Darkness Before the Dawn?

Ladies, I come before you a desperate Mama in need of advice, suggestions, or anything that may help. My oldest child is 4 1/2. We also have a 2 1/2 year-old and one due to make an appearance within the month. For those of you that might not know me, my pregnancies are brutal, and this one has been horrid. I'm about a month from delivery, and I have lost almost 5 pounds for my total "weight-gain" for this pregnancy- I don't recommend the morning-sickness diet to anyone. I also began dilating at 27 weeks, and was told to "stay off my feet". Uh, sure, and my other kids will do what? Needless to say, things in our house have not been "normal" in months. My mothering has been less than stellar, and my kids now "play-barf" in their pretend kitchen. Lovely! There are so many things not going ideally at home, picking out the worst one is kind of like shooting ducks in a barrel. But the one that is breaking my heart is what brings me to you. My 4 1/2 year-old son is really showing the ragged edges from having mama sick for so long. He is acting out in all sorts of ways, including aggression towards his brother, his dad, and me. He is angry and frustrated often, and gets so mad he begins to shake and scream, and I feel completely unable to help him through this. I don't even know what to do. He is willful and purposefully disobedient- even in the face of a direct request from his dad. And the situation goes downhill from there. We have tried to be consistent in our rules and discipline, but the truth is, things are so chaotic and difficult that we have often failed. Now he doesn't seem to care what the consequences are of an action, he ignores us and does what he pleases. What do you do when a child so young looks you in the eye and tells you "NO"? He knows I am physically unable to move or restrain him, and dad is gone all day. We are sliding down a slippery slope... So we have a very sick mom, a dad working full time (at a new job) and taking care of much of the home stuff, because I cannot, and a little boy who is about to explode with all of his emotions. I feel like we are in a pressure cooker, and someone closed the steam valve. To be clear, he is a sweet, wonderful boy most of the time, and this behavior is recent and due (I think) to my constant sickness and inability to do anything physical (ie: bedrest) When this baby is born and I can return to normal life (if sleep deprived- which sounds wonderful compared to how it is now), things will get better, but I can't just leave him hanging in the wind until then. Has anyone been in my shoes? Does anyone know any good books or have any sage advice? It is seriously breaking my heart to see my child so angry and hurting, not knowing how to help him. So, I ask you, my fellow mommy-friends, to please share any pearls you might have. I'm worried the thread we are hanging from is beginning to ravel...


Anonymous Sue said...

Tracy, I'm so sorry you are all going through this.

I don't have any pearls, only a few not very groundbreaking ideas. Try to keep the TV time to a minimum, even though you are so sick - I know that sounds impossible. I really find that on days that my girls watch a lot or too much TV, they are really irritable, grumpy and unable to handle things (even though they are just watching PBS or Noggin).

If you can, do lots of couch activities with him, where you can lie down or sit down with him and still have some quality one-on-one time with him - coloring or reading or cutting out snowflakes... When I only had two kids, I was sick for a few days (nothing like what you are going through) and my Dh couldn't stay home, so I spent a lot of time making up stories for my daughters ABOUT my daughters, and they loved that. They still love that. "Mom, tell me a story about me and a mean tiger/rabbit/lion/giraffe."

Hope everything works out...

3/17/2006 01:17:00 AM  
Blogger Keryn said...

Tracy, I don't have any advice, but I do have prayers. I'm praying for you and your dear family.

3/17/2006 01:20:00 AM  
Blogger Island Queen said...


I know how hard this is for you. I'm sitting here trying to think of some wonderful words of advice that will instantly solve your problem. But I believe it's time. Time will help him. Having you back again will help him. Honestly, I think it will probably get worse in the up coming months. You all will have a big change when Baby Strawberry Shortcake arrives :-) Your body will be adjusting, your family dynamics will be adjusting and he will be adjusting to having this new little Spirit in the family. Everything.

But the Lord knows your concerns. He knows your sweet boy and is with him. Do the best you can.

The situation will get better. He will probably not even remember any of this trying time in the next few years. It's hard now but it will get better.

