His eyes well up with tears, he screws up his face and he howls.
I have no idea what’s wrong with him, not a clue, but I go to him and he raises his arms to me, wanting to be picked up.
But instead of snuggling into me and the tears slowing, he arches his back and screams louder. I have to work hard not to drop him as he struggles and screams, seemingly desperate to be anywhere but in my arms.
I put him down at my feet.
He howls louder and grabs onto my legs pulling himself to standing and looking up at me as tears stream down his cheeks. I read his body language to mean ‘pick me up, please, pick me up’ so I do, but I am wrong.
As he struggles and cries and squirms I put him down again and sink down to the floor next to him, trying my hardest not to join him in a crumpled, crying, heap.
I don’t know what to do.
I’ve parented three older children. I have a degree in early childhood education,. I have ten years experience working with children and families. I read books and blogs and articles and consciously work to be a better parent. Yet I don’t know what to do.
Somewhere in the back of my frazzled mind I recall something about the HALT method… and I run through the list.
Hungry? I offer food that is promptly thrown on the floor and a drink which is pushed away, all the while the crying and back arching continue.
Angry? I’m pretty sure he’s angry about something, but I have no idea what.
Lonely? If he is lonely it is not for me. He does a perfect reverse C and almost falls from my arms. I put him down. He screams.
That leaves me with Tired…. I am pretty sure he is not tired, but as a last resort, and despite the struggling, I pick him up and try to hold him tight and rock him, but that just makes things worse.
I put him down again.
He lies face down on the floor and screams.
I sit next to him and wish he could tell me what was wrong. Maybe he’s sick? Maybe he’s hurt? Maybe I just suck at this whole parenting gig and it took me four kids to figure that out?
He rolls over, the screaming has reduced to sobbing now. The kind of sobbing, that has his breath coming in shudders and his shoulders heaving. The sort of sobbing that breaks my heart.
I pick him up and this time he doesn’t push me away. He is still crying but he is letting me hold him and so we sit, rocking and sobbing together, hoping like hell this is just a phase and that it will pass quickly.
Crocodiles and grasshoppers I whisper to myself… remember, crocodiles and grasshoppers.