Up Down Up Down Up

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.

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Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:

  1. Rach says

    Oh I hope it passes quickly for both of your sakes. I know that helpless feeling of not knowing how to make it better. Maybe he doesn’t know what is wrong either and really did want you to pick him up but then that’s not working so wants to be put down again? Certainly don’t think you suck at this parenting gig because if you did you would have not been there to pick him up the second time. xxx

    • katef says

      thank you…. I have been known to tell my screaming baby how lucky he is that I don’t believe in controlled crying because then he’d be lying there howling all on his own LOL. I know that doesn’t help, but it does remind me of what I think is important and why and to keep going…

  2. says

    Oh Kate my little boy has been doing the exact seem thing! I have found that he wants to go to sleep, occasionally displaying that he has wind… he protests a little bit but if I lay him down on his tummy in his cot & leave him, he is falling asleep within a few minutes.

  3. Kate Sins says

    oh kate, my heart is breaking for both of you. you don’t suck at being a parent. I hope it’s a very short phase or has a very simple solution. biggest of hugs, x

  4. says

    Oh God I just wanted to cry with you when I read this post. The more children you have the easier it’s meant to get isn’t it? Isn’t it? That’s what I thought too but our third child has been our biggest challenge and has done to me what you’ve described above. At the time he was sporting a cracker of an ear infection (which I didn’t even think of until the sun was well up).

    You don’t suck at this parenting gig, just some days are tougher than others. Crocodiles and grasshoppers – it’s the mantra of an astute mother x

    • katef says

      Thoughts if you and W simultaneously scare the crap out of me and give me hope… your girl really is delightful in so many ways.

  5. says

    Oh I’m so sorry you both are going through this. It is just so awful when there is something wrong and you can’t figure out what it is or how to help them with it. I feel like a crap mum too when that happens. I’m thinking positive thoughts for you that this passes quickly

  6. Jacquie says

    Oh Kate that’s awful for you both. I can totally relate as I’ve had the same thing with my younger two at various times but I can’t remember anything helpful to tell you now. It’s so frustrating and heartbreaking when they can’t communicate what’s wrong. Hope things settle down for your little man soon. :(

  7. cate says

    I’m feeling your pain, my 4th daughter often behaves in similar way, leaving me at a loss as to how to make her feel better. My conclusion is that she is frustrated by failed attempts to do as her older sisters do and so she has a tantrum. She is mad and doesn’t have the words to express herself and I think that’s why she pushes me away. Eventually she is not so mad any more and that’s when she lets me comfort her- she wants me to help her stop crying. I am choosing to believe that once she can speak better she will no longer need to express her frustration in such a distressing way.
    I hope these thoughts are in some way helpful, and just so you know you’re not alone, I have found myself on the floor in tears with this 4th baby of mine!

    • katef says

      I am beginning to think Noey is angry or frustrated too. He’s just at that point where he is almost walking and can almost reach things or manipulate things but can’t quite get it all together.
      It’s the pick me up, no put me down, no pick me thing that is really doing my head in! Here’s hoping words will help us both!

  8. says

    Hope its just a phase or you figure out what’s wrong asap! Sounds terrible! My bubba is sick for the first time and was the first time last night my cuddles and singing wouldn’t settle her and it was upsetting!

    • katef says

      Nothing worse than when you know they are hurting of feeling yuck and you can’t make it go away… *hugs*

  9. says

    I have had moments with my girls just as you describe. And so beautifully described with such heartfelt love. The feeling of being helpless when they won’t just snuggle into you for comfort is just heartbreaking.
    Big hugs for you both xx

  10. Briana says

    So sorry to hear about your struggles. Have you looked into the possibility of a food allergy. When my little guy was just a couple months old we discovered he was lactose intolerant. Arching his back was one of the biggest symptoms. All the dairy I was consuming (I was breastfeeding) was giving him gas and causing him to have acid reflux. Just a thought. I hope it helps and that you guys get through this quickly. Hang in there

    • katef says

      Food allergy or intolerance has crossed my mind on a number of occasions (I have a friend with a little girl who used to react similarly to some foods) but I can’t for the life of me see any pattern.
      I am pretty sure it is not reflux related as he suffered badly as a new born and my twins still get it from time to time (they are almost 8) and it doesn’t seem the same…. but…. maybe….

  11. L Klein says

    I am not sure how old he is but my 2nd daughter did this and we thought it was colic at the time but now I believe it was reflux. The arching when I tried to hold her and couldn’t console her sounds familiar…..

    • katef says

      Oh you are right… we’ve been through chronic reflux with our twins and again with Noey as a baby and that arching the back thing is a classic sign.
      Noah is 14 months old now and I am pretty sure it isn’t reflux related, though worth keeping in the back of my mind to see if I can see any patterns. Thanks.

  12. says

    I found this age the hardest so far with A (she’s not even 3 yet, so my experience to back up such a statement is very limited!!). She started having tantrums at 12 months and there was nothing I could do. When she got just a little older, her frustration seemed to ease – being able to talk more, communicate more in other ways, and understanding more of what we were saying.

    You don’t suck, it’s just a sucky age in some ways!

    • katef says

      I think you might be right (I hope). He’s at that point when he can almost do so many things. He can almost walk, he’s starting to make some word like noises, he can almost make himself understood… but not quite. Must be kinda a bugger for him too!

  13. says

    Oh Kate that sounds awful. It’s so tough not being able to make it better. I do love the way you record the tough moments in words (I remember your gruelling sleepless night post!). When you’re well out of the baby stage it’ll be so satisfying to look back on the lows as well as the highs, and know that you survived the lot. And that you’re a wonderfully successful mum.

    • katef says

      Yep… you totally get me.

      I don’t blog these things looking for answers, even though I’d really love to find one! I am not even looking for support, though I always know I will find it from my lovely readers and it does help, a lot. I blog these things because even though at the time they are difficult, they are still part of our journey and one day I want to look back and really be able to remember, all of it!

    • katef says

      But I so like to have an answer! LOL
      Even if the answer doesn’t change anything and doesn’t fix anything, I really like to know why!!! For a long time I really badly wanted to know why we had twins (ours are identical so not genetically related, or caused by other things that would make me ovulate twice in a cycle). I know it’s crazy, because knowing why our one fertilised egg suddenly decided to split and make two babies won’t change anything, but I’d still really like to know! LOL

  14. says

    Sounds like a good old fashioned wobbly, Kate. Poor little cherub can’t express himself. Horrible for both of you, but bet those cuddles at the end were just pure divine. Parenting is so bloody hard…

  15. Sarah says

    Ohhh I totally understand this!!! My child is doing the EXACT thing as well. I feel as hopeless as you…

    I agree just being there and when they are ready they are.

    I also recall reading an artcle about growth spurts… not in body (but yes body as well) but also in mind. Literally they wake the next morning with that next stage and something happens which is seen as different but not and then they are confused/upset etc and this is one way they react… Makes sense to me. They learn to deal with it and move on… Never clear what is actually is though. Big help hey!

  16. says

    Now I’m in tears (but that is pretty easy for me when on steroids). I remember those times with my boys. I “should” have known it all too having been a teacher for so long before my boys came along. However the rules at home are NEVER the same!

  17. says

    oh thanks, i have had SUCH a shite day and now, sitting and listening through the window to the concert I wanted to go to – to my favourite song that makes me cry and reading your post that made me cry has been very therapeutic! i have had a bit of that bizzo today as well.
    arg. release, move on, this too shall pass. but thanks for the reminder – this too, shall be missed.