This Too Shall Pass: When You're Stuck in a "Phase"

108c33b3dd2012248f8ac0ebcc94ce76Finn was your textbook "easy baby". After a rather rocky start with an emergency c-section after 21 hours of labor, he was a sweet, easy going little guy. He ate well, he slept well (sleeping through the night at SIX WEEKS), he was happy and smiley, just an all around great baby. Things went smoothly for the most part up until he was around 18 months. Then, things changed. The smiley part stopped and the screaming began. Oh my god, the screaming. If he got even a LITTLE bit frustrated, he would start screaming. If he didn't like his food, what was in his sippy cup, what shirt I put on him, leaving the playground - screaming. It was pretty horrible. And what was worse, I couldn't figure out what happened to make my easy going, sweet little baby turn into this screaming ball of white hot rage. Not to mention that being around a screaming baby all day long pretty much just plain sucked, big time.

So I took to Amazon like a crazy woman on a mission and pretty much bought any book that dealt with toddler behavioral issues and paid the extra money to have them shipped to me ASAP. One of them had the philosophy that as a parent, you should reflect whatever emotions your child is feeling, i.e. if they are having a screaming tantrum, YOU should pretend to have a screaming tantrum, you know, so they can see that you "understand" what they are feeling. I swear this is a real thing and not only did I buy the book and totally try this, it also came with an instructional video, which I wish I still had, mostly for entertainment value. So I would stand there, while Finn screamed at me, screaming back at him in a similar manner. YES I ACTUALLY DID THIS. If only someone had filmed me. The instructional video told you to mimic their pitch and gestures too, so I would lie there on the floor kicking and screaming, you know, to show him I understood. Just as an FYI, I ONLY did this when no one else was around. Can you imagine if I tried out this technique at Target?

It didn't work (are you surprised?)

At his doctor's appointment I expressed my...let's just call it "frustration", with this newly screaming baby I was in possession of. WHY IS HE LIKE THIS NOW?!?! was basically what I asked point blank as soon as the doctor set foot into the room. My pediatrician chalked it up to a combination of teething pain and being frustrated at not being able to communicate yet. "Once he starts getting some words, I bet you'll see the screaming ease up a little bit", he assured me. "It's just a phase" he told me. A phase. Okay, I can deal with a phase, I thought to myself. A phase implies it will be brief, right? I repeated it in my head, "Just a phase, just a phase" like a mantra to get me through those days that were filled with the shrill, incessant shrieking of tiny dictator that was impossible to please.

And you know what? It was just a phase. Slowly Finn began to add new words to his little vocabulary, and once he could express what he really wanted, things went a whole lot smoother. We were both MUCH happier. Well, Finn was happier, and I was too, but going through that first (very loud and irritating) phase left me a little rattled.

Before the whole "I'm going to scream about everything all the time" phase, I thought I had the whole "parenting a baby" thing nailed. I wasn't ready for just how much my little baby was going to change. And I wasn't ready for the growing up process to be just one phase after another. See that is the crux of parenting, once you think you have mastered one part, it's on to the next! No waiting! They finally sleep great in a crib? Time for a big boy bed! They LOVE baby food? Time for "real" food! Found a bottle that they will take finally? Get rid of them because that time is OVAH (and good luck with the sippy cups)! How about that beautiful time period where you can literally set them down, pretty much anywhere, knowing they will stay in one place? That is a WHOLE NEW WORLD once they start walking. It might as well be a different baby with all the new experiences that brings.

There are a lot of not so fun phases. How about the one where your previously awesome sleeper decides to have problems sleeping through the night? That one is THE WORST. Or where your great eater decides to go on a hunger strike? That one was fun for me too. Finn used to eat anything, would try anything I put in front of him. Then he started being pickier and pickier, excluding certain food groups like cheese (who doesn't like cheese? So weird, right?). There are also a lot of great phases, some challenging ones, some confusing ones, and some downright scary ones (Jack's favorite thing to do now is to find the tallest thing he can jump off of and jump off of it, SO FUN!).

Sometimes it can be hard to let go of a good phase. Like when they're extra cuddly, or they mispronounce words in the cutest way and you just want to bottle them up at that age and keep it forever. I remember I cried (not in front of him, I pulled myself together) when Finn lost his two front teeth. I felt like my little baby was gone, that runaway train of getting older and growing up was moving too fast for me. We were in such a good phase, I worried about what the future phases might be like. I wanted him to stay the same while at the same time knowing full well that he wouldn't, that we couldn't. And so, like all parents, I embraced the change, I looked forward, I set things in the past.

As a parent, no matter what the phase, you just have to roll with it. Some things might turn into a more permanent facet of your child's personality, most will fade away. Like when Finn wanted to wear green, and only green. For the most part he has accepted other colors into his wardrobe, but there was a time when I thought he would look like Kermit the Frog pretty much all the time. Or the super fun phase when Lev wet her pants almost every time we left the house. I STILL have tiny pairs of underwear stashed in pretty much all of my bags, that phase had a lasting impact on my psyche, but for her it's in the past.

So, whether it's a good phase or a bad phase, just don't get stuck in it. Maybe you have a screamer on your hands right now. Maybe you have a bed wetter. Maybe the idea of putting your baby in a big boy bed seems like a joke, but believe it or not, this too shall pass. You will get through to the other side of it. And once you are on that other side, you'll also have learned something new about parenting! You will earn that little teething badge, or can list "Babyproofing Expert" on your parenting resume. Maybe you weren't great at teaching them how to swim (me, that was me) but they learned. And you learned.

No matter what obstacle it is, it will happen. They will get over it. They will sleep, their teeth will come through, they will actually learn how to walk without falling down all the time and giving you a mini heart attack each time. They will learn, they will grow, they will get through it. And even if you have to give up a good phase, there will be more good to come. Just think of all the great new things to look forward to! Like when they start dating! Can't WAIT for that one, right? Because that's just a phase isn't it? Repeat after me: This too shall pass...This too shall pass...xoxo