Tantrums

Before I had a child, I had a lot of opinions about how parents could make things easier on themselves, which (surprise!) all turned out to be based on total ignorance and do not work in actual practice. For example, “just don’t make the kid eat if they aren’t hungry” lacks insight into how a moment in time fits into the rest of a 24-hour period: children who do not go to sleep with full tummies do not sleep well, which means you do not sleep well.

But there was one thing I thought that has largely turned out to be correct: if a child is throwing a temper tantrum, just leave the room.

This works! (I mean, it works for now, for my particular child; I am certain that there are any number of children who it absolutely would not work for.) It only works when nobody else is home, because if you have a house full of people and you simply leave the room when your toddler is having a meltdown you are leaving other people to deal with a toddler having a meltdown. But now that Edith and I are on our own, I deploy this tactic with success often.

For example, this morning Edith was lying on her stomach in the kitchen playing with some toys and I noticed an unfamiliar clicking sound, so I hurried right over to see what she had.

She had two big broken pieces of glass.

I knew where they had come from — my mom broke a jar weeks ago, and cleaned up after it scrupulously, but these pieces of glass were from that same jar. I can only assume Edith somehow retrieved them from underneath the refrigerator. I took them away from her gingerly but swiftly and inspected her hands, which had not been cut, and then I sat at a little distance freaking out.

When I had calmed down, I noticed that Edith was throwing a full screaming crying tantrum because I had taken her pieces of broken glass away.

So I went into my room. She immediately stopped crying and a second later, I heard her little feet padding across the floor as she came to see what I was up to.

See? It’s easy, this parenting thing.

Solo

My mother headed back to Tennessee last night, where she’ll stay for a couple of months, so Edith and I are on our own again. Usually my mother babysits for a few hours on Saturday afternoon, which I really rely on. Otherwise, the hours between 1pm and 5pm are somehow 15 years long; there’s a sort of time warp that happens specifically on Saturday afternoons and I never think I’m going to survive it. Today, Edith and I got up from her nap in a fine mood, and then I didn’t know what else to do.

I stared around the house at a loss. I’ve been meaning to try finger painting with Edith, but I couldn’t think of any way to manage it that would end with my trying to clean finger paint off the walls and wood floors all night and I wasn’t up for that. We couldn’t go to the park because it is now nearly 100 here in Texas (in early May; we’re all going to die) and the walk to the park isn’t shaded. The neighborhood pool was out for the same reason. Mom got Edith a little wading pool and I thought about setting that up with the splash pad in the back yard, but in the afternoon, the sun comes up to the back of the house, and I just paled at the thought of all the zinc oxide it would require and trying to get Edith to keep her sun hat on and etc.

Finally, I put the wading pool in the living room and put all of Edith’s toys in it, and she had a fun time throwing them all out of it and back in for awhile.

And then at some point, I opened the front door and she busted past me, shrieking in relief, and when I caught her and dragged her back inside, she wailed as if her heart were broken, so I put her shoes on and we went out there for just a minute. She took off at a flat run and I chased her down the street and around the neighbor’s yard and through the bushes, all the time feeling like we were frolicking on the actual surface of the sun. It was so hot that even Edith got tired after about 20 minutes, but by then it was only half an hour till dinner so we had made it through the hard stretch.

Tomorrow, I’m going to take her to the park first thing right at sunrise when we get up, and then the afternoon is swimming, so I should probably make it to Monday alive.

Shoe Update

We finally found the shoe in the recycling, in case anyone was wondering. I had given it up for lost.

Lost Items

I didn’t realize that one reason having children is so expensive is because you have to buy multiples of everything they need so that you can continually replace their lost items.

Edith loves to toss things out of her stroller when no one is looking, and inevitably on the rare occasions that I check our neighborhood Facebook page, I will find pictures of my daughter’s possessions. I’ve retrieved several in this way (including a very large doll which somehow escaped the stroller without notice and was spotted propped up against a road sign), and also her nanny says that the people who live along their usual beat are familiar enough with them that they will sometimes come out and return something they’d found from earlier. Also, I take a stupid little daily walk and I inevitably find something when I go: yesterday, for example, I retrieved Edith’s sun hat, which was down by the pond.

