Monday, April 20, 2015

Parenthood – Week 97: The Toddler Sonic Scream

There’s a superhero named the Banshee, a character from the X-Men comic book whose superpower is a sonic scream, which can not only cause damage to adversaries but also gives him the power of flight.


Do you know who else has this superpower (minus the flight)? My son.

The other night after coming back from a family walk, we noticed that Buffy had picked up some burs. Diana carefully carried Buffy into the house to carefully remove them from Buffy’s fur.  It was also time for Ollie’s bath, so I proceeded to try to get him up the stairs.

Ollie wanted Diana to give him the bath, but she was taking care of Buffy and there was no good reason for me not to spend some time with him getting him ready for bed.  He fought me as I took his jacket and shoes off and of course I won. Ollie protested asking for Diana, and I tried to calm him down but as he entered in full meltdown mode, I’m not sure if even Diana could get him to chill out.

So I scooped him up my crying toddler, cradled him against my and hip and started up the stairs. About halfway up the stairs, Ollie let out a scream. It was one of the loudest sounds I had ever heard a human being make (and I’ve heard opera singers up close). It was long, it was high, like E above the treble clef, and right up against my left ear. I swear, my ear was ringing for a couple seconds after the scream.

Ollie didn’t fight me through the bath, but he wasn’t exactly happy about the situation, crying throughout the process. Eventually Diana finished with Buffy and I handed Ollie off to her. Like many difficult situations raising a kid, an hour later, sitting on the couch after Ollie fell asleep, it was just a memory.

One of the difficulties of raising a toddler is the fact that along with their heightened ability to express themselves comes opinions and desires that can emotionally difficult to process for parents. Ollie wanted Diana; he didn’t want me. In that moments along with his epic scream, it was hard not to take his protests personally.

Once Ollie calmed down, Diana was clear with Ollie about how he needed to be nice to me and why she couldn’t be with him. I appreciate this because even though at this stage Ollie doesn’t completely understand what she’s saying, eventually he will and it’s important that we both get in the habit of supporting each other. While it’s important to validate Ollie’s feelings, he needs to learn how his actions affect the people he cares about.

In the moment after Ollie screamed at me, I became pretty quiet and just focused on getting his bath done. I’m the older party and yes, I’m more mature (most of the time), but it was hard to take his cries from my son, a person I spend so much of my day and energy thinking about and care for. But I’m not really mad at Ollie. I know that he doesn’t mean it.

Of course whenever he comes up for a hug or tells me he loves me, he means that.  None of the tantrums he expresses towards me are all that meaningful long term. You may laugh at this rationalization but it's true.

As Diana rocked Ollie to sleep only ten minutes after being upset, I heard him giggling with Diana and talking about his day.  I went into his darkened room and he said "hug dada," and leaned in towards me for a hug.  Then he said "hug mama," leaned back to Diana.  He went back and forth between hugging me and Diana, smiling at both of us.

Sharing love is what he comes back to, it's what we all want and cherish in our hearts.  It's who we truly are on the inside, if we let ourselves be for each other.

Frustration passes but love never does.

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