We spend much of our time in the car looking for Mini Coopers. This is what a drive home sounds like:
Squeaker: Let’s find Mini Coopers.
Me: Okay, Squeaker.
Squeaker: Pleeeease. Let’s find Mini Coopers. Pleeeease.
Me: Start looking!
Squeaker: No, that’s not Mini Cooper. Let’s find Mini Coopers. PLEEEEASE. PLEEEEEEEASE.
Heaven forbid I don’t pass the car dealership. Or that the Mini Cooper that is typically there is gone. Shoes flying. Screaming. Biting.
Yesterday, Squeaker demanded we find not just any Mini Cooper. It had to be a red one. And I did precisely what he didn’t want me to do. I turned toward our house, not toward the dealerships. There is a scream that a child makes when they’re injured. It sounds a lot different than a happy scream or an angry scream. It’s the scream that unlocks that primal instinct inside you to help your child. When you hear that scream in the car driving and you can do absolutely nothing, it is heart-wrenching. When you look in the rear-view mirror and see your child biting into his own skin and pulling with his teeth, you have three options.
Option one: Pull over and stop the self-destruction.
Option two: Ignore.
Option three: Distract.
Option one seems like a good idea, but for us, stopping the self-destruction is only a temporary fix. He goes right back to doing it again when whatever it is he wants still doesn’t happen for him.
Option two is what doctors often recommend. If you ignore the behavior, it will stop. He’s just looking for attention. He won’t really hurt himself. It looks bad, but the biting won’t cause any real damage. That’s what I’ve been told. And I suppose on some level, that’s true. He’s made himself bleed. His arms are all bruised up. He’s gone to biting his knees and even his toes (as of yesterday). He’s even scratched himself. But he hasn’t caused any nerve damage. He’s not torn huge chunks out of his flesh. So if I were to just ignore him, would he stop? Am I just causing him to do it more by giving him attention for it? I could beat myself over the head with the self-doubt all day if I wanted to, but I am just not the type of person who can watch my child hurt himself and do nothing. As parents, we want to do something.
Since option one doesn’t really help and option two is not something I’m able to do long-term, I move to option three. Distraction. I cannot control what cars pass us on the street. But I do know which cars Squeaker likes more than other cars. Option three means that I actively start looking for big trucks, garbage trucks, 18-wheelers, excavators, or (please, God, please) Mini Coopers. I do my best not to yell at Squeaker to stop biting. It doesn’t help. I look.
Yesterday, I seriously pondered whether Squeaker was clairvoyant. As I start to try to find the most coveted vehicles for him because he’s in a fit of rage, we just happen to find exactly what he’s looking for. A red Mini Cooper passes on the other side of the street. Not just any red Mini Cooper, though. This one has a white top. It’s just like the toy one he has at home. For a moment, Squeaker is filled with elation.
Then my heart sinks as he says to me, “I need a blue Mini Cooper.”
At this moment, I practice Option Two. Ignore. Nothing I can say will help. If I just pretend I don’t hear him, he will keep repeating himself, but no damage is done. He’s calmed down because he found the red Mini Cooper. It’s okay. All I have to do is endure his repetition of “Let’s find a blue Mini Cooper. Pleeease.” I can do that. We’re almost home!
Suddenly, we’re turning off of a side road, and at the intersection, guess what we see? Yep. A blue Mini Cooper! I’m astonished. Squeaker, again, is filled with elation. He tells me it’s purple, but whatever. He’s happy. For five seconds. Now we’re about 10 minutes from home. What does he want? Another Mini Cooper. “The LAST one!”
Here is the ride home:
Squeaker: I need another Mini Cooper. Let’s find another Mini Cooper.
Me: Well, keep looking.
Squeaker: Let’s find another Mini Cooper. Pleeeease. The last one. Pleeeease.
Silence from me. I’ve chosen Option Two again.
Squeaker: We need to find the LAST ONE. PLEEEEASE.
I’m pretty sure he thinks an increase in volume increases the odds of me producing exactly what he wants. I continue to ignore.
Squeaker: The LAST ONE. We need to find the LAST ONE. Pleeeeease. PLEEEEASE.
A car passes. It’s not a Mini Cooper.
Squeaker: That’s not a Mini Cooper. No. (Claps hands together) We need to find a Mini Cooper. The LAST ONE. THE LAST ONE. PLEEEEASE.
Me (enthusiastically): Look, Squeaker. The rusty truck!
Sometimes the rusty truck (which we always pass) can bring him out of a rut.
Squeaker: No. I want Mini Cooper. Pleeeeeease!
You get the idea.
Five minutes later, we’re home. Thank Goodness.
The rest of the night is not really any better. He’s prone to random fits of rage. The first one is because I only gave him one banana and he wanted two. Seems like a minor concession, but I was cooking dinner. I put the baby in the swing because the floor is deemed unsafe at this point. Time-out was doled out because of objects being thrown. More self-biting, some spitting, some slamming of his body parts onto the floor all occur. Thank goodness, Tim arrives home while I’m cooking.
The positive thing here is that at some point, I’m able to calm Squeaker for a little bit by allowing him to smell every single ingredient I put into what I’m making. In case you’re curious, last night we had Curried Coconut Chicken for dinner. It was something new, and I wasn’t sure Squeaker would try it. He has a habit of not wanting to try new things. But I let him smell the butter, the curry, the coconut, the raw chicken…everything. And I had a mini revelation. I’ve noticed that, at least lately, if I let Squeaker smell every single ingredient I put into what I’m making, he is more likely to try the food. I love these revelations. They make me feel so smart! He ate his dinner last night. Yay!
We go for a walk. Squeaker falls asleep in the stroller. This is the first peaceful walk we’ve had in forever.
We get home. He wants to sleep in the stroller. Transfer to the bedroom? Nightmare. More screaming. I have to feed the baby, so Tim is left to deal with bedtime. He finally gets out of the room, Squeaker falls back asleep, and we breathe a sigh of relief. That could’ve gone worse, right?
About an hour later, we hear screaming again. I go to check on Squeaker, and he’s thrashing about on the bed, banging his feet into the wall. We don’t know why. He can’t really tell us. He gets to the floor and tells me he wants to sleep. I try to help him into his bed, but he wants to stay on the floor. He wants under the blanket. At this point, I just want him to calm down. I allow him to stay on the floor. He screams and thrashes again after I bring his pillow down. And then he’s done. He goes back to sleep. All is well with the world again.
For days like yesterday, I have to be thankful for the small things, right? So, praise God for giving us two Mini Coopers in exactly the right colors and for Squeaker trying something new for dinner. Here’s hoping that one day, Mini Coopers won’t be so important to him. There will always be something. I’m aware of that. The railroad tracks used to be an issue for us (when we didn’t pass over them), then it was the white van, then tractors, and now it’s Mini Coopers. But the moment he switches to a new obsession, I’m always excited. Mostly because I just get bored with always trying to get thrilled about the same thing over and over again with him. For now, though, we will just continue to spend our lives in an endless pursuit of Mini Coopers.
And no, I’m not getting paid by the makers of Mini Coopers. But it would be pretty sweet if they decided to pay for me for mentioning them so much in this blog. *Hint Hint*