But now that Edith is taller, we are also losing things inside the house. She can’t reach the highest surfaces, but she can reach some medium-high benches and counters where things accumulate and she can also now open bins, cabinets, and drawers, and as a result, everything is missing all the time. We recently located a spare set of keys that went missing several weeks ago at the bottom of a hamper, so sometimes things turn up. But one of Edith’s shoes is currently in the wind. I know it’s in the house, because she came in with both of them yesterday — I took them off of her, and she immediately picked them up and started running around with them. Edith loves to run around with her shoes in her hands and hand them to me repeatedly in a bid to be taken outside, and I often have to hunt for one, but this time, it is truly not turning up anywhere.

My fear is that she tossed it in a trashcan that then was emptied without anyone seeing it there. I paid 45 fucking dollars for those shoes, and her feet will only be this size for another month. I do not want to replace them now.

Shan’t

It occurred to me today that at this age, the only things I’m asking of Edith is for her to give in to her own biological needs: eat when she’s hungry, drink when she’s thirsty, go to sleep when she is tired. That’s it. That’s what we spend all day wrestling over. It’s not like I’m asking her to learn math yet, or stay home on a school night. I’m just like, “Edith, you’re obviously starving to death, eat some food. Any food.” And she is like:

Unruly

I remember very clearly a certain moment from my first day of kindergarten. We were all assembled on the rug and the teacher was explaining how the year would go. I wasn’t really listening and sensing this, the kid next to me leaned over and whispered “they have a lot of toys back there, you want to go play with them?” I didn’t see why not, so we politely slipped away from the circle and were vrooming around on some plastic trucks when the teacher appeared, and gave us to understand that this was absolutely shocking behavior in its complete lack of regard for social norms and timing. I hadn’t been trying to be difficult; I had assumed that the toys wouldn’t be there if they weren’t for us to play with them, and I had assumed that all the other kids were sitting quietly because they wanted to. (Which is funny, because I now am especially annoyed by those people who assume that those of us who do boring or unpleasant shit do it because we like it, or at least don’t mind it as much as they do, but I digress.)

That was the start of a long and difficult schooling for me.

Baby gym has some segments where all the kids sit in a circle and do exercises or play games or watch a puppet show and Edith is not into any of this circle work at all. I mostly physically restrain her, which is increasingly difficult, but sometimes I just let her go, and today as I was watching her climb to the top of a ramp thingy in the corner while the other kids sat watching a stuffed penguin, it occurred to me that she’s going to have a lot of the same struggles I did. It’s for different reasons, though: I just didn’t understand that there were rules in most situations, and that I wasn’t specially exempt from them, but I was extremely good at sitting and focusing on things when I wanted to. I had no trouble being still or quiet if it happened to suit my purposes. Whereas Edith is so physical that she simply cannot sit still for very long (never a problem I had).

Anyway, this is one example of several ways in which I’ve noticed that Edith and I are similar in aspects of our outward behavior, but I can tell that our internal motivations for it are very different, which I find interesting.

Cups

Edith is off formula, but she still drinks milk out of a bottle at least twice a day. I am trying to wean her off of this, but it’s complicated by her refusal to hold her own vessel. She can perfectly well, but she will not. She wants it to be held for her, up to her mouth, and ideally she would like me to jog along with her as she goes about her business, holding her cup next to her mouth for whenever she’d like a sip on the run.

This doesn’t happen, but I do hold it for her from a sitting position. I’m not tackling the bedtime bottle yet, and I don’t know what she does mid-day. I’m just working on morning cups. We do a straw cup because she won’t both raise her arms and tip her head back to drink, so the most passive drinking experience is most likely to entice her. I also cut the valve out of the straw so she doesn’t have to suck too hard. If I do all that, she’ll occasionally pick the cup up and drink it herself, but far more often, she hands the cups to me. There are two in her playroom every morning: water and milk.

She wants to drink some of the milk right away, in my lap (which she throws herself into with a delighted little scream laugh), because she wants me to hold and cuddle her while she has her morning milk, and frankly as long as she keeps doing this, I will oblige her. I would be happy to hold her while she has her morning coffee when she’s 25; I’m not going to be the one to curtail this behavior.

But after she’s had a few mouthfuls and is off playing, it’s as if the very presence of the cups is annoying to her, so she continually hands them to me. I don’t know what she wants me to do with them. If I put them away, she asks for more milk, but if I try to leave them anywhere at all, she hands them to me again. I think she just wants me to….hold them until she wants them again?