I'm sorry I don't have anything more to offer - but I'm keeping you guys in my prayers and giving *you* a big blogging HUG!

3/17/2006 01:21:00 AM  
Blogger Amy Girl said...

I have found that making a special time each day for just you and your little guy can make all the difference. Books, games, playing with toys, hiding under a big blanket, tickling, giggling, talking, walks, cooking (both out for you I think)are just a few ideas for you and sad child. This might take some coaxing at first. Oh, and lots of mommy prayers.

And one word for the new baby mom: Babywise. I swear by this book. I never slept through the night for the first year with kids 1,2 &3. With twins 4&5 I used Babywise and had both sleeping through the night at 10 weeks (11 hours consistently). There's just something about getting sleep. Sleep=happy mom=happy wife=happy life.

3/17/2006 01:50:00 AM  
Blogger FrogLegs said...

Oh.. :( Many, many prayers... I'll add you to the prayer roll- a friend & I are headed to the Boise Temple this afternoon- I need it... so do you and yoru family. No advice... but like Keryn said- many prayers and well thoughts for you and the other members in yoru family.

3/17/2006 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

Can you call your mom? I would so go help my girls if they were in this shape. Little kids love their grandmas.

3/17/2006 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Rosalynde said...

Tracy, I'd never recommend that you disregard the advice of your doctor (and I don't know how far along you are, perhaps it wouldn't make much of a difference anyway), but you might want to ask him or her what kind of evidence supports the recommendation of bedrest. It's my understanding that there's actually no real evidence that bedrest affects outcomes in preterm labor---though I could be wrong here, not being an expert. And of course my anecdotal experience is certainly not evidence, either, but I know at least four or five women who adhered to a bedrest regimen at great cost and difficulty---only then to be induced at term!

As for your four-year-old, well, I'm sure the situation hasn't helped any, but I found four to be one of the most challenging ages even under good circumstances. My daughter displayed many of the same behaviors, minus the open aggression: blatant defiance, uncooperativeness, resumed tantrums and emotionality, resistance to discipline, less of a desire to please. A lot like a two-year-old, in fact, except that my expectations for her are now much higher, in line with what I know is her increased capacity. So don't get too down on yourself or your pregnancy; it's possible you'd be going through something like this anyway.

Once somebody told me that even ages are hard, odd ages are good. Maybe it's been a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it certainly has proved true with my oldest.

3/17/2006 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Mark IV said...

I hesitate to comment because I've never been pregnant, but I have been a 4 y.o. boy whose mother was bedridden because of difficult pregnancies after I was born. I remember something she did, and I offer it here as a possible suggestion.

She got some string, scissors, a yardstick, a horseshoe magnet, some paper clips, some paper and crayons. As she lay on the sofa, I drew fish, colored them, and cut them out. Then we put paper clips on their heads and scattered them on the floor around the sofa. Next, we tied one end of the string to the yardstick and the other end to the magnet. The sofa became our boat, and Mom and I went fishing together.

For what it's worth, in my mid-twenties Mom asked me if I ever felt mad or neglected because she felt she hadn't given me enough attention during those years. The only thing I remember was "fishing from the sofa with Mom".

Keep your chin up, things will get better.

3/17/2006 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

You know, I disagree with Rosalynde about the even age/odd age thing. My girls were defiant at 3, and by age 4 they were much more reasonable and easy to deal with. They were even cute and fun 2 yr olds, but right around age 3, the defiance and NOs set in. So, I guess it's different with each kid. But I have never met one that didn't go through a defiant stage at one point, so it really could just be that this situation has just made worse what would be his defiant time anyway.

OK, here's my tip - never having had to face this. But there is this 20 questions toy, it's a little handheld electronic, and it runs around $20 at Target.


It is the coolest thing ever. You and your sons can sit there and thing of random things, like "light switch" or "chair" then it asks you 20 questions, and it just seems like magic, how it can "read your mind." Even though your kids can't read yet, I have yet to see a kid (or adult, for that matter) that isn't fascinated by it.


