We are going through a phase at the moment with our two little girls where it seems like they will do anything, almost anything to get both mine and my husband's attention, including injuring themselves. Don't get me wrong I am not talking about anything serious, it’s more small things like tripping on the floor, banging your hand on the table or especially in my four year old's case banging her toe against something.
Nothing to cause serious harm but enough to warrant a bout of crying and more importantly being picked up and hugged.
I didn't question it too much at first but when I started to notice that this was happening every time my husband and I were trying to talk to each other, I started to become suspicious. They really don’t seem to like it when the attention has been taken off them because when I am talking to my husband I am giving my full attention to him (and him to me), so they have to do something, including mildly injuring themselves in order to break up the conversation and get the focus put back on them.
This is happening constantly now, to the point where it is just plain ridiculous at times. It has gotten to a point where we struggle at times to even finish a sentence. I will have started to tell him a story and I have barely gotten two sentences out when we will hear a cry and one of them will come walking in cradling a hand or rubbing their forehead, complaining that they got a bang.
Sometimes it is as simple as - "Dee Dee took my book off me and she won't give it back." Regardless the end result is always the same - we have stopped talking to each other and are back tending to them. I like to think of it as 'self-sabotage', because they will literally sabotage themselves or self-injure in some shape or form in order to get our attention.
The 'injuries' can be very comical at times. Sometimes when my husband and I are talking we will hear a bang or a thud and then a scream. When you take a look into the living room, one of them, normally Millie is rolling around on the floor like a premier league footballer. "What happened now?" one of us will ask to which you are normally met with "I banged my knee" or "I banged my toe….I need a plaster.”
After a quick inspection of the injured area and reassurance that it will not require surgery or any plasters, once again we try to resume our conversation. But it's not easy and honestly at times you need major patience to put up with it.
Another tactic my four year old daughter likes to use is to start emptying the storage drawers filled with their toys onto the floor because she knows this is a big no no and that I will definitely turn around and react. It doesn't seem to matter to her whether it's positive or negative attention, as long as I am reacting to her then she has gotten what she wants.
I could be in the kitchen talking on the phone (yes they even do this when I am on the phone) and all of a sudden I will hear the toys crashing onto the floor. I have to take a deep breath, continue talking to whoever it is, sometimes through gritted teeth, and then when I am finished I walk to her as calmly as I can and make her pick up every toy and put it back in the drawer again.
I sometimes wonder is this worse when you stay at home with your children all day long? Or is it exactly the same even if you are out working and only spending part of the day with them? I am beginning to suspect that it makes no difference either way - that they will probably behave like this irrespective of how long you are with them each day.
My sister works four days a week and she has told me that this happens with her all the time. She has told me that she barely gets through the door in the evenings before the crying starts because somebody has gotten ‘hurt’ or all of a sudden someone isn’t feeling well and they need a big cuddle.
I wish I could say that I’m always calm when my children do this but I’m not. There are times when I absolutely want to roar at them for doing it. It is the most frustrating thing in the world to feel that you cannot talk to anyone continuously without being interrupted and for the silliest of reasons.
But we manage to keep it together. My husband often says that spending the day with a couple of small kids is one of the best psychological torture devices there is - if you can endure that then chances are you can endure anything.