My 3 week old is a jewel. She is the world's most perfect baby. Sleeps well, eats well, loves to cuddle, rarely cries. My 22 month old is, as defined by Doctor Sears, "High Needs". Always has been, always will be. She demands constant attention and from birth has constantly been testing me with different problems and extra needs that are not really normal or common for most babies and toddlers. While I have accepted this as part of her personality and learned to adapt with creative parenting techniques, it really doesn't make it any easier to deal with.
Our most recent challenge is adjusting to life with the new baby. I have been doing everything possible to keep her life "normal" and keep her routine the same. This is pretty easy since Baby Emerald sleeps almost all the time. And yet no matter how much love I give to Mercedes and as many fun projects and activities I try to do with her, it almost always ends in disaster...toys being thrown across the room, projects dumped onto the carpet, Mercedes running to her bed to pout. She is almost always angry. When I hug her, she pulls away. When I talk to her she won't give me eye contact. Almost all of my questions get ignored. When I play with her it lasts 5 minutes before a meltdown or a disaster takes place. I am trying to make her life fun and she refuses to let me. It is hard. It is emotionally draining. And more often than I care to admit, I find myself thinking "I can't do this".
Today, in tears, I had some prayer time, begging God to tell me what to do and how to handle this phase in my high needs daughter's life. I grabbed a pen and started scribbling a list. This is what I came up with:
What Mercedes Needs From Me:
Love: I need to love her through this phase just like I loved her through middle of the night screaming, gas and teething pain, car ride tantrums, milk allergies, and every other tough baby phase so far.
Patience: I need to give her unconditional patience and keep calm during even the worst days.
Affection: No matter how much she is hurting my feelings by refusing my love, I need to keep offering her plenty of hugs, kisses and cuddles and telling her how much I love her.
Time: No matter how frustrated I get with her I need to keep spending time with her and trying to help her have special and fun days.
Space: During her angry times I need to step back and give her time to calm down. During her most angry days I need to give her LOTS of space and leave her alone to play by herself instead of trying to do projects or play games that will only provoke more anger (this is probably the hardest for me since when I am not actively involved in her play time I feel like a really terrible mom)
Dwell on the happy moments: Even the worst of days have good, fun moments. I need to focus on the 5 minutes of fun time we have instead of focusing on the tempter tantrum that followed.
Prayer: I need to constantly be praying for her and praying for strength to be able to give her what she needs from me
What Mercedes DOESN'T need from me:
To give up on her.
To be angry with her.
To melt down in front of her.
To become depressed or discouraged.
To focus on the bad moments.
To take her behavior/attitude personally.
How will I accomplish this? Prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. And strength that can only come from God. During every tough phase that my daughter goes through, I need to remember to ask God for supernatural strength and wisdom to help her get through it. And during every tough phase I need to make a "What Mercedes Needs/What Mercedes DOESN'T Need list to help keep me focused.
Also, I need to keep focused on the ultimate goal of being a mom...to raise kids who love God. No matter how tough her phases are, if I can manage to show her God's love through them, I'm doing my job.