Friday, August 27, 2010

Your Ego Has Left the Building

A conversation from the other day:

P: (Scowling)

Me: What’s wrong, baby?

P: Mommy! No like that green shirt. (Shakes her head for emphasis)

Me: (Pointing to my green tank top) This one? Really? Well, Mommy loves this shirt. (Its tent-like qualities are not to be underestimated, I think to myself.)

P: NO LIKE IT! Take it OFF! Take it off the green shirt! (She tries to pull my shirt up over my head)

Me: Mommy likes it, so Mommy is wearing it!

I pull the hem of my shirt back down. A few minutes pass.

P: Mommy?

Me: Yes?

P: Where’s Mommy’s blue shirt? Like the BLUE SHIRT! CHANGE IT!


I bring this up not because it’s confirmed what I’ve long suspected—I’m not fooling anyone with the “tunic” style tops I favor these days—but to illustrate for you the recent diva-ish mood that has settled over our household.

It all began about four weeks ago with the start of potty training, which was going great. I couldn’t believe my luck that she seemed to totally get it after only three days of accidents. So advanced, I thought, as visions of a teenaged P delivering her valedictorian speech in a cap and gown, an adult P in a lab coat surrounded by other lab coated-colleagues furiously taking notes, an elderly P accepting a medal at the Karolinska Institute scrolled through my mind like one of those old time-y slideshow dioramas. I couldn’t understand what all the potty training fuss was about; it had only taken me three days and a handful of M&Ms. I guess it’s just that easy when you have a great kid, I thought. (So smug!)

Then one lovely morning about a week later, P decided that this toilet thing, it’s not for her. She would rather use the floor, thankyouverymuch. There was no amount of coaxing or M&M pushing I could do to get her back on that little singing potty. As my frustration grew with the situation, so did hers (see previous post).

So I backed off. Out of ideas and chocolate, I did something I thought I’d never do. I asked her what she wanted, for once:

Me: Do you want to wear your diaper today?

P: DIAPER!

Me: Got it. Diaper. Okay, let’s put your shorts on.

P: NO! No shorts! NO CLOTHES!!!

This newfound power, of course, led to her objection to everything, not excluding other people's wardrobe or hairstyle choices. Even the things she used to gladly participate in were suddenly abhorrent to her: bath time, lunch, listening to music. Her new favorite word became “NO!” and it was rarely delivered at an “indoor voices” volume. It took me a few days to figure out the trick was to give her options, let her make some of the decisions, allow her some responsibility of her own. The good news is, it seems to be working. Something as small as picking which color sippy she drinks her juice from each morning or letting her choose her hair clips goes a long way.

As strange as it sounds, I had been so used to making all her decisions for her, I'd forgotten that she’s an actual person with her own set of opinions and frustrations. This happens every couple of months: just when we think we’ve got it all down pat, she approaches a developmental milestone, and without fail, we’re stunned that she’s changed, that our little routine needs tweaking, if not a complete overhaul. It's both gratifying and humbling to realize that sometimes she is the teacher and we are the students.

I suppose all of this is our initiation into the unfairly named Terrible Twos. I can’t predict how it will go, but I can say that this little girl has inspired me to be more present and tuned in than I ever have been. And that doesn’t seem so terrible to me.

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