This one is available now on-line, and is only $15.00. It will help to pass the time.

Good luck to you, and you are in my prayers.

3/17/2006 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Sue said...

Speaking of 4 1/2 year olds, but if anyone has suggestions for positive ways to deal with whining, I would love some suggestions. I'm going batty.

3/17/2006 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous mimi said...

I din't know about the even/odd age thing but both my boys went through a really rough patch at this same time. Every kid is different and each kid goes through it to a difffernt degree, but this is about the age where they start pushing boundries, seeing just how much independence they can get and want. It's good; kindergarten is just around the corner and we all want strong independent kids who will stand up for themselves. Of course, that doesn't make home life any easier, but they do grow out of it. I'm not saying that your son's behavior is all developmental, but I would wager a guess that it's a good part of it. We had the aggression, the disobedience, even the open defiance. Both boys are now sweet, caring and behave somewhat :). And in the face of all the nurture/nature, it is a concensus of all my mommy friends that boys are worse than girls. Stand steady; do what you are already doing.

As for the anger, well I think he had a right to be angry. His world has been turned upside down. No one is at fault, it's just the way it is. Four year olds still lack the language skills to really express whats going on inside in a calm and rational way. My suggestion would be that as long as he isn't hurting himself or others, let him get angry. Let him slam a few doors, kick a few walls, maybe get him one of those puching dolls that pop back up, or even a "special angry punching pillow" that is his alone to punch when he gets mad. Giving him permission to be angry (even without a real reason) and an outlet may be what he needs. We all want to feel like our emotions are valid.

You are doing the best that you can. It is obvious you love your kids desperatley and I'm sure they know that even if they don't act like it. You WILL survive this and so will your kids (and husband too). I'm come to realize that even when that tiny, unraveling thread snaps Heavenly Father ALWAYS has you hooked up to the safety harness.

3/17/2006 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

That little 20 questions doodad The Wiz mentioned is the COOLEST thing ever! You child will totally love it, and you can just sit and snuggle and watch it read your mind. Definitely worth the money.

The fishing is a great idea, too. Also, even though I like the idea of no TV, that might be nigh on impossible right now. My 4 year old loves "Family Movie Night", when both his parents are watching HIS movie, and we aren't doing anything else. Maybe rent a couple of videos that your son hasn't seen, and pronounce "Family Movie Day", or whatever, and then everybody can watch the video together. Amazingly, it does feel like family time, even though all you are doing is watching a flick. You can't sleep through it, though. That's the kicker. You have to stay awake through "Scooby Doo", or whatever, so it's like you're participating.

I like the idea of making Mommy's bed (or couch, or futon, or wherever you are parked these days!) as a fun zone. Have the kids color, read stories, play hide and seek, whatever. Not very restful, but at least you won't have to get up.

One more thing and then I'm done--my SIL had to have 4 hours bedrest every day before she had twins, and she actually hired a young woman in the ward to come over and play with her other kids during that time. I doubt she paid her very much, but maybe you could work something like that out with the young women in your ward, or your neighborhood. Kids always behave better for a new face!

Hang in there, and know we're thinking about you...

3/17/2006 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

Three thoughts:

(1) If the RS, visiting teachers, and comp. service people aren't helping you on an almost daily basis--they should be! Ask!

(2) Do your children like to be read to? I find that to be one of the few redeeming activities when my 4yo is going nuts. Snuggle on the couch and read!

(3) Can you afford a mother's helper? Preteens come pretty cheap.

3/17/2006 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Island Queen said...

I love the fishing idea! I think I might do that with my girl.

I've heard that 20 question thingy was awesome. I may have to pick it up.

As for TV - I'm a big believer in it. If I need to get things done or take a nap my kids pop in a movie (or 2) and are content and fine. I don't do it every single day but if you have to Tracy - do it. It's not a forever thing your doing. It's a band-aid to fix a temporary situation. Don't feel guilty if you need to do this. There are plenty of us who do.

3/17/2006 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous jamisue said...

Ditto to all the comments on spending special one-on-one time. It will make a world of difference. The only tricky part is making sure that he doesn't connect the reward of special mommy time with the bad behavior leading up to it.

