The Little Man’s Herculean efforts to make sense of his rapidly changing reality

Times they are a-changing. In a few days we’ll have an additional family member. We’ve been in the final stages of preparing for weeks now. This weekend, we finished up most of what we need to do around the house to be ready for the Little Miss’s arrival. Her room is all set up, for instance, despite the fact that she will be staying in our room for a while. Of course, we’ve been preparing the Little Man for the Little Miss’s arrival. We haven’t really been sure how much much the Little Man, who is now just over 26 months old, really gets, but some signs of awareness are beginning to show. Especially in the last week, the Little Man has been acting out in ways that make it seem like he is aware a big change is coming–and that he’s not particularly pleased with it.

The Little Man says, “No!” a lot these days. This is part of being a 2-year old. It comes with the territory. He is learning what boundaries can be crossed and what can’t. But he is sometimes rather dramatic about his defiance. He will look at you, point a finger in your direction (a finger that he hold just under his nose for some reason). His brow will furrow, his voice will deepen and he will say with some force, “NO!” Kelly ignores this while I engage the Little Man in combat:

“Yes you will,” I say.

“No!” he replies

“YES!” (Dammit!)


Kelly says this makes me seem like a 2-year old as well and she’d probably right. But it’s a knee-jerk reaction and when she points it out, I usually feel a little foolish and then try to ignore his outbursts the way she does. Sometimes those outbursts escalate. He’ll say, “You get out there!” The first time I heard him say that, I cracked up. I had no idea where it came from or what it means for that matter. He will hit, but we don’t tolerate that. We sit him down and tell him firmly that we don’t hit. Now when he wants to hit, he’ll say, “No hitting!”

He knows he has a sister coming. He knows his sister’s name, but he gets squirmy when we talk about her. It’s as if he’d rather us talk about him, and I imagine that’s probably a spot-on assessment. He worries that he is going to have to share his things with her, despite the fact that it will be a long time before she shows any interest in them. But he will have to share his attention with her and I think he is beginning to realize that as well.

At the same time, he is developing rapidly. He talks a remarkable amount, often times surprising me at the words and phrases he knows. And he has gotten good at helping out. We transformed his room from what was essentially a baby’s room to what is now a little boy’s room. Yesterday, I was mounting some bookshelves onto the wall so that he couldn’t pull them down on himself. He wanted to help. “Daddy, tool! Help fix!” he would say. He would help me screw in screws. I’d ask him to give me another screw. “Okay, Daddy,” he’d say. Of course, when we moved the changing table into his sister’s room and when we moved the rocking chair into our room, he grew upset. “My chair!” he’d say. He fought for the changing table even though he hates being changed on it.

A funny thing happened last night. We went into his room to find something. The Little Man got about halfway, stopped suddenly, looked around the room and said, “What happened, Daddy?” I had to suppress laughter because I’d never heard him ask that question before, but also because it was clear that he’d forgotten the work we’d done to rearrange his room a few hours earlier. I tried to explain it to him, but I’m not sure he made the connection.

I tried giving Kelly a break yesterday evening and took the Little Man for a walk in the park. We got to a junction in the bike trails and he said, “Daddy, let’s go uphill,” meaning he wanted to take the Bluemont Junction trail. I said, “But if we go this way, we can stop at the train park.” That’s where the playground is and I figured we’d stop for a while and he could run around. Five minutes into our walk he was sleeping. This was good because I really didn’t want to stop at the playground since it would be wet from the rain. But I would have stopped because it would make the Little Man happy. No sooner had he fallen asleep than a biker coming the opposite direction shouted: “Wow! He’s out cold!” and of course that woke him up. He did get back to sleep and we didn’t stop at the playground. he slept all the way home. But he’d already had a nap earlier in the day and the second nap, I think was an example of how wiped out he gets from the stress of all of the changes taking place around him. (He was also upset because his cousin, who was visiting this weekend, had to go home and he wanted her to stay.)

The evenings have been rough because he only spends part of the night in his bed. In the middle of the night he’ll come wandering into our room asking for chocolate milk and wanting to sleep with us. We’ve tolerated it because the books say that the arrival of a new baby is a bad time to try and enforce new behaviors on a toddler. We just have to wait it out. He had a complete melt-down in the middle of the night a few nights back because we wouldn’t give him more chocolate milk or let him go downstairs to play. (It was 1:30am.) He screamed and hollered and hyperventilated until Kelly got him calmed down. She is remarkably good at that.

Last night was interesting. He brought him up to bed with me and he watched a couple of episodes of Curious George while I read A Storm of Swords. There were storms in the area and the Little Man is wary of thunder. Around 9pm, we started hearing the rumbles. By then we’d turned out the lights and were trying to sleep, but the flashes of lightning came brightening the room, followed by gentler rumbles of thunder.

“Flash!” the Little Man would say. He’s wait with his eyes wide open. The thunder would rumble and he’s say, “Boom!” Then he’s point to the window. “Daddy, raining out there. Flash and booms. Scary!”

“I know, buddy,” I said, “I was scared of the booms, too when I was a little boy like you. But it’s okay, the booms are far away and I’m right here.” Fortunately, he fell asleep (once again thanks to Kelly) before the big thunder arrived.

With only four days until the Little Miss arrives, I think he’s at an emotional high point, in terms of the intensity of the things he is feeling right now. He seems more frustrated than usual, but I imagine that will pass. Kelly’s parents are arriving in town in a few days and the Little Man is looking forward to their visit. That should help to make him feel better.

And hopefully, so will seeing his little sister for the first time.

One thought on “The Little Man’s Herculean efforts to make sense of his rapidly changing reality

  1. Poor sweet fellow. My own recommendation would be to make sure he feels included in taking care of his baby sister. Give him things he can do for her regularly so that it’s the three of you jointly caring for her rather than the two parents turning away from him to care for her. You could always say she’s borrowing the chair, lol. I’m not sure how well that would work, though. Good luck!

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