Toddler Parenting: “Some Days are Aces, Some Days are Faces, Some days are 2’s and 3’s”

pumpkin patch 09Thank you Ben Kweller for the amazing poetry in your lyrics. I love Ben’s entire Changing Horses album.  Every song.  And these lines from his “Fight” song might be my favorite:

“I’m like my grandma
Short but I stand tall
Playing every single card that’s dealt to me
Well you know some days are aces
And some days are faces
Well some days are 2’s and 3’s.”

I wouldn’t call the last 24 hours a 2 or a 3, but we certainly experienced a few less than face cards beginning with: Izzy, our one-year-old, pooping on Mark’s lap while they were both nudie-rudy in the tub and Mark handing me the small log to dispose of.  Next in line:

— The dryer breaking down while in the middle of laundry. Two loads of wet clothes now lie in our bathtub filled with water until the appliance repair man arrives tomorrow afternoon. Mark’s solution for avoiding moldy clothes and sheets.  Then:

— My panicked realization that our one rear-facing car seat for our little bitty, 17 pound 13 month-old was in Mark’s far-away car the moment I had to leave the house to be on time to pick up our three-year-old from preschool. Solution: throw in the spare front-facer and hope for the best.  I shook it off remembering that growing up in the 70s, I rode on my mom’s lap.  No one had car seats!  And last but not least:

— Sucky naps.  Like every parent on the planet, I find profound beauty in the faces of my sleeping children.  My heart aches a bit whenever I see my girls sleep. I gaze at them in complete awe that they exist. Such sweet angels. I feel so blessed.

AND when they nap in the afternoon, I tend to hear myself exhale for the first time all day too.  When they both start and finish a 2 hour nap together, I high-five myself.  I am either able to sleep too (wahoo!) — or to actually get shit done.

Today, I made the mistake of getting attached to that 2 hour stretch of time to get on top of my to-do list.  Yeah, not so much. Sadie down at 2:00. Izzy bouncing around (literally) until 3:00 when she finally fell asleep after my fourth nursing session.  Sadie up at 3:15.

I didn’t handle it well.

“Sadie, how about you play or work by yourself for a bit until I finish my work?”

“No Mommy.  I want you to read me these books.”

“I would really love to read you those books in about 20 minutes.”

“When is 20 minutes?”

“Here, how about you enjoy looking at the pictures for a while and then we’ll read together.”

“Has it been 20 minutes?”

“Not yet sweet girl.  Hey, did you notice that I put some more dress-up clothes in that basket for you?  What do you think about trying some of those on for fun?”

Dumps them all on the floor.  “No.”

Her next move.  Pressing keys on my laptop.  “Don’t.”

Trying to shut it off.  “Stop that please.”

Slapping the lid down on my hands.  “Sadie!!” Pushes me past über patience every time.

“STOP IT RIGHT NOW!” I spurt. “I ought to spank your bottom.”

What? Really? Did I say that out loud? And am I really writing this story  down on Attachment Mama?  Yeah, I said it. I did not spank. Won’t. Ever. But I said I wanted to.

(And, to my dear mom who felt sad when reading this post that I perceived her as a bad mom for spanking, I’m sorry! I have no memory of it and don’t feel scarred in the slightest. Parents were guided then that spanking was good parenting. A generation later, we’re guided not to. I know my mom didn’t and doesn’t love me one ounce less than I love my girls.)

Now back to my story of what was pushing my buttons to think about spanking in the first place….

After my stern threat to do something she has no concept of, Sadie redirects herself. She must have been responding for the moment to my tone. She climbs into the crib that we use for a baby changing station. And begins hyper mattress jumping. A favorite activity usually shared with pals.

I think, “Sweet.  This will buy me the 15 minutes I need to finish.”

“Mommy, what’s this?” she asks, stopping her feverish jumps to pick up a tube of calendula ointment.

Not fully paying attention because I’m attempting to finish an email (why? why? I know better…..), I say, “That’s calendula ointment honey – for Izzy’s buns when they’re chapped.”

In thirty seconds or less:  Tube open. Ointment fully slathered in little hands. Wiping and rubbing of said ointment all over crib railing.

I take a time out from the computer, choose to remain calm and explain.  “Oh Sweetheart.  I told you the calendula is for Izzy’s bottom – not for rubbing on furniture.  Please stop.”

Rapid-fire squeezing of more, more, more into hands.  More furniture “polishing” and me  — done.

“I said stop, and when I tell you to stop doing something, I want you to listen to me!”

I then swoop her up, take her downstairs and attempt to hand her off to her father, who – in the middle of a call with a potential client – waves us away with fervor.

“OK,” I think.  “Be with this.”

I suggest we run and skip.  She completes 8 laps back and forth down our hallway and I join for two.

I was then reminded of a few great pointers from the last workshop I took with Carrie Conte on toddlers.

ONE:  Toddlers have a few critical times of the day when they really need your focus to be on them — to “fill their cup” with your love, play, and attention.  This is immediately following any extended period of separation — INCLUDING sleep.  So right after they wake up, not a good time to suggest independent play time.  When you take the time — even just 10 minutes —  to love them up with gusto during these post-parent separation times, they are less inclined to try and get your attention in a negative way.

TWO:  When emotions get big for you or for your toddler, talk about it.  Help them to process what happened. Talk about your feelings.  Their feelings.  Go back over the scene.

I take her hand and say, “Let’s talk about what happened upstairs. I’m sorry for saying what I did about wanting to spank you.  I won’t ever do that.  I was very frustrated because I work when you sleep and I wasn’t able to get my work done when you woke up early. And you were frustrated because you really wanted to play with me.  I love you and I’m sorry.”

Her mind -blowing 3 year-old response:

“Mommy, I’m sorry for the kweam on the kwib.” And then she hugged me. Super tight.

An amazing turn in our mother-child card game today. Truly an ace in my book. It was a precious moment in time where I witnessed the high impact of modeling the behavior that I seek in my child.  Thank you to Alfie Kohn and Montessori for emphasizing how critical this is.

Next time nap time goes haywire and Sadie wakes up early, I choose to scoop her up with joy and enthusiasm at the opportunity to have special one-on-one play time together which she has gotten so little of over the last year since sharing life with a baby sister.

And as for getting work done? Well, there’s always 9 pm to midnight.

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2 Responses to “Toddler Parenting: “Some Days are Aces, Some Days are Faces, Some days are 2’s and 3’s””

  1. tinka greenwood says:

    Monica-I’m so proud of you!! This is amazing-you are amazing. You are a talented writer and mommy and it is an honor to know you.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for visiting my site Tinka!! I inadvertently hurt my mom with this post so I updated the article in hopes to assuage that.
      I hope I can make a good living some day writing about what interests me. May this web site take me there! Much much love to you and your sweet family. And happy belated birthday October 9. Right? Same day as Mark.

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