My Chicklet, who as you know by now is 2 years and 11 months old, has been going through one of those phases which most parents cringe at the mere mention of... The Terrible-Twos!! I always swore I would never be THAT mom with THAT child throwing a fit in WalMart. Well I'm sure you're sitting there snickering at that comment... Yes, I was THAT mom with my dear girl turned into a raving lunatic in the middle of a shopping expedition. And I cried too as soon as I got in the car.
My dear darling Chicklet has always been very strong willed. She can tantrum with the best of them! She has even tried beating her own head against the wall once or twice. We tried everything to stop the bad behavior. She was just getting worse and worse and nothing I was doing was helping. I remember a time when she was only like this when she was tired, but more recently it got to be a constant thing. It was horrible. I cried, where is my sweet girl who was always smiling? Always trying to help me? Always eager to learn and wanting to please me? Where did she go?!
I started thinking back to when the behavior issues started. I mean, there were naughty episodes as young as when she was a tiny baby, but we dealt with it and moved on. When the real nastiness, the real stubborn willfullness came on, was I think when I was pregnant with Bug. I have terribly rough pregnancies. When I was pregnant with Bug I remember bawling and praying because I was unable to do anything but be miserable. I took good care of Chicklet physically, but I was so sick and in so much pain that I was not there for her in other ways. I didn't play with her. I had a hard time interacting with her if it required moving from my chair. I started having Dora DVD's on all the time so she wouldn't start crying when I would lurch out of my chair and stagger to the bathroom to empty my stomach. She learned alot of good stuff from Dora, but it wasn't a good substitute for mother-daughter time.
When Bug was born, it was a while before I felt more myself and was playing with the kids again. Actually with both kids it took until they were about 10 months old before I started being able to keep up with basic housework and do fun things with them again. Before that I was so dead on my feet exhausted I didn't do much beyond changing diapers and feeding them. I know it sounds horrible. I took good care of them physically, I just wasn't able to play with them or converse with them like they need.
As soon as I could I started playing with the kids again. Including them and narrating to them as I went on about my day. I was teaching them things and singing with them all the time. I started noticing that Chicklet's behavior problems changed. She was tantruming less. But it didn't stop. In fact after a while she started getting worse again. I was paying close attention and noticed something.
She was constantly quoting movie lines. ALL the time. She'd be playing with her toys and start going on, "Oh no Boots, we can't ride on the brown leaves! They're falling apart! We have to ride on the GREEN leaves! Say Verde!" She would be coloring and say, "This is your badness level... unlooloolee high for someone your size." She would zoom around the house yelling, "Abort! Abort! Disengage! There are children aboard! I repeat, there are children aboard!" She would be eating lunch and say, "I'm not happy, Bob. NOT HAPPY." One day in the car she was mumbling to herself and I was listening. I heard, "...mumblemumble...Nemo you get back here RIGHT now you hear me! I'm going to count...mumblemumble...ahhh! ahhh! Nemo! Nemo! No no! Has anyone seen a boat?!...mumblemumble...OOF! ...mumblemumble...A boat? I saw a boat! It passed by not too long ago. mumble...follow me!..mumblemumble...'Ello! My name's Bruce! ...mumblemumble...Doing? We're not doing anything. In fact we're not even here... mumblemumble... trust a shark...mumblemumble...a little get-together I'm having. Whaddaya say?..."
It was at this point I decided that letting her watch one thing a day was obviously too much television. When the child's mind is that good that she can see Finding Nemo all of 6 times over the coarse of 6 months and then quote half the movie off the top of her head, I need to be finding a better use for that amazing memory.
The real eye-opener came about a month ago though, when she started quoting to me when she was having a bad attitude. Instead of falling on the floor screaming and crying like before, now she would fall on the floor and viciously kick, hit, throw, and beat anything within reach. Then she would curl up and bawl, "Weemememememememememememeeeee!" It was so annoying! It was like babytalk while tantruming. And then it clicked. She was being Lilo having her tantrum and then mumbling incoherently while Nani was trying to talk to her. She was being Stitch destroying things. She was being Mr. Incredible throwing his boss through the wall. She was being Nemo doing what his dad said not to. She was being Marlin yelling and grouching. She was doing exactly what kids do; being what she saw.
I talked to my husband about my observations. We had already cut the kid tv down to 3 movies or Doras a week plus Saturday morning toons with Daddy, but it obviously wasn't enough. We decided to cut out all tv and movies.
I think the problems started when I was sooo tired from my pregnancy with Bug that I was not able to give Chicklet the quality interaction she needed. The TV became her friend to replace Mommy while Mommy was too busy hunched over the toilet throwing up. And as long as that TV-friend was still holding that place in her life, I was at war with it for her heart. So I decided a good start to winning back my place as her best friend was to get rid of the competition.
One week later it was like she was a different child. Instead of quoting Nemo, I caught her repeating things I'd told her. She asked me what does N say. I told her N says nnnnnn and the rest of the day she kept repeating in a singsong voice, "N say nnnnn!"
I continued to notice positive changes. Less tantrums. Shorter tantrums. BOTH kids were happier in general, calmer. She had been boycotting naps before but now she would take one once in a while.
Then I decided it was okay to let them watch DVDs that have no talking, like Baby Einstein. Chicklet's naps went out the window again. And worse, that little bit of give for Baby Einstein was enough to make Mama backslide. I slipped. I gave in. I let her watch a "real" movie - one with talking. And it all unravelled. Tantrums galore. Attitude in bulk. Speaking in movie quotes.
Mama messed up.
So I'm getting back on the horse as of about a week ago. Here's what I've noticed since I cut out the TV again:
Chicklet's taking naps again most of the time. Even when she does not take one she still seems more refreshed than back in TV days.
Again less and shorter tantrums from both kids.
Less movie quoting.
Ah but then today Daddy slipped up and let me sleep in while he watched a movie with the kids. Uh-oh...
Chicklet cried and screamed and acted out all day.
Tomorrow is a new day! Gotta get back off the TV wagon- again.
So there you have it. Part 1 of the no-tv project. I will keep you updated as to how it goes! :) So far I'm loving the results!