Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Screaming Tomato Fights Back

It started with a plug.

Just an ordinary bath plug, black rubber and some sort of metallic bit on top plus that ring thing you pull to remove the plug from the bath.

All part of the night time ritual - lovely warm bath, hijinks with bath toys, hijinks with peeeeenussss, too much splashing, sodden bath mat, wrapped in big coloured towel, mumpy, pyjamas, story, bed. However the crucial step missing from this list is the one where Tricky pulls the plug out of the bath. By himself.

This step was passed over because, stupidly as it turns out, I decided that the whole getting out of bath routine was taking way too long, it was late, last episode of The Wire (series 3) was waiting to be viewed on dvd, there had already been a fairly unpleasant experience the night before which was put down to toddler spending three nights in three different beds, I was tired blah blah blah...

So I pulled the plug myself and said...Right that's it, out you get, we've got time before bed for one quick...

...story was the word I was about to use but Tricky, indignant beyond belief that I had usurped his plug pulling duties, obviously assumed I was about to say nuclear meltdown.

So he did.

Sweet mother of god.

It was the return of the Screaming Tomato but a louder, heavier, screamier Screaming Tomato. One with teeth. And pummelling fists. And tactics.

My god, look at it! It's thinking! It can actually think!

As fast as we formulate a strategy, the Screaming Tomato formulates one back. A better one! With laser beams and rockets!

Throughout the screaming he kept up a running tirade of immediate demands and loudly disappointed observations of our parental methods.

I want water, give me water. WATER PEEEEASE (parent hastily fetches orange sippy cup of water) No, not water, no no no water. (parent quickly takes loathsome cup away) GIVE ME WATER! (parent rushes back with cup) Mummy hold! No, Tricky hold, NO, MUMMY HOLD WATER, HOLD WATER MUMMY! (parent holds cup to Screaming Tomato's lips, Screaming Tomato snatches at cup and flings it to ground.) Where is water?! Mine want water! WATER PEEEASE! MINE WANT ORANGE CUP. MINE NOT WANT ORANGE CUP. (Repeat several times until other parent appears to find toddler and mother on floor surrounded by several sippy cups in varying hues, none of which seem to be wanted. Action now moves to bedroom.)

We tried to ignore him, he screamed louder. We tried to calm him, it seemed to enrage him. We cuddled him, he slapped our faces. We put him in his bed and he stood up and jumped on the spot, all the while howling at the top of his voice.

At one stage, bizarrely, he told us he wanted to wee on the toilet. Alright, I said, thinking this change of strategy might break the circuit.

This has been a slow process, the toilet training, we have had success with wees for instance but not with poos. And suddenly, the tears stopped and Screaming Tomato suddenly turned into Angelic Aubergine, all winning smiles and shining eyes.

Mine not crying now, mine happy. Mine do wee wees and mine also do poo poos. They go plop.

C and I cowered on the tiles by his feet, almost weeping with gratitude.

Oh they do go plop! Yes darling, you're so clever! Good boy. Are you finished? You can push the button on the toilet, now. Wow. Clever clever boy.

But minutes later when he wanted to come off the toilet, there was no poo and within a minute there were no more smiles and we were tomato agogo and back to the MINE WANT WATER refrain.

At which point, in true B-Grade horror movie style, our brains exploded through our skulls.

Sheer exhaustion saw him finally fall asleep in his bed, we got to watch our episode (everything they say about this show is true) and then, a few hours later, it all began again.

Except now it was some ungodly hour in the early early morning.

And now it was time for the big guns, the MINE WANT CUDDLES routine. This is not toddler asking for the quick comfort of a loving hug. This is a demand for Mummy to squat on the floor by his bed and drape herself on him so that he can cling to Mummy's wrist or, even better, Mummy's hair, and Mummy shall stay like that until Screaming Tomato has dropped off to sleep, or better, ALL FRIGGING NIGHT.

I did resort to some stern speaking through gritted teeth, i did try and smack his bum at one point. I managed to not lose it completely because I kept saying, in my head, i will win this, I will, as I put him to bed yet again.

But man he was good. He was, as Omar himself would acknowledge, fierce.

And I tried to call SHHHHH from my bed and say in a quiet but firm voice SLEEPYTIME and eventually he wore me down to going over to his bed and patting him, and from there he got me down to the "cuddle" (but with intention of returning to bed) and then it was a slippery slope to allowing him into our bed until he fell asleep and carrying him back to his bed, and half an hour later when he woke screaming again it was game over, and he slept in our bed until eight oclock in the morning.

I know he's not posessed, I told Screenwriting Mummy, on the phone this morning after he was removed to daycare by his uncle.

At least I think I know that. But could it be autism? Or bipolar?

And I feel terrible just writing those words, but the truth is, last night and this morning that's how I felt.

