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December 22, 2017
Last year at this time, I was freaking out. My daughter, bless her soul, started having some major outbursts and I didn’t know why. Tantrum after toddler tantrum (by the way you can check out our free tantrum guide here), day after day, night after night. We watched her go from absolute sweetheart to total terror at the drop of a hat. She wouldn’t eat, complained she “just didn’t feel good” and started shying away from school, dance, and friends- all things she had previously loved.
It took over a month to figure out what was going on. After weeks of tears (on our part and hers), we finally got a handle on the issue. In the end, it turned out she had a case of nasty PINWORMS. She also had an exaggerated dread of potty training that culminated in a huge mess of a situation. (I am gonna spare you the details because even I gagged a little when it all went down.)
The point is, I spent a lot of time last year racking my brain as to what the heck was happening to the little sensitive soul that lives in my house. She had always been unique but this was on a whole different level, even for her.
It came to my mind today as we were driving home from her grandma’s house. I looked back in my rearview window and saw her quietly humming along, looking out at the leaved trees passing by her car window. It was the perfect picture of peace and contentment. It brought me back to that “aha” moment when we eventually figured out what was (literally) bugging her so much. To the grateful look in her eyes when we finally explained what was keeping her up all night and what had made her act like a completely different person. To that huge wave of relief I saw passing over her as she listened to us say that, if she took some medicine, she would be herself again.
The car ride also was a good reminder to look for her real self in the relatively common moments she still, as a function of her age or her circumstances (tired, anxious, missing a snack), goes back intermittently to that scary state. It can be easy for us to forget when our children are acting out or are out of sorts. We can forget that they may have a very good reason for it. That there is something we need to detective out (or wait out).
I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to either 1. Sing James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” under my breath as I wait for my child’s toddler tantrum to pass or 2. Act like the scientist I am and try to think objectively through the situation to find a root cause. I’ll admit, the Pinworm thing was quite a challenge since it presented in a totally off way and it’s something that, in retrospect, I probably would have caught faster if I hadn’t been trying to catch it in my own kid (yes, she does have a pediatrician – don’t worry- it just all snowballed pretty quickly).
It’s true for the parents of the wayward, rebellious adolescent who one day “snaps out” of the angry teenage phase. It’s true for the mom of the suddenly inconsolable six-month-old who eventually pops a tooth. We all deal with the feeling that our kid is not themselves sometimes. It tempts us to forget the core of who they really are. We get scared that the phase will never pass, that this could be our new normal.
In our family, we learned a lot last year about how to get mindful and about how to get outside help when we needed it. (Note: if you are in a situation where you really can’t figure out what’s going on with your child, ask your doctor for help so they can come along side you to rule out anything major.)
We understood better in the end about trying to see every one of the people we come in contact with as products of nature (the genes we’re born with, the way we’re wired) AND nurture (the product of the environmental stressors or positives that surround us).
Our kids are so often trying their hardest but coming up against factors they just cannot control or understand themselves. It’s up to us as parents to help them navigate, to give them the space and support they need, and to love them no matter what. We need to believe that their true selves are just waiting to be found. We just need to look in their, sometimes less obvious, hiding places.
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