Decisions, Decisions

I’ve had one of those days with L where, you know, I nearly lost my cool a couple of times. Really it’s been a lovely day: the weather here in NorCal has been utterly perfect of late, and we spent a long morning playing at our favorite park. Then I pushed L a little too hard by attempting a market trip on the way home when it was too close to naptime. When L dropped to his knees in the middle of the street and refused to go on, I found myself feeling pretty weary. The thing about two-year-olds: they’re not rational human beings. As my friend C says, their brains head in one direction a while and then completely short out and/or go in a different direction; there’s not a lot of follow through. So even though we had a deal–the groceries would ride in the pram, and L would walk, since Mama has a busted rib–L decided to change the deal at the last minute and get seriously annoyed about the pram sitch and thus, throw a mini-fit. I can’t remember my tactic, but disaster was averted, we made it home, and L slept for three hours, so, all was well that ended well.

But. Of late I find myself repeatedly…repeating myself. “L, please put these toys in the basket…L, please put these toys in the basket… L, please put these toys in the basket…” until I eventually threaten something like, “Put the fucking lotion in the basket!” (Kidding.) B and I discussed it last weekend and agreed that it’s been a stress of late, L’s REFUSAL TO DO WHAT WE WANT HIM TO DO and our FAILURE TO COME UP WITH A GOOD SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM. I know, I know, I push him too hard. He’s two, right? And, in case you’re wondering, yes I DO use all the solutions in the handbook of two-year-olds: I give him warnings, I set clear boundaries. Yet L is the kid who, when you have very carefully established that something is happening in two minutes and then you say, “Okay, L, it’s been two minutes, time to put the toys in the basket” holds up his hand and says, “FIVE more minutes.” And will argue with you until he’s blue in the face (or you are).

I should insert here that my kid can be one of those infuriatingly nice children who drives other parents crazy. As a general rule he’s not aggressive; he shares, usually; he sleeps well; he can articulate what he needs; and he has been known, when seeing another kid in distress over a toy, to just give the toy to that child. He appears often to have empathy and he’s really, really sweet. Over the weekend, in fact, L pitched a fit in front of his aunt and uncle and Aunt C said, “wow, this is rare, huh?” She’d never seen him pitch a fit before. For a second I thought about lying. “Yeah, he never does this. Ever.” But as I am compulsively honest I had to admit that since L has turned two fits are pretty much an every day occurrence. Generally, I don’t sweat it. But his whole thing about refusing to do what we ask him to do has been seriously bugging me, maybe because I have this rib thing going on, and laryngitis, and B is working late all week. When your kid pushes you over and over, and you’re already tired, you just feel defeated and like he must be the most ornery kid in the world.

This is not L.

And then it occurred to me. L is just like his father. B, my husband, may be the sweetest man in the world. I mean, total love muffin. Kind even when I’m acting like a real pain. Giving. Affectionate. And the most argumentative SOB you have ever met (he says the same about me, but we know better). His parents report that he used to say, “You’re not the boss of me.” Even now, if I say something to B like, “Ooh, you know what you could do for me–” he is likely to set his jaw and give me the bilious eye. HATES to be told what to do. And L is, apparently, very much his kid.

And now I know what you’re thinking: who does like to be told what to do?

Eek–me. I do. I admit it. At least three times a day I wish someone would waltz into my house and tell me what to do. I swear to God. I’d like advisers in the following areas: child-rearing; career-development; house-cleaning; and cooking. I’d like someone to come along and tell me what I’m doing wrong exactly with L, and how to minimize onion smell in my house, and which magazines are likely to publish me, and how I can get rid of that nasty mold in my bathroom. I know this makes me a consummate dork, but I’m comforted by this myth that there are experts out there and that I can benefit from them, that they know better than I do.

Something tells me that B, and L, would rather figure those things out on their own. Anima, animus.

Thank you to everyone for your well-wishes. I have costochondritis, which basically means the cartilage separated from the bone on one of my ribs. As L would say, owee. In fact, he offered to kiss it the other day. See what I mean? As long as you don’t demand that he kiss it, he’ll very lovingly do it on his own. Hmm, maybe I’m onto something.



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  1. slowmamma

    OK, I’m one of those parents who looks at little saint L with a hint of jealousy, particularly when my kid is the displaying the behavior of an antisocial brute. But I can sympathize nonetheless. Whatever the weakness, it is hard to accept that all too often our ability to change it is extremely limited .

  2. susiemeserve

    See that’s what I’m saying! He leads you to believe he’s a saint, but then the truth comes out…

  3. Shawn Kilburn

    You know, a book that gave me a lot of useful perspective when I was at my wits end with Max:

    Your Two-Year Old: Terrible or Tender by Louise Ames

    Yeah, I know, I know, it’s got a pretty hokey title, but it has the benefit of being SHORT. Also, I got a lot of nice insight from it, and when I started to operate from that perspective, things did get easier with him. Or maybe it was just me changing my attitude. 🙂

    But that’s me: I read books to understand the world, and this book helped with one small piece of it.

    I’ve quite enjoyed reading your thoughts on parenting. Good stuff!

  4. Mwfriedman

    I had someone point out to me once that toddler behavior in an adult would be diagnosed as bipolar disorder. Welcome to the Twos! They don’t call them terrible for nothin’.

  5. Claire Kiefer

    I love reading your blog. 🙂 So sorry you’re going through this rib thing–yikes! Let me know if I can help (specifically if you need a break & a free babysitter for a few hours, or any other way, really). The only piece of comfort I can offer is that it gets better. Milo was a huge pain in the ass when he was 2.5 and now he’s way easier (his mama says the same). He’d throw these monster zombie fits that seriously threatened my ear drums, and now he’s relatively easy.

    Seriously hit me up if I can do anything to help! xo

  6. Pamela Meserve

    Omigod, do you mean to say that Leo is going to grow up to be just like his father????

  7. An Honest Mom

    First, I totally feel you. Second, the only advice I have, which I’m sure you’ve already gotten and already do, is to choose your battles (its harder to MAKE a 2 year old clean up, more doable to MAKE them put on a diaper) and to not get sucked into a discussion about whether it’s time to stop playing with the garbage truck or not. I get sucked into these conversations w/ J sometimes and they suck.

    The better times are when I say, “It’s time to stop playing with that now. Do you want to put it down by yourself, or do you want me to help you? I’m going to count to 10.” And then I count. And if he doesn’t do it, I walk over and manually get him to do it, while keeping him from hitting me. Good times, right? Seriously, though, I’m often impressed by how not upset he gets when I “make” him do it. And I feel just fine (fine as in “this is absolutely not in any way violent”) about physically moving him, taking something out of his hand, etc. if I’m in a calm, firm place when I do it. The key, for me, has been really deciding in my head that I AM THE DECIDER. It has been decided that we will stop playing this game now. So I will now enforce said decision. It is not up for discussion. I’m happy to talk about how he feels sad about it being over, but I don’t negotiate. And it’s been such a relief.

    I only feel like I can give this advice right now cause I’m experiencing one of those peak Mama Mojo times where I feel like I actually know what I’m doing…I wrote about it a few weeks ago:
    Lord knows next month, I won’t have any effing clue what I’m doing. So I might as well enjoy it while I feel like I do…

  8. B

    Being told what to do is all well and good in theory, but you most certainly do not like being told what to do in practice. Maybe if you ever found one of your mythical “experts,” you’d be able to stomach it. But, as you noted in your post, such things are myths. There’s always some hint of doubt that can be exploited by our over-active imaginations, and the “expert” advice is suddenly questionable and we need to find a second opinion. I’m just sayin’.

    And as to L and I preferring to figure it out on our own? From the perspective I just expressed (that you aren’t ever going to find an expert you trust enough to tell you how to raise your kid, pursue your professional goals, create art, etc.), figuring it out on our own seems like the better long-term course for a world notably lacking in both experts and certainty. Of course, as far as house cleaning and cooking, I’m sure we can find an expert to trust (perhaps because those areas don’t have as much riding on them?).


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