It’s hard to describe and sounds kind of weird, but her handing me these cups is extremely annoying. Like SO IRRITATING. Probably ten times a morning, I say “I swear to god, if you hand me those cups one more time…” to which she immediately replies, “oh, here’s these cups, found them again, can you take?”

What I want to happen is for the cups to sit peacefully on a corner of the rug, and when she wants to have a drink, she simply helps herself. This seems unlikely ever to happen at this point.

Mornings

5:20am: Toddler shouts to be released from pack-n-play, I put her in my bed. She immediately begins to dance on my head and step on my hair.

5:22am: Place toddler on floor, lie prone as she retrieves and hands me every available object in bedroom. Collect on bed: iPad, dirty laundry, multiple pacifiers, diapers, giant bottle of lotion, hairbrushes and so on.

5:35am: Foot race to the bathroom. I win and so get to pee as fingers scrabble beneath the door.

5:36am: Hysterical sobbing as I change her diaper instead of proceed directly to getting her breakfast.

5:38am: Breakfast is ready, but she is now busy emptying all the dresser drawers into a small mountain in the bedroom, and taking some into the shower and others into the other rooms of the house according to some precise but unclear system of distribution.

5:50am: In high chair, flinging Cheerios. All other presented food is roundly rejected, only Cheerios are acceptable and they are mostly acceptable when airborne.

5:55am: Released from high chair, eating Cheerios off floor.

5:58am: Emptying the recycling, moving the high chair to the other side of the kitchen.

6:00am: All noise-making toys turned on for the day. Kitchen dancing and singing, Cheerios crushing into dust beneath her triumphant feet.

6:05am: I am sitting on the playroom floor and am now being handed everything else in the house: sippy cups of water and milk, multiple books, everyone’s shoes, my car keys, wallet, floor Cheerios, toys, items from the recycling. I begin to look like this:

6:10am: She is momentarily distracted, I hide on the couch. This works!

6:11am: It did not work, now she would like to be on the couch also.

6:12am: Frantic couch laps, hysterical laughter. Pride goes before a fall, and I warn her.

6:13am: She has fallen off the couch. Screaming beyond anything imaginable.

6:15am: She would like back on the couch again. I issue another warning.

6:16am: She has fallen off the couch again.

6:20am: Disappears into the bedroom, all is quiet.

6:25am: Too quiet.

6:26am: She has figured out how to open the tupperware drawers under the sink and is investigating a cardboard box of replacement razors.

6:30am: I am interrupted from shocked contemplation of my horrible parenting and the fragility of skin by her crawling sweetly into my lap and cuddling. Momentarily touched, then realize she has taken her epic morning shit.

6:31am: Attempt to change diaper while she flings herself about and grabs at her befouled diaper to throw it at the wall.

6:33am: Closet time. She would like to empty my dirty laundry from the bin and spread it throughout the house and she begins to scream because she cannot get it open. I oblige her.

6:40am: At some point I left my coffee cup sitting on the carpet, discover it now, a small lake.

6:41am: Sop coffee from carpet while being handed cups, shoes, keys, books, dirty laundry, clean laundry, recycling, chunks of fruit unearthed from somewhere, etc. Handing goes on and on, I retreat to various rooms, and am still handed things, eventually I wind up cowering in a corner pleading to not be handed anything else. My boundaries are not respected.

6:45am: She would like to be picked up and held at the window to suck on the blind chords. It takes us a lot of hot-and-cold screaming to establish that this is what she wants.

6:50-7:10am: Holding a 22 lb. toddler in my quavering arms as she blissfully sucks on the small knob at the end of the blind chord.

7:11am: She is suddenly starving, emergency! But now deeply hates every possible food, including Cheerios.

7:25am: Dancing and crowing atop my prone form.

7:45am: The nanny’s key turns in the door. Edith prances happily down the hall squealing in delight. I run into my office and shut the door firmly.

Outmatched

Um, so when a pre-verbal toddler becomes physically stronger than you, how do you change their diaper and clip their nails and brush their teeth and make them go to bed and get their shoes on and etc?

I can’t find this covered in the parenting books and it’s rapidly becoming the situation around here.

Hair

Edith’s hair is growing out and it now comes thickly down over her forehead to a point that I periodically sweep sideways out of her eyes, and it also kicks out over her ears and at the back of her neck.

I was trying to figure out who her current hairstyle reminded me of, and then all at once I had it: