Tuesday, November 23, 2010
To React, or Not?
We are in the thick of toddler life, which means that we are mostly having a lot of fun. Penny cheerfully converses (with me and her dolls) all the live-long day, and she's gotten really good at entertaining herself while I'm cooking and cleaning and doing all of those other things that have to be done. But more than ever, I'm faced with myriad on-the-spot decisions about how to react in any given moment, and it hurts my head. I'm constantly asking myself, "How big of a deal is this, really? What should my reaction be?"
Example 1: Penny is etching the kitchen cabinet with a ball point pen.
Example 2: Penny is constantly sniffing air in and out of her nose to a certain rhythm, even though it isn't running and she doesn't seem to need a kleenex.
Example 3: Penny is dawdling all the way to the car, and once she's in the car, she refuses to get in her car seat, saying, "This how my sit?" as she sits on the cupholders across from her seat. "This how my sit, Mama?"
Example 4: Penny declaring she WANTS to go to time out.
See what I mean? #1 was kind of a big deal, but we'd never actually had a conversation about not scribbling on walls or cabinets before, and since that wasn't some innate kernel of knowledge already stored in her brain, how was she supposed to know? I reminded her that we only draw on paper, not on walls or on cabinets, and she hasn't done it since, nor did she fall apart when she thought she was in trouble, which is an improvement from past experience(s).
#2 drove me absolutely crazy, and she knew it too, which is why she kept doing it. I got her to stop by threatening to use the "booger sucker," which she despises.
#3. This tests my patience to the absolute limit. The dawdling, the messing around, the not getting in her seat. The problem is, I'm usually in a hurry to get somewhere, and then I feel like crap for rushing around all the time and not letting her take her time. Why are we always in such a hurry? Why is it so important to sit right down in her seat? And when she says, "This how my sit?" it is really funny. So I usually try not to laugh go along with it, as long as it isn't raining or snowing on me while I'm trying to get her in her seat.
#4. At the point where I've threatened a time out, and she agrees that it should happen, time out ensues. Call my bluff, will you? Plus I've started adding a minute. Then she's usually ok, as though she really did need a couple of minutes to think about things.
Then there are other thorny issues, like constantly agonizing over whether or not to make her try new things, so she can "be brave," or letting her just be herself. If I intentionally put her in situations she doesn't like, am I forcing her to be someone she's not? How will she know if she likes something if she doesn't try it? Where can I find that balance without adding pressure? This came up at Lagoon, obviously, but there are little things every day, like not wanting to pick a song during toddler group, or not doing something in dance class that everyone else is doing. And I usually just say, "That's fine, you don't have to." Because I don't think I need to be a complete jerk. Because at the end of the day, it's not that big of a deal when you're two. I have to remember that she's only two!
And then there's potty training. We are using cloth diapers 50% of the time at this juncture, which is mostly because I work part time. I'm so tempted to go cold turkey and buy real underwear and have potty boot camp, but the other part of me wants to wait until she warms up to the idea more. But when will that be? If I don't have her try it every day, will she ever want to do it on her own? I have no idea. Will the kinder-gentler approach eventually yield a result, or should I be trying harder to make "potty time" consistent? Do I need to resort to tangible reinforcement with little rewards? I'm not sure I want to go there. Do I even want to push the issue over the break when we'll be traveling a lot in the near future, or should I seize the next 5 days?
Parenting is hard. Note to self: She's only two.