I know, I know- everyone says that December is crazy, with the shopping and wrapping and decorating and card writing and calendar making and holiday baking and special food planning and classroom party volunteering.
We've got all that and a little extra: Alec's speech therapy and special education services have begun. They both come twice per week, sometimes on the same day, sometimes not, and I really love them both. The speech therapist is working on teaching him some easy motions in sign language so he can communicate with us. We've done pretty well integrating all done, more, open, and downstairs into his communcations with us; we are working on help, please, bubbles and blocks. I also am proud to say that I can now tell you all the signs for common banyard animals and their sounds.
The idea is to have him look at us more when he asking for something, instead of just thrusting something into our line of vision and grunting. He has to put more effort into the communication process. And he's doing great- he has had almost three full weeks of therapy and I think I notice a change in his behavior and his vocalizations. He seems a little more confident as well, probably because we are showering him with praise when he shows us a sign spontaneously or says a new word.
The special education teacher is working on speech type issues as well, and is also giving us some support and advice about how to best handle his behavior meltdowns. We had a huge breakthrough this weekend when we kicked him out of our bed, where he had been sleeping for a month or two against our wishes. We just couldn't come up with a better idea of how to handle his nighttime issues, which consisted of him wanting to be with me all night long. And by "with me", I mean WITH ME- he loved to tuck his knees under my left armpit and lay across on top of my shoulders, neck and face.
So last Friday night we shipped the girls out to a sleepovers and let Alec cry it out in his crib. And overall, he did great because I didn't cave, like I did the last time we tried in October and he cried from 1:30am to 3:40am and I just couldn't take it anymore. This time, I was ready: sick to my stomach and steely-eyed all at the same time. We put him in at 10:30pm, he cried for a half hour, then puked (which I was expecting) but then after getting cleaned up only cried for another fifteen minutes before falling asleep. He woke up at 1:30 and then again at 3:30am, but wasn't crying hard and settled himself back down after about 15 minutes. Saturday night he did even better, falling asleep after 2 minutes of barely fussing and sleeping through the night. THROUGH THE NIGHT. We are like new people over here.
And to be honest, this was a victory that we all needed... the temper tantrums and poor sleeping habits were really getting us down, particularly me who is with him all day and bears the brunt of the meltdowns, who never is quite sure when he's going to be lovely and wonderful and when he's going to wrestle me in defiance. The special ed teacher is helping me regain control and confidence about setting limits with him, and coaching me about following through. She suggested we make a chart that shows pictures of the evening routine so he can learn what to expect next: first dinner, then bath or playtime, then pajamas, then teeth, then book reading, then crib. Oooohhh! A craft project!! I was all over that like white on rice. And even Michaela likes to help show Alec what's next on his chart, which is a great reinforcer.
This was also one of the first times I felt I could prepare him verbally for what was about to happen and he understood. We talked all day on Friday about how he was going to sleep in his crib that night like a big boy, like Mimi sleeps in her room by herself and Nenna sleeps in her room by herself. And he would smile sweetly at me when I said it. And I felt like he really got it, which was weird for me because my internal default setting for Alec is that he's about 7 months old. I feel like this marked a change in my own perception of him, that I finally can see what he can do and see that he's not just a baby anymore.
It has made me more mindful of how I am parenting him, how I talk to him, and what I am doing that is hurting and what I am doing that is helping. And that, my friends, is not an easy process to go through. Having people come into your house, even when you invite them in because you need help and your baby clearly needs help, and having them ask you questions and make (absolutely correct) pronouncements about how you can be a better parent is humbling and hard and deflating and uncomfortable. I really strive hard each and every day to Do Things Right as a mom to my children and to hear from someone that it could be better really feels just plain sucky. But then you think to yourself, "Well, what's more helpful? To get huffy and defensive and nasty? Or to swallow and digest what they are saying, really think about it, and put their recommendations into action?" And it becomes clear that everyone's goal here is to make Alec a happier, more engaged, communicative kid, and of course you do what is suggested, no matter how chastized you may feel. And you grow and be better.
So that's what's going on here, along with Christmas and Michaela getting glasses, which she desperately wanted and barely even needs (the eye doctor said "the glasses may make a subjective difference") , and Jenna being off the wall about Christmas coming up (she wrote a second letter to Santa this morning, asking if she is on the "good list or the bad list") and us getting new cellphones for our Christmas present (I love me some iPhone and Siri) and switching over to Fios from regular cable (the verizon people have been here three times since Friday with various issues but I think we're all resolved now) and losing my earthlink email address that I've had for 15 years and establishing new email addresses.
We're listening to lots of Christmas music, enjoying our TWO pretty Christmas trees, enjoying Advent, and looking forward to a quiet, uncluttered, and calm January. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.