Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sweet Sixteen?

Since it is months away from the NCAA basketball tournament, it can only be a how-can-Ada-be-that-old post.

Ada is 16 months old, and for the most part it is just incredibly fantastic. She's busting out with little phrases, mostly of the "Ada cracker" variety. While preparing for a friend's visit by making the guest bed, Ada was entertaining herself by making that effort difficult. Chris recently taught her to pile the pillows in the middle of the bed and jump on them. (I know, maybe not the best idea ever, but what can you do?) She decided that while I was making the bed was a good time to try this out. She bounced around exclaiming "dump! dump!" (I guess Js aren't in her range yet). Not getting the response she wanted, she tried a different tactic, looking up at me and saying what sounded like "I dump!"

After Chris and I stopped laughing, we asked one another to confirm what we'd just heard. Yeah, I heard it too. I know kids this age generally refer to themselves in third person. Makes sense, since what a young child hears all the time is everyone calling her by name. After a while Chris and I realized she was saying "Ada jump" but eliding it to "A-dump."

So my daughter's first sentence sounds like "I dump." Definitely one to store our hearts, maybe breaking it out when we meet her future high school boyfriend.

Beyond the world of words, Ada is maturing in other amazing ways. She sits with her sippy cup of milk every morning, cuddled in my lap while I read her books. She even shows interest in ones that do not feature cats on every page. She's aware of her surroundings and provides a running commentary on what we see on our walks around the neighborhood. She knows Dylan's house from Paul's from Avery's. She talks about bridges and cars and the river. She routinely charms strangers out of sugary snacks at the farmers' market.

She's also scaring the crap out of me. In the past month we've witnessed Ada have a couple of really intense tantrums. This new phenomenon that has blown like a hurricane through our house. Though not (yet) routine, the intensity of her rage and its physical manifestation had me in tears. Both times the tantrums have seemed to come from nowhere. They happened at the end of the day, so maybe fatigue and hunger play their parts, but she's been tired and hungry before without turning into a screaming, arching, flailing monster. When it happened I was completely at a loss. I just hugged and tried to soothe her like I did when she was a colicky four month old. After a minute or two I successfully redirected her for a while until she was calm enough to try dinner without her bucking so hard she risked hitting her head on the back of the chair.

I can not express how frightening these tantrums were to me. They were so unexpected (particularly the first one). Her anger was so intense and I am so unprepared for this new behavior. I naively thought that tantrums didn't start until after two, maybe even later. Apparently I was wrong. (I hope I'm wrong. The alternative is that this is just an Ada thing, which is so much scarier than normal kid-terror.)

Several times recently someone at the park or in a store has commented on what a good natured child Ada is. "Usually" I say sheepishly, a bit embarrassed to be speaking ill of my child to a stranger, but unable to lie and say that she is as ideal as she might appear. I remember these moments from when Ada was an infant. Those colic months were so hard, that even when Ada was sleeping peacefully or cooing sweetly, I could not help but let people know that life with her wasn't all bunnies and flowers. She was hard work, and I wanted people to know it.

Now I am more able to accept the complement on my child's public demeanor, but I still sneak that little hint of "yeah, but." It isn't pretty, but it is a way of coping with this new type of parent-stress. And really, these moments have been so few compared to the hours with my funny, sweet and charming child. Much of my time with her is fun these days, and I really enjoy watching her change and grow. This struggle is about me as much as it is about her. How much can I focus on the positive rather than fretting that her hard moments might be signs of a looming problem? I started writing this post to talk about how great 16 month old Ada is, but thrown by one night's struggle I found myself writing about the difficulties of this age instead. So really, though it is hard, it is also easy. Big hug, whispered words, huge grin, skittering run easy.

Edited to add: the raincoat is from Polliwog in Portland.


  1. Ada sounds such like a lovely child, tantrums and all! I too was shocked that Cole had his first fist-pumping, head-thrashing tantrum when he turned one. I felt the same way. Did I forget that the trantrums started so early? Or was it just my *child*? Not at all something to be proud of. It's so hard to watch, and sometimes even harder to get them to calm down! By the way, I love Ada's raincoat. Where did you find it?

  2. My lord, that coat is the cutest thing ever! And with the tights! I love it.

  3. my completely uneducated guess is that it has something to do with weaning, and once weaning is done, she'll stop the tantrums.

    she is adorable, there's no denying it.