3/17/2006 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are some good ideas here. Good luck! I would stay away from the babywise though. I googled it because I had heard of it and was interested, I found alot of negative articles about it. It seems that this guy has no credentials, and most leading pediatricians don't like the method. Read up on it first.

3/17/2006 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth-W said...

It sounds to me that your little guy is bored and mad, not a good combo for any of us, regardless of age. I would definitely seek out from the RS help from others to take him a few hours a day, even thirty minutes to just take him for a walk around the neighborhood. We have compassionate service leaders and they need to be busy! You know if it were someone else you would probably volunteer to take their child for a few hours a week--we have to be able to be served as well as serve.

For when he is at home, when you see him getting riled up, ask him how many jumping jacks he can do, how many times he can run around the couch, whatever, something for him to get out some of the energy.
Good luck--we're all rooting for you!

Sue mentioned books on whining--a super set of books is by Jane Nelson, called Positive Discipline. She has one that is Positive Discipline for preschoolers. She talks about mistaken goals of misbehavior. They really are a tremendous resource.
Here is my method of dealing with whining (not to be used in Tracy's situation). Once I have said, "No, you may not have fruit snacks because you have already had some and dinner is in 15 minutes.", and they continue to pester me, I start to whistle. Whistling does two things-it keeps me from reviewing ad nauseum why they can't, and if I'm not responding, the discussion is effectively over-you can't fight with someone who isn't fighting back.

3/17/2006 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Wow. Thanks for all the good thoughts, prayers and suggestions. I may send DH out to Target to get the 20 Questions thingy tomorrow.

My RS pres does know what's going on, and I have made a few (probably too quiet) pleas for help. The few times people have called and asked, I ALWAYS say that taking my kids out of the house for a few hours of fun away from sick mama is ALL I need. And no one has done it. I don't know why. We live in a more mature ward, and so many of the members are grandparents or really busy with their own lives... Jeffrey is the only CTR 5 and Eric is one of 2 in the nursury. That may be part of the problem.

People keep wanting to bring meals over, and that is NOT what I need- DH ends up eating them outside because of the various food smells.

I love the fishing idea, and he always loves reading- the hard part about having them on the couch with me is they are rambuctious and always bump my belly, and usually trigger contractions, then I am in worse shape. It feels like Im arguing for my limitations, but that is really how hard things are right now.

I really appreciate all the goodwill. It is helping me feel not so isolated and alone right now. Deepest thanks to everyone who has offered advice.

3/17/2006 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Naiah Earhart said...

Oh, Tracy...
Yikes, I've been there. I went into preterm labor with Bobbie, my second, twele weeks early. I soent the next 8 weeks in bed. (he still managed to find his way out 4 weeks early) Katy was just about 4 1/2 to the day while al this was going on, and she, too had a really hard time with it. We had all kind of willfulness and discipline problems.

I would totally second the suggestion to limit tv, and I'd add to make sure that any tv is in the late afternoon or evening. I know that sounds like completely impossible, but it pays off huge after about the third or fourth day of it. TV gets kids into a 'receiving' mindset, and once they get used to it (to being entertained) the kind of forget temporarily how to entertain themselves/organize their own thoughts, and it does tend to make them more fractious.

Maybe instead of reading to the kids on the couch where your belly is such a present target, maybe try it on your bed where there is a little more space?

If your finances can handle it, a handful of new toys can help a lot (love the thrift store!).

If your DH can do it, getting their room really clean can also help. (Helps emotionally in terms of sense of well-being and safety, as well as easy to find & play with their toys.)

Give what you can of yourself, in terms of attention and affection. A conscious effort on your part will really be felt by him, and a consistent one really will make a difference--like the tv, it'll take a few days, but when he can build an expectation that he'll get that treatment, it'll help.

Also, I'd go ahead and call the RS pres and be more straightforward with your needs. I know how hard it is, but hinting and requesting quietly isn't getting you there. Just go ahead and speak up for what you need. I'm sure she'll pull something together. Oh, and don't hesitate to say "no meals please!"

