember though, how lucky I am. I am thankful for that every day. I am grateful for my lovely, bright, funny and bratty boy.

9 responses to “A Toddler”

  1. Monica

    Life is messy and filled with all of the above as a mom. Your honesty is refreshing and more than ever, you need to also take care of yourself!

    Much love … bookclub on the 12th?

  2. Mette

    Wish I could blame it on the trauma of treatment, but actually that all sounds like perfectly normal 2-year old stuff. Just wait ’til he’s 3 and gets savvier with his arguing! 🙂 Be gracious with yourself as a parent. ICU & chemo ward parenting is a whole different ball of wax. Transitioning back to the demands of the normal world – with a special needs child – is murky at best. If I had really figured it out well, I’d share some sage advice, but… yeah, we’re still muddling through. Now that the toil & drudgery of cancer treatment is done… let the toil and drudgery of the rest of life begin! Even though we both know and appreciate the miracle of our children’s lives, I think it’s still fair to feel overwhelmed. Hang in there – hugs from another ATRT mama

  3. naomi

    It sounds like Gavin is finding his voice….. the endless questions and tantrums of a toddler can make a parent crazy but try to embrace his new BIG BOY attitude with curiosity equalling his own, guilt free. That’s what kids do. There’s a good deal of healthy rebellion and exploring that Gavin is discovering… in all honesty, this is the best thing one could have hoped for. He’s right on track. As a mom with two very stubborn and assertive girls, I try to take a moment to breathe deeply and say to myself “this is not about me”. Be consistent,ride it out, then wait and hope for the “I sorry mama” and exhale. These little confrontations can be emotionally draining and tiring because they happen daily… Hang in there. Trust me, every parent reading your words is with you on this one:)

  4. Diana Solomon

    Our kids are doing the exact same things right now. Frustrating for sure, but incredible to see how they are growing and trying to assert themselves. We, too, have difficulty getting Phinny to sleep. She goes to sleep like clockwork at daycare during the day, but not so much at home during the weekends! We have had total meltdowns when trying to put on her winter coat or boots, and other times she does it no problem. And when trying to get her in the carseat. Fine getting her in to go to the store, but try getting her back in to go back home … Urghhh … I thought that someone would call the police she was screaming so hard. And she wanted to climb into the front seat to drive. That would have looked good – a toddler (not quite 2) in the driver’s seat in a parking lot.

    Can’t wait to get the kids together.

    xx diana

  5. Auntie Melanie

    Hi Erica – I laughed at some of this – as I recall Calder doing many things like that! At the same time I feel for you! Gavin looks fantastic by the way. Pretty normal stuff I would say – and maybe some of it exacerbated by his recent past and meds.

    I cannot wait to come and vist!


  6. Terri Szego

    Hi Erica,
    I’m so happy to see Gavin home and doing as well as he is! I laughed at your story of strapping him into the car because I had the same battle with Rhys last night (also 2 1/2). I would say that everything you have described is exactly how Rhys is acting at the moment so I wouldn’t worry that it’s because of the meds or his experience of the last year. Apparently it gets better by the time they are 4!

  7. Sarah

    I agree with all of the above…and have to say, Gavin’s behaviours sound pret-ty familar from our end too! i suppose it is natural that all of these emotions and responses, suppressed for so long while you were in the midst of all the craziness, are bubbling up now. I hope that now that a new “normal” is taking shape for you guys that you and Craig can each find some space for yourselves, to have an outlet for all of what you are feeling, and to take care of yourselves emotionally & physically. I know that is a lot easier said than done, for sure! But if there is a way that we can support you in that- babysitting for a few hours, or whatever it might be so that you can exhale and turn off for a little while- it would truly be our pleasure.

  8. TracyKM

    I’m sure in some ways, it would be nice to blame all his behaviours on the rough times….he sounds pretty normal compared to my kids 🙂
    I would highly recommend you read Elizabeth Panthley’s “No Cry Sleep Suggestion”. I think the 1 1/2 hours routine pre-nap is way too long. A child should be asleep within 30 minutes of saying “nap time”. At his age, he might be adjusting out of napping…sorry 🙂
    I’d also recommend reading “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurchinka (it’s been a while since I referenced it, but just about every public library and Early Years Center will have it!). Two of my 3 kids are “high needs”/”challenging temperments” and the Early Year’s workshops were extremely helpful.

  9. Erica P.

    Erica and Craig,
    Gaving looks AMAZING!!! Im so happy to see that you guys are doing well.
    lots of love!
    -Erica P.

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