Waking Up.

What am I doing wrong? Two out the last three naps have resulted in mass hysteria upon wake-up.

The Who has never been a pleasant riser. I hear stories about babies who happily greet the day, laughing and talking to themselves in the crib. Babbling joyfully. (I was one such baby, I am told.) The Who greets the day with a scowl and a whimper that swiftly becomes a whine and eventually an all-out cry if I don’t get to him fast enough. This is pretty much the story every morning, but nap times are more of a crap-shoot. I have a thousand guesses about the reason, the most plausible to me is that he wakes up hungry. But who really knows? For as articulate as he is, there are still some really key questions that he can’t answer. One of them is “Why are you crying?” The answer is, invariably, “yeah.” And although I think he does understand hunger (he will regularly say, “[Who] want something to eat,” and then gladly chow down) I don’t think he gets the kind of hunger that comes after hours of sleep and results in a really pissy mood.

Maybe, also, he just hates the feeling of being groggy and confused, which is how I feel after napping or sleeping especially hard. I hate waking up in a dark room in the middle of a day. Maybe he hates being confined in a crib when he wakes up. Maybe his hand fell asleep. There are a hundred reasons why he might wake up cranky and usually we can work with it, but sometimes, his wake-up is just ridiculous.

His whine escalates within seconds to the kind of crying that leaves him hiccuping and cough-heaving, threatening a much bigger mess than just a teary, snotty face. And there’s really no calming him for a long time. He doesn’t know what he wants and so is in a constant state of dissatisfaction. “Do you want to get out of the crib?” “No. No get out of cribby.” And then, a beat later: “The Who wanna get out of criiiiibbbby!” [wail, wail, wail, sob.] It’s useless to remind him that he just told me he didn’t want to get out of the crib. And it goes on like this. The Who want that book. The Who don’t want booooook! Cry, cry. The Who wanna go downstairs. Me: Ok, let’s get out of the crib and go downstairs. “No! The Who don’t wanna go downstaiiiiirs!”

You catch my drift.

Today, he was pissed because he asked to turn off the noise machine, then told me he didn’t want to turn it off and that I should do it, so I did. Then he wanted to do it, but it was done. And I kept a firm boundary. “You told me you didn’t want to turn it off, so I did it. You can do it next time.” You can imagine how that went over.

It’s now an hour after waking up from [a good, solid, 2-hour] nap and he is finally content, having had a sandwich and some milk. An episode of Barney is holding his attention as I write.

My wife reports that this never happens with her and that she regularly witnesses power struggles between The Who and me. There are bound to be power struggles with a 2-year-old, since he wants to do everything his way and that’s just not always possible (or safe or preferable.) But what can I do to reduce the drama at wake-up? Do I just snatch him out of the crib and bring him downstairs, despite his protests and stop all the negotiations about what he wants and doesn’t want? That seems awfully dismissive. Do I continue to refuse to recognize and respond to his whiny, crying voice? That seems like a good boundary to set, but it seems to be very hard for him to hold it together. Do I try to go into his room and open the curtains as soon as I hear the first hint of a peep coming from him to try to get in before he has time to really erupt? Some combination of these things?

He really is a pleasant child most of the time…

5 thoughts on “Waking Up.

  1. Robin,

    Have you thought of separation anxiety? Sounds a little like that, since you spend a good bit of the day with him before M gets home. I witnessed this with a family I babysat for – the middle child all of a sudden had awful meltdowns at the age of 5 and was reduced to a blithering puddle of tears each and every time his mom left, even at school. Don’t know if this could be a reason. Perhaps asking him if he’s crying because he misses you? Scared perhaps because he’s foggy, wakes up and doesn’t see you?? He might just be old enough now that you could reverse the baby monitor (if you have one) and use it as an intercom (leave the receiver in his room – you turn on the transmit side at your end if you hear him cry and say hello, you’re coming to get him…) As we’ve both seen first hand, toddlers take frustration and develop agitation, going from 0 to 60 in no time flat when they’re not able to get their point across. Maybe making it a game wherein he needs to tell you he’s up and you can talk to him through the “intercom?” Call me if you need any more ideas…been there…done that :))

  2. Here are some thoughts — use them as you wish. You get to know your kid’s moods as far as waking, eating and a few others things and do what you know will make things easier for these kind of traumatic times, i.e. arrive at his crib with a cup of milk or juice so if you think he’s hungry or thirsty he can take a few sips first or sit in his crib and drink it while he comes awake. While some kids don’t care about this, others really do react badly when they are hungry (just ask Papa!) and it can make the difference in a more peaceful waking without arguments. Also, try to match his mood if you can — perhaps coming in and sitting in the chair a bit without advancing to him or asking him anything might give him time to get more awake and ask you for what he wants or to pick him up or take him out. Also, as a person who knows what it feels like to wake up rested and to wake up crabby and in the wrong place of sleep, not being asked things or confronted in any way is most helpful and it can take hours for me to come out of it to where I am really feeling “myself” again.
    If Marcia doesn’t experience this (and you are with him more so less chance of her hitting it), it might be because she has a way about her that lets people just be — I have experienced it personally. She isn’t confrontational — her voice rarely displays this and while she can be firm and not really soft and fuzzy, she always feels present and not distracted, focused on me and perhaps that’s what he feels as well — he can be whoever he is with no demands or questions.
    Hon, you are a great mother and perhaps he wakes when you are in the middle of something and you want to get him up quickly and easily and he may sense that. I was lucky with you — the smiley, chatty kid the moment you woke up — Mike not so much — he needed time and I usually gave him a bottle to stay in the crib with and relax and come alive. Hope this is helpful and from my own experience, be careful since kids really sense when they are getting a reaction to something they are doing and it becomes a “thing” without their even knowing it — stay as even tempered as you can and be soft and smile — give up the confrontation or the “right” thing until he is back in the world. Love you and miss you all!

  3. My contribution comes from my experience of being retired, which is great, don’t get me wrong. I can do pretty much what I want with my days, and I feel guilty even saying it to you, in the middle of these super-responsible and busy years! But I have a vague sense of anxiety in having to choose what to do with my time. All those years my days were hyperscheduled, I never had to decide what to do.
    So here is my guess- Asher is just learning about choices, so maybe the idea that he can make decisions is stressful. Whatever no-nonsense routine you can establish, “you’re awake so we’ll go downstairs and (insert whatever )” might smooth out his rough edges. Good luck!

  4. Max was like that for MONTHS. It was awful. He’d usually wake up from his nap crying and would be an inconsolable mess for up to 45 minutes. I would just hold him in his room until he calmed down. I would get in the crib with him and just hold him. I had no idea what was up–I suspected hunger/low blood sugar (um, yeah, but how long did it take me to figure out I should go in with a cup of milk or juice in hand???!??). Good luck.

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