  4. My girls is also 16 months and starting the tantrums. Scared the crap out of me, but it is nice to know I am not alone. A dear friend of mine said that her girl started the tantrums about this time too, and actually got much better after her 2nd birthday. So I hope that the end is near. She said her guess is that is had to do with her limited (but developing) communications skills. I think that this is where Red is, she knows what she wants, but can just not get it across all the time. Same deal as Ada, later in the day, or right before a meal time. If you find the magic cure, please let me know eh!
    Oh and I third the raincoat comments, I must know where you
    found it!

    Good luck, you are so not along.

  5. oops, you are so not alone.

  6. They start working on their tantrum legs -- and yours -- at this age, yeah. My theory is that it is all about fatigue theirs and ours. Stay strong.

    God, she's lovely.

  7. Wow!

    My daughter just turned "16-months". We're going through the same thing. I love it and sometimes struggle with the bad moments.

    Either way, it's quite an adventure.

  8. Mine too- suddenly everything has become so much more INTENSE. Tantrums, affection, activity. Everything must get kicked up a notch around now. Hold on to your hat! OMG I love the rain jacket and striped tights.

  9. The jacket is from Polliwog (2900 Belmont in Portland). They have a web site - http://www.polliwogportland.com/

    The owners are really nice (and strangely enough, they used to own a cafe in NYC that my sister went to daily when she lived there).

  10. I found the Louise Bates Ames series of books, Your One-Year-Old, Your Two-year-Old etc. to be very helpful especially with the stages of emotional development. IIRC, they predict "difficult" stages at the 1/2 year intervals and a sort of wave pattern of change and equilibrium.

    I have a fair amount of experience with tantrums. I don't think I handled them particularly well over the years. But I feel a good outcome from a tantrum is when the person having one realizes that they need a break and goes to a place (usually a bedroom) to get a grip and then reemerges when the storm has passed to apologize for whatever happened during the tantrum. When a kid is sad or worried a hug and talk will work. But when it is an angry tantrum trying to talk or be comforting sometimes just creates a target for the anger to get directed to and a more neutral detached response is more effective.

  11. I always temper my thanks with a "but" too. I'm terrified of the upcoming tantrums. At 12 months old we've already seen the beginning of a very willful little being & her anger at being confined (carseat, stroller) is so intense. Good thing they're cute, especially in adorable raincoats.

  12. i hear you on the wanting to let people know it's not all sunshine and roses. I am not a sunshine and roses person anyway, and even the best things in life (and the Squid is undoubtedly one of those!) are not unmitigated glee all the time.

    The tantrums sounded perfectly developmentally on schedule to me, but I can see both how theyt might be disconcerting and how they might give flashbacks to those awful first four months. We're doing a spot of sleep training, and the inconsolable howling can take me right back in the blink of an eye. I wish we hadn't had such tough introductions to our favorite people; it left quite a first impression, and I sometimes wonder if it damaged my relationship with the Squid somehow, though I don't THINK so.

  13. I agree with everyone above on the tantrums. Toddlerdom is a frustrating time (for them and us) and it certainly starts before two.

    She really is adorable though! And I must chime in and report that my son recently reported, after a loud fart, "I toot!" accompanied by a big smile. Another one for the record books.

  14. Oh, god, the pictures. Especially the one with the hippo. Knowing that sweet little creature chortles 'I dump' periodically makes them all the sweeter.

    (been reading your weaning story. ah, the heart, it clenches, from remembering. The boobs, however, the boobs are just grateful.)

  15. I just wanted you to know that my daughter turned 15 months old yesterday and although I have seen glimpses of tantrums in the previous few months, there have been a few really intense tantrumy weeks recently. My daughter was also "colicky" for almost 5 months (who knows what was wrong...) so I too have feared that these tantrums go beyond a developmental milestone and have something to do with her personality or our relationship. The rage I used to see in her as an infant and that I see now when she's upset is so similar and really hard to deal with. It's hard not to take it personally when it almost always happens with me (I'm hoping this is because I'm main person who cares for her). Her meltdowns usually revolve around getting put in the high chair/car seat/stroller and diaper changes. I also struggle not to dwell on the negative and the hard times when talking about my daughter and our relationship with other adults. She is usually (most definitely in public) the sweetest and most mellow little girl. I guess when I do make a point of sharing our imperfections I am just seeking validation for the struggles we do have and to know that I'm not alone. Your post definitely resonated with me. Thanks for writing!