Who was that angry toddler? What was going on? He was completely out of control. And what about the wierd Smiling On The Toilet routine. In retrospect that was what freaked me out the most because he seemed so happy. But I guess it did seem over the top at the time, happiness of the wound up, gleaming teeth, glittering eyes sort.

Screenwriting Mummy also has an angry toddler, slightly older, of the female variety, and she swapped back some of her own tales of Notorious Meltdowns. And we talked about all the changes in Tricky's life at the moment and also that maybe some sort of rapid development was happening. And then we also talked about how losing control of your toddler makes you feel like you also have no control over yourself.

He may be a screaming tomato, but he's my screaming tomato.

The thing is, I only get one go at this.

And I really hope I'm not screwing it up.


Anonymous said...

You are NOT screwing it up. I promise. I, too, have stories of these shockingly intense kid freakouts. Eventually we learned that letting him wear down and then starting a story would sometimes work, but mostly the only thing to do was wait for it to be over.

The thing we always tried to remember when Wallace was Tricky's age was that the whole thing was as deeply, or more, disturbing to Wallace as it was to us. When they are that age, they literally cannot pull themselves together. It's so hard when they seem to do it for a short period of time and then lapse back into the freakout.

It's so hard, but sometimes they just have to burn off everything that's going on. I don't know a single parent who hasn't had a toddler descend into the screaming freaks.

Hang in there. It's normal. Utterly normal. Hang in there.

Krissy Poopyhands

Anonymous said...

oh god thankyou. I keep bursting into tears because i realised this afternoon when his uncle picked him up from childcare that i felt like i didn't want to see him. it is the most horribly shocking feeling.


Rebecca said...

Just to re-affirm that comment, this is absolutely normal. All toddlers throw tantrums, some more hideous than others. Sebastian throws astonishing tantrums. It's best to ignore the worst of the screaming, as at that stage there's nothing to be done, try to stay calm and controlled yourself, and then find something to distract them when they are almost calm. Of course, in the middle of the night it's basically unbearable. Don't despair, it will pass. God, I hope so anyway!

Susie said...

My two year old does exactly the same thing. He has been doing it for months. It gets very old, but it's totally normal for their age and development. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Dear God. How alarming! Harry is beginning to touch the edges of some of this behaviour - and at a mere 16 months has LOTS of time to hone and perfect his descent into sub-criticality. And it sounds as if considered opinion is that there is no way to steer around this particular set of potholes?


Poor you. Very poor you. And poor Tricky. And poor me in a year's time.

Anonymous said...

You're doing fine. Really.

Holy smokes! This was my house 2 nights ago. I was in a hurry because *my* show was coming on.

In my haste, I forgot the nightly-ritual-that-must-be-followed-to-the-letter and I, NOT "Weel-yum" removed the night-time sippy cup of warmed milk from the microwave.

Good Lord, I thought it was one of the 7 signs. I had to put the cup
back in the oven set the timer for 5 seconds & let him take it out, and put the lid on. For Pete's sake, Will, just drink your milk and go to bed.

Topcat said...

Dearest Vanessa,

You don't know me from a bar of soap, but I read you because you are

a) an Australian
b) totally fucking cool
c) a brilliant writer

Seems Tricky is up to some special Tricks, no?

Try not to stress too much, poor sweetheart. It is his job, to drive you to the brink of distraction (or is that destruction?) ... and back again, numerous times.

I have a six month old baby, who has screamed and wailed and gnashed his gums through his whole life so far, to the point where I have thought numerous, guilty times ... WHY DID I DO IVF SOMEONE REMIND ME, STAT. WHAT IS WROOOOOONNNNNNNGGG WITH YOU, HELLLPPPPPPP ....


Sounds like your Tricky is full of Spirit, and Passion, and will do AMAZING things when he grows up.



Grit said...

be easy on yourself og because you are not screwing up! and if you are, so are millions of us!

one night we made the mistake of saying to shark 'no bath tonight' because it was midnight and we had come home from far away and TWO HOURS LATER we had learned our lesson... the next time it happened and it was 11pm we said, 'no problem. bath coming right up'.

Betty M said...

Totally normal behaviour for two. Actually it still happens at 3, 4 and 5 in my experience although they get more controlled about their screaming ab dabs the older they get. I have had on occasions just had to go to a different room to avoid my own version of screaming tomato back at them.

Anonymous said...

I, too, feel for you - and my days of having a 2-yr-old are 30 years past (but not forgotten, by a long shot!). But your writing in this post is inspired (perhaps by temporary insanity?). When I read "cowering on the tiles by his feet" and "brains exploding through our skulls" I was laughing so hard my husband asked me what I was reading. Although Tricky is giving you a hard time, take pride that there is someone far away in Huntington Beach CA who really enjoys your blog.

Thalia said...

It seems in line with other toddlers I have seen. I can just see Pob heading there, she is already capable of screaming abdabs if she doesn't instantly get mummy's toast. I dread to think what this time next year looks like.

You are doing your best.

You are the best mummy for Tricky.

And he knows it.