It goes without saying that I love my daughter more than anything in the world. What I find harder to say, explain or describe is what it’s like living with a 2 ½ year old.
I try to be extremely patient. I have read Positive Discipline and understand that a 2 ½ year old simply isn’t capable of behaving herself in the way that we expect of older children. I know I am supposed to be “firm yet gentle,” to remain calm and not let myself get mad.
But even though I am the adult, I am also human. I have my buttons and boy, do they get pushed sometimes—most often when I’m trying to get us out the door in the morning on the way to work/day care.
Here is my exchange with N this morning (as best I can recall). I was scrambling, as usual, while N was doing everything except get ready to leave the house.
Me: N, let’s get dressed and brush your teeth.
N: Mama, you want to play blocks with me?
Me (a working mama feeling guilty): Yes, of course I want to play blocks with you. Let’s play for a few minutes, then clean up and get ready to go.
[We build a tower of blocks and knock it down.]
Me: Okay N, time to get dressed.
[N takes off, running into our bedroom at top speed and hides in the closet.]
Me (usually I play along, but this morning I was in no mood for hide-and-seek): N, come out now or I’m going to get you out.
[N runs past me, back into her room. Somehow we both wind up in the bathroom, as did the blocks.]
Me (still trying to be patient): N, please pick up the blocks and put them back in your room.
[N runs off again.]
Me (getting annoyed): N, come pick up these blocks, please.
[Several more minutes of hide, seek and chase. I am now Officially Upset.]
Me (voice raised): N, Mama is upset that you aren’t listening to me. Come pick up the blocks right now.
[N does not come pick up the blocks.]
Me (in my best Mama-is-giving-you-one-last-warning-tone): N, if you don’t come pick up the blocks right now, I’m going to come get you.
N: Mama, DON’T BE MAD!!
Me (now yelling): Then LISTEN to me and pick up the blocks!!
[N opens her mouth and lets out a full-blown wail. Her dramatic fits go from 0 to 60 in an instant.]
Me (hugging N): It’s okay, let’s both calm down and we’ll pick up the blocks together.
N: Mama, you want to play blocks?
I get most upset when N doesn’t listen to me. Sometimes I don’t know where to draw the line—am I getting upset too soon/often? Should I be more patient? Or am I not putting my foot down enough? Is she intentionally flouting my authority because I am too strict, or because I am not strict enough? Should I handle the whole situation differently? Or is this just a normal tug-of-war with a preschooler?
It doesn’t help that I had one extremely strict parent growing up, whose authoritarian style I do not wish to emulate.
Perhaps the best advice I get is not from a book but from N when she says, “Mama, don’t be mad!” Sometimes she puts her finger on my furrowed, angry brow and tries to smooth it out. Other times she says in a singsong lilt, “Mamaaa, dooon’t beee maaad, beee haaappyy!” and gives me her best cheesy grin. I can’t be upset or angry after that.
Oh, and she’s starting to use my tactics against me. Today she was calling for me to come play with her. I responded, “Mama’s doing the dishes, honey.” The next thing I knew she was in the kitchen, hands on her hips, looking at me with a mad face. “If you don’t come, I will come get you!!” she warned. It was all I could do not to laugh and let myself be carried off to play.
I can SO relate Julie… it is unbelievable how frustrating it can be, and how hard to know the right way to handle it all!!! It’s amazing how it’s different with different kids too- Griffin listened much better than Lily at this age (still does MOST of the time)… The imitation is funny too and you’re right, makes us realize what we are doing! I yelled at Griff when they were in the bath tonight and Lily covered her ears, then started yelling too. I had to laugh and say, I’m sorry I yelled, let’s all stop yelling, OK? Anyway, still wish we lived down the street from each other and could have cocktails every weekend! Miss you lots-
Thank you so much for posting that story—it’s a relief to know we are (relatively) normal! It’s amazing how kids can push buttons that you didn’t even know you had.
Tonight while I was making dinner N was getting into EVERYTHING I didn’t want her to—DVDs, the camera, fingerpaints, etc. She usually plays very well with her toys but tonight she only wanted to play with things she KNEW I didn’t want her playing with. After the third or fourth time, I realized she just wanted my attention. I felt silly that it didn’t occur to me sooner. At that point, I put other things aside and paid more attention to her, and that seemed to help. But it’s hard to know what is going on in the mind of a 2 1/2 year old!
Thanks again for reading and commenting…I love reading your thoughts and reactions…keep them coming! oxo, J.