Daily Operation

When You Can No Longer Call It Anything Than “a Screaming Toddler”

Night four of accelerated sleeplessness. Ellison’s waking up at midnight, two, four, five, six. She wakes up not crying, but screaming like there’s been a home invasion. As a parent enduring these trials of time, sound and stamina, you have to keep your wits about you. My lovely wife and I have been taking turns on the middle-of-the-night bouts. We don’t answer all of them. Sometimes they pass and sometimes they persist. There’s a method to knowing when they’re only going to intensify. I can’t quite tell you what that method is because it typically happens in a state of semi-awareness as you’re in between a dreamscape and a screaming baby. You’ll know when to get up and investigate, though.

Yesterday morning, I rocked little Ellison while wrapped up in Nanablankie, kissed on her forehead and “shhh’d” her back to sleep as she huffed and puffed in my arms. The old tricks used to work so well. They don’t work anymore. The five S’s no longer work. This screaming has evolved past the old tactics. This is a new, more powerful superscream. It’s like a new flu. A rash that doesn’t go away. Your approach has to change.

We used to call it “colic” and that was a sufficient diagnosis. Or it was gas. Or teething. Now, our best guess is hunger, but it could be anything. Could still be teething. Nightmares. Restlessness. Too much daytime sleep. Sensory issues. Allergies. The spirited toddler. When you’re in between pediatrician visits, armed with your thermometer, internet access and a little caffeine, you’re kinda left with figuring it out yourself.

This morning, I just called it “screaming toddler” and made my way to the kitchen to make some coffee closing all doors to contain the sound (except for the monitor which directly feeds into the kitchen). I went in at 5am this morning, she was sitting upright in her crib screaming. I picked her up, wrapped her in Nanablankie, rocked for a second and then she looked me in the eye and without warning screamed so loud my ears muffled the sound. I thought at this point, “Well, I can barely endure that for another five seconds without losing my sleep-deprived mind.” So I laid her back in the crib screaming her eyebrows off, turned on her little light-and-noise aquarium and walked out of the room. By the time I made it into the kitchen, it was silent back in the nursery. Pin. Drop. Silent.

Twenty minutes later, it’s still silent and I’m taking the first draw off a nice hot cup of coffee.

As parents, you’re not always gonna have the antidote. And it’s gonna make you feel completely inadequate and stupid when you don’t. Even by posting this, I’m putting myself out there where I could get ten to fifteen comments or suggestions on how I’m just not doing it right. I don’t care. I’m sure the screaming is not normal. But, then again, I’m sure it’s not hurting her much except for lack of sleep. It’s undoubtedly hurting us in that regard. We’ll continue to try and diagnose it. Trust me, the quicker we can, the sooner we all can get some decent sleep**. But as for this morning, it’s a little something called “screaming toddler.”

Ellison’s walking distances now. Extraordinary distances. And she’s pivoting and walking in the opposite direction. She’s got Kevin McHale’s 1.5 pivot feet. Usually, she’s faking left and then pivoting to the right. My favorite McHale move. We used to count steps. Then we estimated feet. Now, it’s like we’re measuring in minutes saying, “Tell me when she’s done.” Our house went from moderately sized to tiny box in her eyes just over the last three days. We like to play chase around the dining room table and island in the kitchen. More on all of this later as well as Ellison takes the “spirited toddler quiz.” But it’s Friday. Thank God. I made it to the weekend so now I can have sleepless nights with midday cat naps. Sox are back in first. Thanks, Texas Rangers for the batting practice and letting Sox hitters pad some stats over the last four days. The heat sucked so it was a good thing we were never having to run faster than a home run trot.

**When I walked into the kitchen this morning, the beagles, who are normally fast asleep on their bed in the utility room, were standing at the entry to the kitchen with this pained look on their long faces like, “Turn that damn monitor off.” For animals that sleep 85% of the day, they even look beat.

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3 thoughts on “When You Can No Longer Call It Anything Than “a Screaming Toddler”

  1. Adrianne says:

    It sounds like she is overtired. My post-colic son did this constantly until we sleep trained at 5 months. It SUCKED, but it worked and was the best thing we could have done for him. He sleeps well now (at 8.5 months) and is really the happiest baby on the block! As long as we keep him well-rested, he sleeps great. After a certain age, spending time trying to soothe the baby only overstimulates them more.

    I know you pretty much didn’t want advice… but well, I couldn’t help myself. I’ve been where you are, and it can get better….

  2. Adrianne says:

    Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth was a lifesaver for us. I hope things get better for you guys soon. You’ve been through so much!

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