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S.O.S. Owen

Because I'm already up, I figured I'd write all of my very angry feelings out and hope that one of you has an idea how to help. He woke up at 1:30 demanding he isn't tired and he needs to sleep on the couch, we are just now nearing 4 am and he has been quiet for about ten minutes. What was he doing all this time? Yelling, whining, arguing, going potty (twice), using the classic "moooooooommmm', a hundred times, "I'm not tired" he says. Does he do this every night? Funny you should ask, only since he was about.. hmmm born.

Owen is horrible. And I mean that in the most loving, affectionate way. He can be the sweetest, cutest funniest, most awesome and happy little guy but can so quickly turn into the devil himself.

I don't want to hear "He's three, that's what they do". If you haven't noticed by now, Owen isn't your average three year old. He is absolutely amazing and awful all within the same minute. Won't sleep, throws a tantrum over anything and everything, enjoys being punished, is rude to other adults, the list doesn't stop. It's not the average "hard three year old" it's like freaking World War 3 over here. I teach him to not say hate so I wont say it, but we are close to how much I dislike this Owen. We are at our wits end. I honestly feel like this is why the last two babies died, because I wouldn't be able to handle all of them.

I have been trying to research and read online all about three year old's, their learning process, their behavior, etc. You know, get to know my enemy? All of these articles are for the three year olds that "can't explain their feelings, blah, blah, blah". Well, Owen has always been advanced, not only can he explain in detail his feelings but he can almost make sense of them and try to negotiate his way out of things. The one common trend I'm finding that could be the cause of tantrums is one or all of these-
in which case we are succeeding.

a. death in the family
b. moving
c. spouse working longer hours than usual
d. parent depression or stress

I believe some of his behavior is due to all of these, that's why I'm trying not to be so hard on him, but I still hate it. He won't sleep. Ever since he was a baby, he has never slept through the night. Our bedtime routine has never happened before 10 at night. He won't sleep. We have tried everything. We have tried to do no nap and put him down at eight, a long nap and put him down at 10, nothing works. He refuses to sleep. BUT, he is exhausted. He will take a nap after a long debate on "why our bodies need sleep" and a song and a story and what ever the hell I have to do to put him to sleep without a fight. That usually goes okay, for him, by the end of the nap time routine I'm irritated but he's happy.

Sometimes he sleeps for hours and sometimes for twenty minutes. Then we play and I usually try to wear him out as much as possible. We go to the park, I chase him, he feeds ducks and he runs, a pretty enjoyable time. Dinner is next and he won't touch it, but I'm picking my battles and that's one I don't care about. He refuses to eat dinner with us so why force it? We play inside for a while, do "movie night" which is just watching a movie but it has to have an official title to make it an event he will participate in and food. I try to make this a small deal but inside I'm secretly trying to give him as much as he'll eat so he will hopefully sleep (applesauce, cheese stick, pretzels, popcorn, milk and tonight he had Pringles). Then we start the bedtime routine. By this time it's getting close to 9-9:30 and Chris and I are exhausted. We do a bath, teeth, jammies, in bed and Chris tells him a story. By the end of the story he gives us the usual toddler procrastination game and try's to have Chris stay in his room for "one more minute".

He does, hoping that will be all and then we close the door, but not before him yelling that he "isn't tired and doesn't want to sleep". To which we are so incredibly tired and irritated we just lay down and try to explain things, we calmly give him a sentence or two and walk out to which he responds with the most ugly, horrible, screaming whine I've ever heard. But we can't just let him cry it out because 1.) I can't stand it and 2.) we currently live in the basement meaning he wakes everybody else up. And we will be moving to an apartment so same problem. When the calmness wears out we turn to threatening things like his toys, shows (because Paw Patrol can make or break a toddler), his blankie, his butt. Anything to just have him stop screaming. Sometimes he is so caught up in screaming, I slap his leg to get bring his attention back into this world and he looks at me as if "That's it? That's all you got?". I learned a while ago that spanking won't work for him, the problem? I don't know what does!!

When we follow through with the "no shows", he usually acts better, not great, but the next day (and I'm mean and take them away the entire day) as soon as he earns them back he does the same thing. When we yell, he gets more upset, so that's out. When we are calm he is calm until we leave the room and then he throws the nastiest tantrum. When we spank, he laughs. When we take things away, he doesn't care. Am I missing something? I have to believe he is over-tired. But I don't know how to fix that. I give him plenty of opportunities to sleep. The room temperature is normal, he has enough blankets, we have a white noise machine with a little light and it plays music, I mean if there was ever a way to fall asleep, this is it. He is spoiled. And still won't sleep.

He is constantly grunting and being rude to other people. Using "I don't like you", "You're mean", spitting, whining, and yelling. And when he's mad at me "You're not my mom anymore". Now obviously I'm not entirely offended by this but I have no idea where he learned it and I don't love it.

