Parenting Orion is like trying to parent a hurricane – he’s loud, leaves a trail of debris in his wake and if you look away for even a moment, he will destroy your house. His love is fierce, his hugs will throw you on the floor and everything about him is loud, wild and a little bit chaotic. From the day of his birth, Orion has challenged every notion I ever had about being a parent and building a family. About ten weeks ago, I began to notice his behaviour changing – he’d been having the odd tantrum here and there, a few temper displays and an occasional outburst – but all of a sudden I was living with an angry little boy. He yelled. He hit, kicked, pushed, snatched and was generally unpleasant to be around.
I tried to work out the problem and failed miserably. Six weeks slipped by, each one more difficult than the last. One Friday night I’d had enough, and told Marshy that after the weekend was over, I was taking him to see a doctor. My sweet little boy had gone, and I wanted to know why, and what I could do to help him. After a quick breakfast that Sunday morning, we all piled into the car and drove an hour and a bit to a fancy restaurant for my uncle’s 60th birthday party. While we were there, Orion made several nasty visits to the restaurant’s facilities and even hung over the balcony railing a few times because he thought he might vomit. Marshy and I looked at each other, scratching our heads. I finally said: “What did he eat for breakfast?” The answer was yogurt. Orion loves yogurt. He eats it every day and that morning, in an effort to put off the inevitable tantrum, daddy had let him eat it straight out of the tub. In that moment, the little light bulb went off over both our heads, and almost in unison we said “He’s lactose intolerant.”
And he is. After putting Orion on a strict lactose free diet for a week and seeing massive improvement, I accidentally bought him a hot chocolate at the shops. He was terribly ill and had an awful, epic meltdown before bed that night. After getting back onto the lactose free track the next day and sticking to it ever since, he’s a completely different human being. Still chaos incarnate, mind you, but the sweet, mischievous kind. Nobody is more relieved than I am – except perhaps Orion’s tummy.
Piper, on the other hand, could not be more opposite to her brother if she tried. My little unicorn is shy, retiring, and happy to spend her entire day sitting on your lap. If she makes a mess, she does it very carefully, one piece at a time, and packs it up afterwards. She plays quietly, thinks before she speaks and eats neatly. Don’t let this fool you into thinking this makes her a pushover – Piper’s also strong willed and is not afraid to voice her opinions. Orion is full of fire and energy and spends a great deal of time charging forward, and if Piper doesn’t want to follow she simply won’t. Despite both being strong personalities, they get on very well for the most part. For the rest, mummy or daddy step in and try to help them sort out a reasonable compromise.
A week ago Piper decided she didn’t want to nap any more. This was a big shock, because previously she was sleeping for two hours a day. Last Tuesday I put her to bed as usual, but she just didn’t sleep. I watched her through the baby monitor, happily sitting up in bed, singing and playing with her toys. After 45 minutes I realised it wasn’t going to happen. I pulled her out thinking she’d be tired later, but she was TOTALLY FINE. The next day, whilst I was getting her out of the car I said “Time to lie down and have a sleep in your bed.” She promptly slipped her arms back into the seatbelts, crossed them over her chest and said “No seeps Mummy.” Try as I might, she had herself barricaded into the car seat and repeated “No seeps!” over and over again until I finally said “Okay, okay, no sleep.” At which point, she smiled, uncrossed her arms and got out of the car.
I’ve offered every day since, but she refuses. I’ve learnt over the years that sometimes the best way to parent is to trust your little one’s judgement, so I’ve let her play instead. In some ways, life is easier – no rushing home to be there for nap time because she refuses to sleep anywhere other than in her own bed, and no more worrying about scheduling appointments around sleeps. In other ways, things are more complicated – that two hour window of forced home time was the space I had allocated myself for working, and quite literally overnight it has disappeared. Last week was a complete nightmare. Eventually I just gave up, fitted a few things in where I could and decided to try again this week. I’ve come up with a few strategies to try, but it’s going to be a new phase of winging it as we go forward.
But I guess that’s what being a parent is all about, isn’t it? Winging it, I mean. My time and my heart are both theirs, and I have never been happier than being their mother. That soppy talk aside, I do spend a great deal of time with raised eyebrows, scratching my head in confusion as I try to work out why they’re running up the hallway squealing and waving a popped balloon (or other random item) above their heads.
How about you? Have any radical lifestyle changes come your way lately? Are you winging it too?