Cocky mother humbled by 2-year-old’s behavior

My Parenting Perspectives column from April 20:

Compared with some other 2-year-olds, my daughter tends to be pretty well-behaved.

Eve sits in my lap during circle time, even as other children wander around. We usually make it through half a church service before she gets really antsy. While in the grocery cart seat, she keeps her hands mostly to herself.

Good behavior for a toddler is quite relative. And when Eve is the one setting the curve by sitting still or being quiet, I tend to get a little cocky.

Like when a particular boy starts acting up at story time. Or a mom in the diaper aisle of Target can’t get her toddler to stay in the red shopping cart. I sympathize with the parent dealing with the outburst, but inside I sometimes get this smug sense, like, “Ha, ha, my kid wouldn’t do that.”

And. Then. She. Does.

As Eve and I left her day care the other afternoon, I saw her little friend’s dad trying to persuade his son out of a pint-sized race car in the front yard.

Eve had put on her shoes and her coat without incident, and I expected a drama-free stroll to my car.

Cue smugness.

Then Eve ran over to another riding toy in the yard. Like the boy, she wouldn’t get out.

I asked her to get out. I told her to get out. I tried luring her with promises of graham crackers and milk.

A slow-speed chase ensued around the yard as she pedaled away from me, shouting, “No! I drive!” I was utterly flustered, my parenting toolbox emptied.

The day care dad smiled at me knowingly as he finished buckling his son into their full-size car in the driveway.

“It’s so great that we’re all in this together,” he said, noting how similar the kids’ expressions and antics were. No smugness. No sense of parental superiority. Only empathy and understanding.

I hauled Eve to my car, having finally wrenched her away from the plastic steering wheel. She was kicking and screaming. I was regretting my flash of arrogance. Cocky mom had been taken down a couple notches.

We are all in this together. We can acknowledge and cheer our children’s good conduct. But another 2-year-old’s temper tantrum doesn’t make me the better mother.

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Sherri Richards is mother of a 2-year-old daughter and is an employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com/.

Looking for terrific part of the twos

My Parenting Perspectives column from March 16 …

This week, we enter the “terrible twos.” Eve’s second birthday is Friday.

I’ve been turning that alliterative phrase around in my head a lot lately, wondering why this particular year of life has been deemed so dreadful, and why it’s inspired someone to create an online calculator that counts down the number of days, hours and minutes until your child isn’t 2 anymore.

Obviously, there are the temper tantrums. We’ve been dealing with some of that “terrible” behavior for months.

Eve had her first full-blown public meltdown at 18 months, pulling my hair so hard tears sprung to my eyes. We left the children’s clothing store straight away, leaving the size 2T jeans I’d picked out in the middle of the aisle.

To think the willful behavior begins at 2 is naïve. And to declare an entire era of a child’s life “terrible” is awfully defeatist. I feel like it sets parents up for a year of torment.

There is a lot of wonderfulness that happens during the second year, too. And it all stems from the same place: a toddler exerting her independence.

The twos are a time of exploration and learning, of testing boundaries and limits. Toddlers test you. They say “no,” repeatedly. They scream. And hit. And bite. It’s frustrating, at best.
Other times, this exploration is awe-inspiring. I’m amazed every day by what my daughter absorbs.

The way she mimics me talking on the phone or putting on lipstick. How she can point out landmarks while we drive around town. She now remembers things that happened days, even weeks ago.

As each week passes, she’s able to do something she couldn’t do the week before, like take off her coat by herself or sing another nursery rhyme.

Sure, there will be battles of will this year. Tempers will flare. Tears will flow. I need to establish routines, set limits, discipline inappropriate behavior. We’ll tackle potty training, a messy hurdle for every new parent.

But I’m choosing to look at this optimistically. My toddler is developing, learning about the world and herself.

Is that so terrible?

Sherri Richards is mother of an almost 2-year-old daughter and employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com

Purse Revelations

If a mother ever wants to know how much her toddler understands, just hand her your purse.

Eve was digging through mine while I mixed up a batch of bisquits for supper. She brought each item she found into the kitchen, along with a new understanding of just how much she knows.

First, she set my handheld digital recorder (I use it for work) on the counter. “I want to hear Eve count,” she said. Several weeks ago, I’d used it to record her counting to 10 (you can hear it at http://moms.inforum.com) Apparently she remembered that, and truly understood what the slim white device does.

Next, she brought me a … how do the commercials describe it? … a feminine hygeine product. “This for Mommy in bathroom?” “Yes,” I nodded, dumbfounded. “Mommy does use that in the bathroom.” Someone’s paying way more attention than I realized.

Then came my lip gloss. Eve pulled the top off it, slathered some on her lips and began smacking. Monkey see, monkey do.

The bisquits were ready to go in the oven. The rest of my purse’s contents were strewn on the floor. And my mind was blown.

(As I type this, I can hear Eve behind me saying, “This is church, this is people. This is door.” I didn’t know she knew that finger play rhyme. Sigh.)

The L word

One of the sweetest moments of parenthood has to be the first time your child spontaneously says she loves you. This happened for me a couple weeks ago. I was in the shower. Eve, under her Dad’s care, wandered into the bathroom. As my husband shooed her out, she said it.

I love you, Mom. Or, actually, “Ya you, Mommy!”

Eve has told me she loves me before, but only after my husband said “Say ‘Love you, Mommy.’” Her unprompted bathroom declaration made my heart melt more than any other moment of my motherhood.

She’s given her dad equal love, so to speak. For Christmas, she got a toy phone that lets us record messages for her. She figured out how it works, and one day, all on her own, recorded this message: “Ya you, Daddy. YA YOU, Daddy! YA YOU, DADDY!!!”

Of course, she did also say “Ya you, Doctor” to her ophthalmologist a couple months ago. But, hey, we take what we can get, right?

I think this quote, which I found in a booklet of vellum scrapbooking quotations, really sums it up:  “It is no small thing when they, so fresh from God, love us.” – Charles Dickens