Wonder Week 9 and the need for rules

discipline-lifebylotte I'm going to be honest here, trying to write a 90,000 word novel in nine weeks is pushing me to the brink (of something, not sure what). I stare at my laptop on a daily basis and know I should be blogging, but I am totally drained by pumping out 2000 words every night. But today I wanted to write a few words about discipline. Not mine, which seems to be holding up OK no matter how many tempting crappy programmes are on TV. But Daph's.

She's currently in the middle of Wonder Week 9 - I think I've mentioned the Wonder Weeks before, but if not then click on the link to find out more. I was quite sold on their theories when Daph was tiny, but as she's grown, a couple of the 'leaps' have been completely off for us - she's been grumpy when she's not meant to be, and vice versa. But this latest leap (thankfully the second to last) has definitely seen a marked change in her behaviour. She's pushing boundaries all the time (and not in some groundbreaking scientist way, but more in a pushing-her-luck-with-mummy way) and it's quite exhausting. She's whining a lot, is incredibly clingy with me in particular, is sleeping at random times during the day and not falling asleep easily at night, and is generally being quite 'challenging'.

The most difficult thing with Daphne is her patience. Or lack thereof. She's always been quite feisty, and I do like it - rather that than a wallflower - but if we go out to the shops or whatever now, within 10 minutes she's screaming her head off trying to get out of her pushchair, and generally kicking up a stink. If she doesn't get what she wants immediately, she has a meltdown. Yesterday I had grand visions of us enjoying a nice Sunday lunch together as a family, but this went out the window as soon as we plonked Daph in her high chair in the restaurant. She screamed, and bashed her little fists about, leant over the edge nearly toppling over - she was desperate to get out. People stared. I felt embarrassed and regretted taking her. Eventually I grabbed her and she sat on my lap for most of the meal (of which she ate very little, while screaming for no apparent reason as I tried to eat mine). Everything I've read lately has said that this is the prime time to 'lay the groundwork' to ensure that she doesn't turn into a terrible two year old. But I don't really know where to start.

I've downloaded a few toddler books and they mostly refer to using a 'naughty step' system or similar, but all also (un)helpfully explain that it doesn't work until kids are around 2 and have enough verbal understanding to know what on earth is going on. At present when Daph kicks off, we mostly try to distract her as a means of calming her down, but I do often give in for an easy life (eg picking her up and carrying her when she's moaning in the pushchair, taking her out of the playpen when she screams) and I think I'm probably making a rod for my own back. Anything for an easy life. Ironically, I wish I could lose my temper a bit more with her - I hardly ever do, I just get tired - but perhaps I need to raise my voice a bit to let her know 'I'm serious'. On the handful of occasions I have shouted at her in the past, she's just found it hilariously funny, which wasn't really what I was aiming for.

So yes, really this is a bit of a cry for help. If anyone has any tips on how to deal with temper tantrums in 15 month olds, I'd love to hear them! I am going to try being a bit firmer and ignore her whining. My mum has also suggested offering her choices, so for example, if she doesn't want to eat her dinner, rather than trying to force it into her (I have long since realised this never works) I take it away and offer her a mandarin or a yoghurt instead, and usually she's happy to eat one of those (or both). I do understand that everything that's going on in her little head at the moment is related to wanting to be in control and can imagine that a toddler's life is a very frustrating one, but so is a parent's! ;)

Here are some more of the tips we're going to try:

  1. Distraction - we've got this one down but it's beginning to lose its effectiveness and I am slightly worried I'm shortening her attention span (eg if she screams in the supermarket, I give her my keys to play with - this used to fascinate her for ages, now they are boring after five minutes...). I think I need to take more toys with us when we're out and about, and should probably get some more board books, as she loves them. Also, I'm thinking of saving some special toys for when we're out and about, so she's not bored of them
  2. Sitting with her on my lap facing outwards - if she's screeching or whining for no apparent reason, I'm going to sit with her facing away from me and give her no attention whatsoever. I'm hoping she'll soon figure out the cause-and-effect here. We ignored her when she went through her biting phase and I'm happy to say she's no longer doing that, so hopefully this will work again (although I know that screeching is a whole different ballgame!)
  3. Trying to sound strict - altering my tone of voice/facial expression when I say no (in the past I've probably been a bit too mild). And explaining to her why I am saying no, even if it does seem she's too young to understand me
  4. Giving her choices - as explained above with mealtimes and also things like what top to wear, which socks to put on etc
  5. If she throws something or drops it deliberately, she doesn't get it back, or get another one (eg a biscuit when we're out and about - she quite often drops them over the side of the pushchair and looks at me for my reaction, because she knows it's wrong)
  6. Giving her loads of praise when she does something good - we've started this already and it sits with me better than anything else. I've been going ridiculously OTT if she feeds herself nicely, or tries to use the fork herself etc
  7. Limiting snacks - so she's hungrier at meal times and eats better
  8. Screaming to get out of her playpen / cot - this is going to the hardest but once I've established she's OK and it's just attention, I'm going to ignore her... *gulp*
  9. Full-on tantrums - eventually if she has one (I can tell it's only a matter of time), we'll put her in her room on her own (or maybe her cot) and shut the door for a minute. This seems mean to me but I'm hoping will give her a chance to learn to calm herself down

So yes, that's my very rough plan for surviving this phase. As I said, I would love to know of any obvious tricks or tips that I'm missing - please do share with me here or on Facebook!

