Earlier this week, I was discussing the Two Year Sleep Regression (post to follow on THAT, trust me) with one of my best friends. Her daughter is a few months younger than Miles, so some of the things we’ve experienced in our house haven’t quite made it to her house yet, but we’ve both gone through those moments of Temporary Toddler Insanity that really throw you for a loop. And because we’re both first-time parents, each “What about the bathtub thing?” was met with a resounding “YES, but what about the carrot thing?!” First-time parents are always thrilled to find out they aren’t alone in these experiences; we need someone else to understand our experience with such toddler-trauma inducing things as round foods (you know: peas, grapes, wagon wheel pasta…) Having others in your parenting village who know exactly what you’re talking about is crucial, primarily to your own sanity.
Becoming a parent should qualify you for an honorary degree in Child Psychology. Like, a DOCTORATE. I’m not sure that non-parents are aware of the mental skills and fortitude we as parents develop in a relatively short amount of time. Some of our favorite moments of Temporary Toddler Insanity, and how we met each challenge, as follows:
When we had our first “cool snap” (using the term loosely because it’s Florida) in late September, I knew it was time to put Miles in long sleeve pajamas. The kid had slept in long sleeve pajamas from the moment he entered this world up until July of last year, when the weather started getting warm and I thought he was old enough for short sleeves. Little did I know that a two month gap in long sleeves would provide enough time for Miles to forget that these were still pajamas, and not bear traps for his arms. Oh sure, we could get the bottoms on, but when it came to the top? FORGET IT. Upon viewing the long sleeved torture device, Miles promptly erupted into a mountain of NONONONONONONONO, accompanied by writhing around like a snake. Evan suggested cutting the sleeves off his new jammies; I refused, because the jammies were cute, and he would ADJUST. Solution? He slept in his jammie bottoms and tank top for a week, until I finally got the bright idea to hide his pajama top until it was too late (you know, already over his head). Sure, the first couple times we got the jammie top on, he pulled his arms through the sleeves and yelled at me (mostly because his arms were then stuck and immobile, something I mentally bookmarked for future use), but once he understood the concept of warm and cozy, he relented and wore them.
Then we went through a phase of refusing to wear specific jammies: NO MONSTERS. NO DINOSAURS. NO RACCOONS. And so, we wore Christmas jammies for a week in October. Stripes seemed to be permissible. I would periodically talk about how much FUN the raccoons or monsters or dinosaurs would be, and we were slowly able to add those back into the nighttime wardrobe. Although sometimes he still refuses the dinosaurs (but they are ALSO long sleeved, making them a two-fer of disaster).
Our overall solution: Just put the kid in something that he’ll sleep in and throw an extra blanket in his bed if necessary. We pick and choose our battles, right?
When Miles was just over a year old, we went through two weeks in which the bathtub was no longer the bubble filled splash zone of endless fun, but a vat of hot lava and pointy sticks. This kid is a fish; you would normally have to beg him to get out of the tub, and here we were with a child who cried at the mere sight of running water. All baths were given with him standing up (of course we were holding on to him, we aren’t totally clueless). All scrubbing was announced prior to commencement to avoid any shrieks of surprise and panic: “Okay Miles, time to wash your toes! Whee, how much fun!” (Note: It was not fun). We created songs, dances, routines. We added a thousand toys; we removed 900 of them, found a few that worked, including a turkey baster and a marinade brush. We did bubbles and no bubbles. Maybe he was afraid of the loofah? Washcloth it is. Eventually, we developed an elaborate pre-bath routine of choosing our bath toys for the evening, then hurling them into the running water. And POOF, bath time was fun again.
Miles has been a great self-feeder since about 14 months old. Give him his yogurt and a spoon, and he was good to go. Then suddenly, we only wanted to throw our spoon across the dining room. Once it was gone, drama ensued because HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO EAT MY YOGURT WITHOUT A SPOON?!
Easy solution: The kid gets four spoons with his snack and meals. DONE. I’m not Emily Post; I don’t need to teach the kid to eat with his salad fork and keep his elbows off the table, all I need is for him to get the food to his mouth, in whatever fashion is currently working.
If you have kids in preschool, you’ve probably learned that their behavior and choices at school will differ from those at home. For example, Miles will eat heaping piles of Brussel sprouts at school. At home, he will refuse all things green. This doesn’t stop me from serving the vegetables, but the response was usually one of, “Get this slop off my plate, woman!” as he threw beans, peas and broccoli at the cat. If he doesn’t want to eat it, well it’s not allowed to be on his plate. And he will not eat any of the other foods until the unacceptable peasant vegetable is removed from his sight. I knew that I would never stop serving him the vegetables, because something keeps telling me that ONE DAY he will eat them again. The concept of “leaving it on your plate if you don’t want to eat it” was not understood by my son. And so, when dinner rolls around, we give Miles an empty napkin next to his plate where he is allowed to place anything he isn’t interested in eating. Here, he can “No, mama…no broccoli” all he wants, and it keeps the mess to a minimum without giving me yet another thing to wash (because parents, do we not wash ALL THE THINGS ALL THE TIME?) Even if I just serve leftovers, there are 487 dishes and utensils waiting for me when we’re done (including the six spoons under the piano). So you figure out not only what works, but what is efficient.
Parenting can be both a physical and mental game; you will become an incredibly adept problem solver for even the most mundane tasks (like OMG PUTTING ON SOCKS GET THEM OFF MY FEEEET!) You will be like Mr. Miagi and Dr. House combined into one Child Psychology Ninja Wizard. You will be both baffled by the solutions that work and amazed at your ability to even devise those solutions in the first place. Then you will eat cookies in celebration.
Doctorate in Awesome Momming,