He throws a tantrum when we clean up, when we do baths, when we eat, when we run errands, when we get toys out to play (seriously), when we go to a movie, basically, I wasn't exaggerating. Everything. When we go to a friends house, when we try to potty train (which he is refusing to do). It's like any kind of change at all, he throws a fit about it. It's not just the classic, we-can't-buy-a-toy-so-he-throws-a-fit (well, he does that too) but he has a problem with everything.

I have tried to let him choose what we do. I push off errands and crafts and whatever else I need or want to do. When I suggest things, he throws a fit but we won't choose what we do or it's something only a toddler would request. Like pet a dolphin. Make a snowman. Things I physically cannot do for him. Lord knows I try. When he asks for the dolphin, I take him to the aquarium. But not before he throws a fit about getting in the car. When he asks for the snowman, I try to explain that there isn't any snow yet but when there is, we can do that. Guess what? He doesn't like that answer. Is he too spoiled? Is there a way to not completely spoil the one and only living child you have? Don't answer that unless you've had more than half of your children die.

I'm finding that when I take the time to look at him with a Christ-like point of view (which is hard) I can tell he is struggling with the losses of our babies. He mentions them all the time. He talks about death and dying all the time. When he plays with his toys the story line is almost identical to ours. The mom and dad are married and mom has a baby in her tummy. Then the mom goes to the hospital in a helicopter and the baby dies. He never fails to leave the helicopter out of it. He mentions that the mommy is so sad. He talks about the boxes they are in. I can't imagine how he perceives this. He must be so confused. He is struggling and I don't know how to help him, because honestly, I don't know how to help myself. I am struggling, therefore he is.

Basically things suck right now. When we are with other people or at the store we look pretty happy and we put on our pretend faces, but inside we are hurting. I'm not saying that when we are home, things are bad. We still play, and laugh and have fun together but we hurt. And we both hurt in very different ways. And Chris is officially in the Fire Academy which means he is gone. So it's me and Owen against the world and we are both fighting to be happy.

So I understand, more than anyone actually, that he is grieving. I understand that he grieves differently than me. BUT, I can't do the not-sleeping-tantrum-throwing-screaming-little boy anymore.  I feel like he is in the "terrible three's" stage but it's magnified by 100 because of the moving, Chris' new job, my stress level and the deaths. We just need help.

Because grieving is exhausting.

I need sleep, he needs sleep. If you have any tips on how to help me help him go to bed earlier, behave better, cope with death, I will gladly accept. But if you tell me this is "normal three year old and it'll pass" I just might not like you. I know it will pass, as what they say most things do. I want to know how to deal with the here and now, not suffer through and celebrate everyday he gets closer to turning four. I like him. I do. I like his awful, hurting, horrible little self. I just want to help and I have no idea how. Because as much as I would like to send him to Grammys house,where he is happiest, that's not realistic. Or is it?


  1. I would highly suggest looking into a child therapist!! I think having someone else talk to him and also talk to you about how to talk to him would be really helpful, because you're right - he senses your sadness and that's a lot for a little boy to understand. Hang in there mama!! He will not always remember you this way or life this way, and it will shape him into a fighter for you and his family.

  2. Oh my gosh. I can't even imagine how hard that would be. I am so sorry. To have to deal with your grief on top of a difficult toddler would be so hard. I don't have any advice to offer really but one thought did come to mind as I was reading it. Maybe you could cry with him and get upset with him and respond to him like he's responding to you. Show him you're having a hard time too and that it sucks that you both have to feel so much. That is probably awful advice...but it's what came to mind. I will be praying for you.

  3. Hi you don't know me I stumbled onto your blog through Instagram when you were pregnant with your sweet Charlotte. Your story broke my heart and I prayed and thought about your family constantly. You are such and inspiration to me and I admire your faith and strength even when you have every reason to not have either. I read this post about Owen the other night and then just my luck my 19 month old decided to wake up at 1 am and keep me up till 5 and the whole time I thought how does she do this every night with Owen?!? I don't know if I have any good advice but I was thinking maybe some sort of reward chart would encourage him. After explaining to him that he can choose to sleep or not but if he stays in his bed and stays quiet he can earn rewards like small ones for every night he does it and maybe work towards a bigger reward after a week or two. I like you know paw patrol can make or break a kid and there are some pretty sweet paw patrol toys out there that may entice him :) also I had a niece who used to wake up early and get out of her bed and my sister in law found this cool kid clock that you can set and it lights up and stuff at whatever time you set and they set it and tell her she can't get out of bed till the lights on it goes off and it works now I know that sounds easy and your little guy might just laugh at you but maybe worth a try along with the reward chart. I totally get your frustration with people saying oh well he will grow out of it. My little guy is a biter and his been kicked out of nursery some weeks and it makes it hard to go to anything with other kids cause he knows how to bite to get his way and people say he will grow out of it but that doesn't help me for the second and third hour of church when I have to walk the halls with him instead of him going to nursery. Anyways like I said I don't know if any of this would be beneficial but it was just an idea. So that was like the longest comment ever from a total stranger for you but just know that I'm sending good sleep vibes your way!
    P.s. I love how straight up you are on your blog no sugar coating. I love the way you write and I think we would totally get along if I knew you in real life, your line about getting to know your enemy made me laugh! Sending you good thoughts from Oregon!

