Don’t Hold Your Breath

A good friend of mine told me a while ago that I wasn’t being completely upfront with my bloggy readers.  She said I was holding back on a major element of my parenting saga thus far.  I had mentioned it, sure, but I did not give the significance of this daily drama its due.  So here I am, coming clean about Em and her diva behavior.

It’s not her pouting that is so legendary, although she is quite talented in that regard as well.  Baby girl–who turned two yesterday!!–has such epic temper tantrums that she holds her breath until she literally passes out.  I obviously don’t have a picture of her in the throes of this behavior, since I’m usually more concerned about getting her lungs kickstarted again, but if she keeps this up for another year or so I may just start documenting it for posterity.

She’s been doing this since she was very little.  If it was JDubbs’s turn to put her to bed that night, we all held our collective breaths hoping that she might have miraculously mellowed out overnight and would now allow her Daddy to put her to bed without comment or drama.  More often than not, though, when she realized it was Daddy who was wrapping her in her comfy towel and was about to read her stories, forget it.  She would lose her cool and scream like a newborn until her face, then her lips, then even her gums would turn purple until finally she had done it so long that out of self-preservation, her body would make her lose consciousness so she would breathe.  Then there’s a terrible moment when she really does look frighteningly dead, and then she gasps, her eyes will roll around a bit and she will lay like a limp rag doll while she cries pitifully.  Believe me; it’s awful for absolutely everyone involved.

It used to be that she’d do it only if she hurt herself.  Just like how everyone’s kid does the silent scream that you know is just the calm before the ear-splitting storm, Em would do that until she keeled over since she was about one.  Last summer she, Jax, my mother-in-law and I were at a hot dog stand, sitting at a picnic table, enjoying lunch when Em whacked her head on the side of the picnic table.  She then started doing her trademark breath-holding, but the problem was, she had a hunk of hot dog in her mouth.  She doesn’t always do it until she passes out, but she nearly always gives you a good twenty seconds while she turns eight shades of blue, so I knew I had a small window of time before she inhaled violently and that little hot dog bit flew into her windpipe.  My mother-in-law and I frantically debated the best strategy–we could clearly see it, should I try to reach in and grab it, which could cause me to push it into her throat myself?  We decided against it, and so I flipped Em over onto her belly and started smacking her on the back in an attempt to make the hot dog fall out before she breathed (in this instance, the longer she took to breathe, the better).  Meanwhile Em was absolutely livid that I was a) not sympathetic to her boo boo from the picnic table and was now b) beating the crap out of her for what she perceived as no good reason.  She started flailing and furiously thrashing until finally she breathed and swallowed the damn hot dog anyway.  Holy crap, what an ordeal.

Since then it’s only gotten worse; now she holds her breath for anything that pisses her off.  I look at her wrong and suddenly she’s doing it just out of spite.  She does it if she’s mad, if someone takes something from her, if she’s hurt, if I leave, if it’s JDubbs’s turn to do anything with her–she is a serious diva.  She knows what she wants and will literally injure herself in an attempt to get her own way.  Interestingly enough, our doctors could not care less.  She is not capable of actually hurting herself with this melodrama, unless she falls and hurts herself after the fact.  As long as we make sure she’s safe and not in any kind of danger, we should just lay her down and let her continue this behavior to her histrionic heart’s content.  They said it’s just an attention-seeking device like any other, so the less attention we give her (which would be rewarding her), the better.  Easier said than done when she does it in the middle of a store with kind and concerned grandmother-types hovering in horror as they watch this sweet little girl pass out in front of their eyes.  Or the other day when she did it on the busy main street of Hanover, NH, because I wouldn’t pick her up.  People nearby started getting out of their seats, coming over, asking if I needed anything, when all I really needed was a freaking cocktail because it is so unbelievably embarrassing.  I just have to stand there and wave them off, saying things like, “It’s okay, she just does this,” or “This is her thing, she’ll be fine,” when in reality I look like the world’s worst mother who doesn’t care that her child is near death!  Gee, thanks, Em.  Whatever am I going to do with you?

So now you know–Em is an epic diva, worthy of an Academy Award for her antics and ridiculously alarming behavior.  She nearly gave my aunts simultaneous heart attacks at Christmas when she did it after I ran outside to warm up the car.  I came back inside to a purple baby and four aunts who needed to be reassured, sat down and handed a beer to recuperate from the shock of seeing their great-niece waste away before their eyes.  Has anyone else had a child with this kind of stubborn, outrageous behavior?  Any advice, any suggestions, would be received kindly and with great appreciation.  And now that you know, I’ll be sure to share in the continuing soap opera that is life with this little girl.  Lord help me when she’s a teenager.

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