At the risk of appearing pathological, here goes nothing… Leo is afraid of the television [and I may be to blame].
Leo was born busy. He’s spirited. He has spunk. Actually, Leo was a mover and a shaker even before he entered the world, but that can be a story for another day. As an infant, Leo rarely slept. He didn’t follow any of The Books and he never did what They Said. For the longest time, he would sleep for a maximum of two hours, from approximately 6-8 pm (read: before we were even asleep) and then wake up every twenty minutes thereafter. During daytime hours, he could. not. be. put. down. I wore that child everywhere, all the time. And wearing him was only half the battle. Leo screamed almost nonstop for his first ten months on the planet had colic and “silent” acid reflux. He was failure to thrive and was not even on the growth curve, and yet he never stopped moving. That’s yet another story for another day. Anyway, I literally wore that kid from sun up ’til sundown seven days a week. Sundays, *if* Schizz was off, I would hand off the child and quickly wash the sling that I had been wearing for seven days straight before donning it once more. I didn’t say it then but I can say it now: it was really, really hard.
“OH MY GOD!!! HERE YOU ARE AGAIN WITH YOUR CRYING BABY!! HA HA HA!!! I ALWAYS RECOGNIZE YOUR CRYING BABY AND THAT PRETTY LITTLE SLING! HA HA HA!! IT’S SO FUNNY THAT HE IS CRYING EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE YOU!! HA HA HA!!!”
Each week, I sort of wanted to kill her. But, I’d force a smile, place my order (shush, bounce, shush, bounce), wait for my order (shush, bounce, shush, bounce), and then meet up with my friends. I couldn’t sit down to eat, because the crying would be sooooo much worse, so I’d shush-bounce-shush-bounce my way through lunch, trying to participate in conversations but never finishing a sentence, dropping bits of food on Leo’s angry little noggin all the while. It all sounds pretty horrible as I type it but it was wonderful to be supported, furious baby and all (EXCEPT for the cashier. I could do without her). I had found my village.
My point is, Leo was A LOT of baby. Then, he was A LOT of toddler. Then, A LOT of preschooler, and then A LOT of Kindergartener. You get the idea. In the early days, weeks, and months, I didn’t realize how different he was from other babies, probably because I was so busy trying to get him to calm down. I think I was afraid to say that motherhood was really, really hard and often sort of crappy.
I only told Schizz, and usually only after snapping at him over something trivial while bouncing and shushing, bouncing and shushing. If I put Leo in a bouncy chair so that I could take a shower, he would scream the entire time. If I put him in the excersaucer so that I could pee, he would scream the entire time. If I put him in the swing so that I could make dinner, he would scream the entire time. If I put him on the floor with toys and books and lullaby music and whatever else They Said I should try, he would scream the entire time. Leo also screamed in the car… as in blood-curdling-run-you-off-the-road-crying… for the first two years of his life. The cliches were true: I loved this baby boy more than I thought I could ever love anyone, but he was a lot of work. It took so much to get him to be calm and then, when he finally was content for a moment, you were so caught off guard that you didn’t actually do anything but be amazed by his momentary silence.
Wearing him certainly helped somewhat. But I couldn’t just wear him. That wasn’t enough. Friends and family told me that I should put him in front of the TV so that I could get a little break. I’ve never been a TV person. And I’m an educator and I know babies and toddlers should not be plunked in front of the TV. But I was desperate. I tried television and Leo hated it. He would seem enthralled for, oh, maybe twenty-five seconds, and then he’d start screaming. I had to wear, bounce, shush, sing, vacuum and talk and talk and talk to him to get him to be content (one would expect a new mom to slack on the vacuuming but it was one thing that kept him quiet. We had wall-to-wall carpeting at the time and our house looked like a showroom! Lines, lines, lines). And I would read to Leo. You’re sitting there thinking I read children’s books. You’re correct… I did. But, I also read parenting books because I was desperate to find the answer that would make him happy: Happiest Baby on the Block; Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child; The No-Cry Sleep Solution; Baby 411; The Nursing Mother’s Companion… I also read novels. These were Leo’s first chapter books. Whatever I was reading at the time, I read aloud to Leo for hours, while pacing the freshly vacuumed floors of our home. I didn’t actually tell anyone this because I thought it sounded weird, but those were the quietest (waking) moments that we had together those early months.
Second, Leo has some sensory processing challenges. This is also a story for another day, but he’s been receiving outside occupational therapy services this year to address things such as: retained primitive reflexes, auditory sensitivity, difficulty crossing the midline with his dominant hand, and movement seeking. The sounds and visual aspect of TV is often just too much for him.