The Prince and the Pea

The funny thing about toddlers is they’re both ignorant and all-knowing. They stumble through our world completely oblivious in many ways. Kostyn still thinks the flashing lights on emergency vehicles are the sirens that make noise. Hence, any and all vehicles we ever see with flashing lights -- snowplows, for instance -- get the same response: “I see a siren!”

While they don’t understand much of the world around them, they know their turf like the back of their hand. And they are rarely wrong when it comes to the world from their eye level. We have learned, over time, that when Kostyn says “I see a bug!” he isn’t wrong. He isn’t mistaking the toast crumb at his foot for an ant. He isn’t thinking about the beetle we saw the day before at the playground. No, he really sees a bug right now -- and I will, too, eventually, after I shrug him off and go about my business until 3 minutes later when I see something tiny moving along the wall.

He’s the same way with his toys and books. When we’re reading a book and he says, “Where’s the ladybug?” rest assured, there is either a ladybug hidden somewhere on the page we’re reading, or the next one. Guaranteed. I can’t tell you how many times I, thinking I know a particular book inside out because we’ve read every book we own 3 gazillion times, have gently told him that he’s wrong. “No, honey, there’s no mommy in this book, it’s only about the Daddy Bear and the Little Bear,” I’ll say, kissing the top of his confused little head. And then I’ll turn the page and see Mommy Bear standing in a doorway or waving through a window at Daddy Bear and Little Bear as they go on about their adventure.

So last week when Kostyn started throwing fits every time I put him in his car seat, I knew he wasn’t kidding around. “Mommy! Mommy! Help me!” he’d say, writhing around as if I’d just buckled him on top of a scorpion. So I unbuckled him. Took him out. Shook his jacket. Pulled his sweater down lower on his back. Readjusted. Still, he cried.

And he keeps crying, every time we get in the car. I’ve checked the car seat straps to see if they need adjusting. I tried a different jacket in case the one he was wearing was getting uncomfortably bunched up behind him. I checked for stray toys and food under the cushions, looking for anything that might be poking or pinching him. I made sure his feet weren’t pushing against the front passenger seat.

Every time, we go through this same song and dance. I bribe, I rationalize, I distract, I apologize. Finally, I have to just give him a pat, close the door and drive. I still can’t figure it out, and he’s not doing a very good job of explaining what, exactly, is wrong. I’m starting to think he just wants out of the damn car seat.

The whole thing is exasperating, and I’ve been feeling bad because I can’t seem to help him. But then I started thinking about the last few car rides, and how he reacted once I gave up on “fixing the problem” and just started to drive. Once, we were about 3 minutes into the trip when he started to settle into a whimper, and then I heard him say, “Deep breath” — and then take one. “Aaaaaah,” he said as he exhaled, feeling better, just like I’ve told him to do from time to time near the end of a crying jag or tantrum.

Another time his crying stopped for a second and his expression shifted before he whined, “Mommy, I need a naaaap.” Luckily we were on the way home, and I hurried him inside for an early nap, just as he asked.

Then a couple days ago he stopped crying when Evan started crying, in order to comfort his brother. “It’s OK, Evan, we’re almost home,” he said, his own cheeks red and wet with tears.

While I still haven’t found the root of the problem, I love seeing how my son is learning to handle discomfort, how to understand his feelings and how to step outside his own troubles to focus on others. In the grand scheme of things, I’d much rather he be able to handle himself from within than need to make his surroundings comfortable at all times.

But I still wish I knew what was wrong with that damn seat.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I love that Kostyn is so expressive, and so great at communicating, Dylan is getting better but most of the time I still have no clue what is making her so upset.

I also love his calming techniques, I am going to have to try that with Dylan when she get's all worked up!