Riley is really trying my patience these days.
Poor little man. He's sick. He's got a head cold, and he's been coughing a lot at night. It's not waking him up, but it's waking me up, and it's keeping him from sleeping soundly. So neither he nor I have been well rested in the morning for the past few days. Plus, he's got his hand in his mouth all the time and I'm starting to think that he's getting two-year molars on the early side. Add to that my stress related to starting a new job, and it's been hard for me to find my parenting Zen.
Over the weekend I:
threw a board book against a door so hard that I broke the spine.*
gave a lot of time-outs
yelled more than was justified, by a long shot
turned an indifferent ear on an upset little boy
It's the last one that really gets me. I get to a point where I get so tired and overwhelmed that I just stop being able to give. Riley is a really sensitive little boy. He responds to cuddling and sympathy and support. I know that when he's tired or not feeling well, it's not worth fighting battles with him over whether or not he says "please" or helps to pick up toys in the playroom. What I should do when he's out of sorts is give him an extra hug and let the details slide. He's only nineteen months old, plus he's not feeling well and he's tired--I need to let things go. But when I'm at the end of my reserves, it's so hard for me to keep giving and giving and giving. It's all too easy for me to slip into being dogmatic and rules-bound and frustrated. Then when the poor little man does not himself have the reserves to do what I'm demanding, we all end up upset and out of sorts.
It doesn't help that Maddie has been a perfect, angelic delight lately. Well, it does help in that when I find it in me to give Riley what he needs, Maddie is OK with not getting as much attention. She's just so funny lately. She's talking so much, laughing all the time, making jokes and entertaining herself when needed. I don't like to compare Maddie and Riley; they are unique individuals and I can't expect them to have the same needs and personalities. It's just really difficult right now to have one twin who is such a challenge and one who is so easy by comparison.
What's more is that this is an ongoing problem. It's more apparent right now than usual because Riley's sick and sleepy. But frankly, it's all too simple for me to think of Maddie as "the easy one" and Riley as "the difficult one." I hate it when people ask me "Which one is the leader? Which one is the emotional one? Which one has the temper?" I find that people either expect them to be exactly the same or polar opposites. I hate categorizing them like that, especially as they are now old enough to understand so much of what is said in front of them. I always decline to answer those kinds of questions, but I have to confess that in my mind, Maddie is easier and Riley is more of a challenge. Riley has such highs and such lows. He has a one-thousand watt smile, and his laugh is from the depths of his soul. But he's quick to cry and quick to have his feelings hurt. He's always struggled with sleeping and he can be a picky eater. It's somehow not surprising to me that he's the one allergic to peanuts.
Maddie is more even-keel. She loves to test limits, but she responds to time-outs so well that it almost feels like cheating to give her one. She sleeps well and eats everything. I can explain things to her, and she listens and responds. She's emotionally and intellectually mature for her age.
They are just different, unique little people and I know I need to find individual ways to parent them. Frankly, it's exhausting to me that this is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Parenting Maddie comes naturally to me--that's a lot of the reason she feels "easy." Parenting Riley is a real test. I have a lot to learn about patience, a lot to learn from my sweet little coughing man.
*Maddie has been running around saying, "Mama FireFire broken. Mama FireFire broken." The book is about a fire truck, and they call it FireFire. And yes, I broke FireFire. But why don't I get any credit for fixing it with packing tape?