Good luck, and I'll pray for you, too!

3/17/2006 07:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Nichole said...

Wow, I bet you will be one happy lady once that baby comes!

During our recent move my almost four year old was having a REALLY hard time. He was getting no attention and starting to act out in extremely aggressive ways. Our savior was a chore chart that we picked up at Target. It drastically changed his behavior, which wasn't actually our original plan. We just wanted to give him a little responsibility. The outcome has been a very different child in a matter of weeks.

The chart is magnetized so there's no stickers or having to redo it once it's full. Some of the requirements are to make your bed, get dressed, brush teeth, no whining, no hitting, share your toys, etc. There's also blank tiles so you can make up your own or change them on a regular basis once he improves on other things. When he whined we would remind him, "If you whine more than three times in a day you won't get your 'No Whining' magnet. You only have two more chances." I think this mixed with some of the other suggestions might make a big difference.

A couple of things we found that work with this are 1. An M&M or Skittle for each accomplishment and 2. Do some in the morning and some at night before bed. That way he gets some immediate rewards. This is SO easy! That's the part you'll really like. Maybe this won't work for you but whatever happens, I hope you get some major help in a hurry!!

3/17/2006 08:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tracy, I've had a 4 year old(plus two older boys)while in a pregnancy with almost intolerable morning sickness also. Yes, we had obvious emotional problems because of the "unavailable mom" issue, for a time. Thankfully, thankfully, it does end and kids are resilient! It seems long, but you are close to being through this; because you are an experienced new mom, my guess is you'll feel so much better 2 months from now, and things with your son will improve.

I agree with the suggestion to call the RS Pres. and tell her exactly what you need: several playdate/"grandma" afternoons a week. The grandmothers may not think they'd be any fun for your little boy, and they may need to be given the idea explicitly. In my situation, my daughter attended a morning preschool with optional afternoon daycare; although I am a committed SAHM, it was such a blessing to have somewhere for my daughter to go where she was happy, and people could pay attention to her.


3/17/2006 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I didn't read through all the comments so I'm not sure if this has been mentioned, but...

Have you tried explaining to him why you are sick? Or that it will end in a month? My 4 1/2 yr. old understands SOOOO much more than she is given credit for. When I take the time to explain things to her in plain ol' English, her behavior improves a lot. And validating his feelings "I know you are so mad at mommy for not being able to play with you...and here's why I can't..." might help. Kids like to know that their feelings are known and that they are understood --just like the rest of us do.

But then, maybe you've already done this, so it might not even help...
I really hope it all gets better soon...

3/18/2006 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry this is such a hard time- one book that I recommend is "Raising an Emotionally Heathly Child" by John Gottman. My husband is a child psychologist and he recommends this book all the time. It has been really helpful in dealing with our overly emotional oldest daughter (who is almost 9). It has also been great with our son who 6 and very easy going. These two kids are like polar opposites but we've found that this book is helpful for both. Hope you feel better soon!

3/18/2006 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

All of the above is good advice. The only thing I can add is that when we went through a really and truly awful stage with one of our kids, I found this website incredibly helpful:

Instead of generic parenting advice, it gives suggestions tailored to the specific temperament of the child. You fill out a form with specific questions you may not have thought about (general activity level, intensity, whether the child generally approaches or withdraws from novelty, etc.). Then based on your responses and the child's age, it will give you suggestions for the issues that crop up most often for kids whose temperaments resemble your child's. It's free and anonymous and backed by good research. And it's how I finally figured out that time-outs weren't working for my specific child, and got some better ideas.

3/19/2006 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Thanks for that website- very interesting, and some really specific suggestions for my kids' needs. Anyone else who is interested, it is kind of helpful- at least it gets you thinking outside the box of things you have tried already.

3/19/2006 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Amy Girl said...

In response to "Anonymous" and his/her googled opinion of "On Becoming Babywise": Do you have to have credentials to write a book? And what "leading pediatricians" are those?

3/21/2006 12:58:00 AM  

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