Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ferberizing for Daytime

If you happened to be shopping in a large box store this afternoon and had your pre-Christmas reverie shattered by the protracted and unhearthly howling of a HellBoy, that may have been us, and I do apologize.

But allow me to explain.

I have not succumbed to pressure from others to "Ferberize" my child at night. I don't want to, and I don't need to. What I usually chirp cheerfully when the subject arises is, "What I really need is a way to Ferberize in the daytime!" Because while our nights have always been relatively restful, our days are not. HB is an "active" child. His daycare teacher says she's "seen a few babies who are as willful as he is ..." Our parents say that neither of us was anything near as crazy as our baby. Basically, he's hell on wheels. Which makes life interesting, but sometimes ... hard. In particular, going out in public with him is exhausting. Because while he enjoys exploring new things, he wants to do so on his own terms. And his terms do NOT include the option of riding in a shopping cart. Ever. For a long time it wasn't too bad, because he was usually willing to be carried through stores. Fatiguing, but good exercise. But in the last few months, even before he started walking, all he wants to do is get down and explore on his own.

We try to make it fun for him. We find a good spot where he's unlikely to break something — the towel section, say — and let him explore for a good long time. But inevitably he decides it's time to move on to the picture frame section, or the fine china, and when thwarted, he becomes apoplectic. Meaning, he howls, bangs his head on the floor or the nearest parent, kicks, and does the hooked-fish flop.

So today we did the usual — much playing, very little shopping, even a nursing break. But eventually we really had to get the the stuff we needed (halogen lightbulbs, which I happen to detest, by the way — they are the worst invention ever! Lightbulbs that are hot enough to blister you if you accidentally come near, and cost five times as much as normal bulbs. This is progress?). So TrophyHusband scoops HellBoy up and we start hightailing it through the store. Wailing and thrashing ensues. We try to trade cart for baby, since often he is willing to be carried if Mama is the one carrying him. But today he is insulted by the offer of my arms. So TH starts carting him out of the store, football-style.

"Wait!" I yell. He turns, perplexed.
"If he's going to scream anyway, he might as well scream while sitting in the damn cart," I say. "You remember I said we needed to Ferberize in the daytime? Well, this is it."
TH looks doubtful, but helps me to wrestle HB's kicking feet through the legholes and fasten the belt (thank heavens it was a nice new cart, with a good solid belt, not held together by fraying knots soaked in cookie slurry).

And then we had some fun. HB was FURIOUS. He was OUTRAGED. He clearly had murder on his mind. He screamed and cried waved his arms and kicked and bit the cart handle and turned purple. TH offered him his sippy cup, which he paused and held his hand out for — so that he could SMASH it to the floor! Oh, was he mad.

But I was thinking to myself, god dammit, every other mother in this country gets to shop with her child in the shopping cart. They're supposed to LIKE it. I've long since accepted that HB will never like his carseat, but come on — in the shopping cart, he's facing me, we're talking, he gets treats, he gets to see all the interesting people and beautiful products sailing by.

It was sort of like a near-death experience: I kind of detached and started to float away, watching the scene from above. I wiped his nose a couple of times, spoke to him soothingly but firmly, helped TH figure out which lightbulb might fit his office lamp, and rolled on. People parted like the Red Sea in front of us, but it was so obvious that this was a tantrum situation that I didn't notice any terrible looks. If there were any comments, I couldn't hear them over the howling.

Then something interesting happened. HB started to pause in his crying to make these short, ear-shattering shrieks. At first I was horrified — it sounded like someone was stabbing him in the gut. But after each scream, he would stop and WATCH me to see my reaction. It was hilariously obvious that he was playing me. So I just quietly said "shh!" and stroked his cheek.

And after a few minutes, he just — stopped. He took a deep breath, looked around, picked up the cookie that had been offered him long before, and started to chat with me. Well, as best he can — our conversations mostly consist of exchanges like, "Ball!" "Yes, those are nice balls, aren't they?" "Chair!" "Yes, there's a chair." "Og!" "No, that's not a dog, that's a horse."

We went through checkout like a NORMAL FAMILY, baby gnawing on a cookie in the seat of the shopping cart. Before rolling out the door I offered him his coat, which he cheerfully let me put on him.

This may sound pathetic, but I have never gone grocery shopping alone with HB. I once took him to Target by myself, but I knew TH was meeting me there, so it doesn't really count. Because you can't shop while carrying a 23-pound, fighting mad toddler.

A whole new world has been opened to me.


Orange said...

Hooray! Now, I don't think for a second that HB isn't going to put you through the wringer again, but it's promising, most promising.

It's so hilarious when a kid is crying/screaming strictly for effect, trying to manipulate his parents. I do try to be thoughtful and not laugh in Ben's face when he does that, though.

Mignon said...

Ahh. Ferber. Wait is it Ferber or Fuhrer? Because I believe their is something evil about leaving your child alone in a dark room crying your name, needing comfort to sleep. I am a complete softy about all things dark and lonely and when people mention Ferber to me I only hear Charlie Brown's teacher.
But!! Good going on the shopping field trip! Ferbering (which I hate to even utter aloud) a tantrum is a good call, and you stuck with it. I toast you!

Mignon said...

OOOh - sorry about the their/there. That kind of mistake makes me cringe!

B.E.C.K. said...

LOL Oh, tantrums are fun, aren't they? Good for you for riding it out. I mostly tried to look bored when my kid had "incidents" in public, and he discovered tantrums weren't so fun, after all. But while I was looking bored, I was freaking out inside, hoping no one would come over and offer me advice or think I was kidnapping someone else's child. Ah yes, good times. ;^) Anyway, my son will be five next month and I still put him in the cart 99% of the time when we shop; we get to talk and it's nice. Of course, I did have to teach him not to grab things off shelves just for fun. :-/ (I snorted when I read "fraying knots soaked in cookie slurry." Do people cut those straps off or something? Mystifying..) :-)

Anonymous said...

That is why I love me some Ferber. It will only take a few more times before he understands how you expect for him to behave in there. It's different at night, I agree, but Ferber was definitely on to something.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, sounds like you're on to a good thing! Will have to remember this in a few months for Polly.

DoctorMama said...

I've heard that babies who are willing to ride in strollers exist, but maybe they're like unicorns, just wishful thinking.

I have no doubt that we'll have to repeat the shopping cart tantrum at least a few more times, but at least I now know that I can do it. Whether the other shoppers can is another matter.

I think I can't do CIO at night because I still wake up lonely and scared myself, despite having been "trained" not to by my mother. Too bad HB couldn't have taken after TrophyHusband, who slept so much as a baby that his mother took him to the doctor to see what was wrong.

DoctorMama said...

The only restraint HB has ever tolerated was the Snugli, and thank god for that at least. Oh, and a highchair for as long as it takes to eat. Otherwise, tantrum city, ever since he was two months old. Carseat, stroller, shopping cart, backpack -- if it has straps, it's a violation of the Baby Geneva Convention. And baby gates -- just closing them, even if he isn't anywhere near them, can set him off.
It was this way even when he was in the womb. From the moment I felt him move, he seemed to be trying to bust out.