    1. Caitlin,Hi! I think we totally could be friends! Thank you for your advice- truly appreciated. Thank you also for your thoughts and prayers, as we are still in need! :)

  4. i would say therapy for him too. Play therapy with a child therapist is awesome for little kids! Are you doing any therapy? Don't try to be so strong that you don't get the help you need! Antidepressants might be needed for awhile too. I have NO patience when I'm not on mine. And ok, I know you're gonna hate me for this but, try taking him off of gluten and dairy. My daughter has been the same way. She also has ADHD. When we took her off of gluten and dairy it was like she was a brand new child. It's not easy and that first couple weeks sucked so bad but it has been worth it to see the miracle that has seriously taken place in her. Good luck!

  5. Hi, Sarah. I'm Chris Garner's (also known as Bro. G's) wife. He's kept me posted on your journey, and I ask him about you sometimes, because honestly? You've already lived a full life's worth of hope and joy and grief and loss, and the fact that you're still standing, still fighting--even and perhaps especially when it doesn't feel like it--is impressive.

    I struggle with depression, too, and with taking care of kids who aren't the indescribable bundles of joy they were always made out to be in Young Women. I wish we were a little (read: a lot) more transparent about how difficult child-rearing is. I mean, we talk about unruly kids in Relief Society with little winks and pithy one-liners, and everyone chuckles, but some days, I feel like standing up and yelling, "I can't handle taking care of kids, and I don't understand why we're all laughing about it, because it's not funny."

    I wish I had some words of wisdom for you, but I don't. I think the others' suggestion of going to a therapist--and taking Owen to a child therapist--is a good one, but I just wanted to say that bad things happen to good people and that the worst things often happen to the best people because they're in a more advanced life class than the rest of us. And that you're a good mom because you're doing the best you can and want the best for your children. Heavenly Father doesn't ask for more than that.

    P.S. I just remembered that we found SECRETS OF THE BABY WHISPERER by Tracy Hogg helpful. It talks a lot about establishing sleep patterns, and though it's geared toward parents of infants, it might have some tips for teaching your toddler how to sleep.

    1. Krista! Thank you! It means a lot to me that you shared some advice- and about the "not funny" part, I only laughed because I completely agree! haha Thank you

    2. Krista! Thank you! It means a lot to me that you shared some advice- and about the "not funny" part, I only laughed because I completely agree! haha Thank you

  6. Girl, I am sorry! I am my absolute WORST at mothering when I'm tired, so I am having major compassion for you about Owen's sleep schedule. I'm not going to pretend to have a lot of advice. I do have a few friends who are taking their kids and themselves to receive instruction from a therapist after suffering trauma, which you guys certainly have. I know it is helping in each case, so that sounds like a good suggestion from others! I know it is expensive though, so that's hard.

    The best sleep book I've ever found is "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child." It helped me so much. I haven't consulted it in a while, but I like that it teaches how sleep begets sleep, and addresses age-specific problems at many ages into childhood, not just infancy. It has stories from real life families that helped me. Perhaps it could be helpful for you as well. I could mail you my copy if you want! Just send me your address to jamiewakefield1 at hotmail.

    Wish I was close enough to come give you a hug. (And a nap!)

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  8. Maybe I'm the worst mom in the world; but, this little trick has helped Sean & I get Isaac to be before midnight which means he sleeps better (& longer) and we can go to be at a normal time.

    Emergen-C now makes Emergen-ZZZ which has melatonin in it. I know that it helps my friends kids with add/adhd/autism sleep normally; so, one week when I was sure the best answer was to sell him to the circus, I saw it on my way to the checkout. We make 1 packet with a very small amount of water & give half to Isaac & half to Aarilynn. They are asleep within 20 min. Aarilynn is starting to go to sleep really good on her own now - YAY!!!! So, as far as sleep goes - that's our top secret magic bullet. Oh & they love it (berry is better than peach) & call it sleepy juice.

    As far as the rest of the stuff durring the day, have you considered putting him in karate, soccer, gymnastics or anything else physical? If he's like Isaac, he may need that in his life. Another thing, have you considered a dog? The cleaning up poop would suck; but, it would give him companionship & if you get the right breed, it would give him a run for his money which may naturally wear him out for bed time.

    What we learned with Lexi is that strong willed & super smart kids don't care about punishments or rewards. It's like they know that they are still in control & they can find something to do with literally nothing. They need the intellectual & physical challenges. I would look into joy school with some if your friends a couple days a week or head start or preschool. It will stimulate him in new ways & give him a social outlet. Sometimes they just need more structure &/or people.


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