Nine month baby update

nine-month-baby-update-lifebylotte Daphne turned nine months old this week - I've officially had her now for longer than I was pregnant (actually, the maths of pregnancy always confused me so... hmmm, that could be complete bollocks). In some ways it's like she's always been here, in other ways it only feels like a few weeks ago that we were bringing her home from the hospital. Gah, how cliched. How true.

But yes. She's nine months old and the last few weeks have been pretty challenging as she's dropped her third nap. So her schedule, which was beautifully reliable before and actually bloody great as she slept through every night, has gone a bit haywire. For the last week or so she's been persistently waking at 5am (oh so fun!) and refusing to a) go back to sleep and b) shut up. She doesn't cry, bless her, she just kind of shouts and squeals and makes general noise which means there's absolutely no way we can sleep through it. She has double double blackout blinds in her room (blackout fabric suction-cupped to the window, a blackout roller blind on top and then blackout-lined curtains) yet still a tiny chink of light seems to find its way out (mostly at the top and bottom) and hence she decides that when the sun gets up, so does she. It's exhausting! HOW we managed for months of her not sleeping through the night I have no idea because my tiredness levels have been reaching epic proportions thanks to this early morning start.

To counteract the lack of third nap, she's now going to bed at 5.30-6pm - which I know sounds ridiculously early, but she can't stay awake any longer - if she does then we get into that godawful screaming-like-she's-being-murdered overtiredness thing, where literally the only way to settle her is to put a muslin over her face so she can't see anything (sounds horrible and it is), hold her little arms down to stop them thrashing, and shush and shush and shush until she falls asleep. Ugh. It's like I'm torturing her and I HATE it, but for some reason she just cannot settle herself if she gets overtired. Does anyone else's baby get like this? My mum seems to think it's a new phenomenon as apparently I never did it, but a few of my RL friends have had similar experiences with over-stimulated and over-tired babies.

She now naps from 9-10.30am and then again from 1.30pm to (ideally) 3pm. She often wakes up from her second nap a bit early though, but I can't push her to go down later than 1.30pm as by then she's red-eyed and whiny. I swear you could study baby schedules at degree level and still not get to grips with the ridiculous algorithms they seem to work to.

In other news, we had her developmental check up today. I will be honest here, I requested it a bit early (I think it's supposed to be between 9-12 months and most people have it at around a year) as I've been really worried about the fact that she has never, ever babbled. She can make plenty of other noises (screeching and growling are her specialities) but she has never made any 'babababa' or 'mamamama' noises. Of course, I asked Dr Google what this meant and the number one cause of lack of babbling seems to be autism. So that broke my heart, and sent me into a week-long spiral of obsessive googling, sleeplessness and Youtube-watching of autistic kids trying to see if Daph had any of their characteristics. I took her to the GP who suggested it might be a hearing issue and has referred her for tests but I am pretty sure she can hear really well as she responds to whispers and even someone creeping in the room behind her.

Anyway, she's also behind on her gross motor skills - most specifically sitting. She can sit alone perfectly and reach for stuff etc, but if she starts to lean back while seated she will always fall onto her back. I can't leave her alone sitting, when really at this age I should be able to. She sometimes falls sideways too. Of course, she can't crawl or pull up to stand or anything even vaguely advanced, but I am more worried that she can't sit alone - although I am noticing she's getting better at this day by day. Whereas the babbling is not improving (or starting!) at all.

My mum's friend, who's a speech therapist, suggested she may be dyspraxic, and the symptoms do sound really like her, but again, it's really too early to tell.

I asked for a check just to see if there was anything I could be doing to try to help her progress a bit. Anything other than tummy time that is - which all health professionals seem to think is the answer to every problem. However, it doesn't work so well if your baby rolls straight back onto her back every time, yes, I'm looking at YOU Miss Daphne Darley. Of course, the health visitor (bless her - lovely lady but as Oli said, it was just like getting advice from a maiden aunt, rather than an expert) was not really any help at all. She said she'd never heard of any baby not babbling by Daph's age, and just said wait and see how the hearing test turns out, and bring her back in three months for another review.

We had to do this massive questionnaire thing (Ages & Stages) which was quite interesting - she scored really highly in most sections - she's ace at the fine motor skills (picking stuff up, feeding herself etc) and good at problem solving (finding hidden toys) and also her personal and social skills were excellent (understanding 'no' etc), but she fell off the chart for communication (which is all about babbling) and was just below par for the gross motor stuff.

I'm relieved that (although of course it's far too early really) she doesn't seem to be showing any other early signs for autism as she's great at the joint attention things - she follows your finger if you point at something, has amazing eye contact and looks at you when playing with toys trying to get you to join in. She's also started trying to clap and wave. I realise now I sound totally neurotic, and I have in fact been told off by several family members and other mothers for googling too much. But it's just my nature to investigate things - I'm a journalist, I can't help but try to find out as much as I can about a subject. Even if it does just mean I'm worrying myself stupid for no reason.

But despite all this, and despite the Wonder Week Leap 6 being THE WORST SO FAR (for those who don't know about the Wonder Weeks, then check 'em out - only if you're a parent though, they're very boring otherwise), Daph is just so wonderful at the moment. She's super smiley, loves interacting and playing and has suddenly got a lot more sociable in the past few weeks. She's also started to get separation anxiety when I leave the room which is annoying but awfully cute and makes you feel very loved back.

And, truly, corny though it sounds, her little quirks and crazy attempts at growling 'vocalisations' (we're trying to resist the urge to nickname her the Exorcist baby) kind of make her a bit special, and make me love her even more...

In response to my post on sharenting, you'll notice I've just put up one pic of Daph this time... I realise this means you're faced with a wall of text to wade through though. Sorry and thanks for making the effort - have a gold star from me!