Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Goodness gracious alive and Heaven help us.

Did we just have a major terrible twos episode?  Or is my poor kid just so exhausted from a LONG day at school and a too-short nap?  Yes and yes.

First, let me just say that the girl has been honing her pre-bedtime stall routine for the last few weeks.  An example might look like this:

Me: Lila are you all done with your milk?
Lila: Yeah.
Me: Okay, let's put it here on the shelf in case you want some more in a minute (read: let's put it here on the shelf because I KNOW you're going to THINK you want some more in a minute)
Lila: No, fridge.
Me: No, let's leave the milk here in case you want more later.
Me: Okay, are you sure you're done?
Lila: Yeah.
5 minutes later as I'm laying her in bed
Lila: Milk?
Me: Lila, we already put your milk in the fridge, remember?  You said you were all done.
Lila: Milk.
Me: No, you said you were all done.  We're all done with your milk.
Lila: Milk!
Me: Lila, Mommy asked you if you were done with your milk and you said yes.
Lila: MILK!
Me: thinking to myself, "she HAS been sick, maybe she really is thirsty." Okay, I'll get you're milk.
Lila: thinking, "My mom is such a sucker."
I get her milk back out of the fridge and bring it to her in bed.
Me: Here you go, Baby.
Lila: turning her head away No milk.
Me: grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

So the moral of this story is two-fold: I am a sucker.  And my kid is a master manipulator.
who me? really, mom, I can't help it if I'm charming.
That exchange may have influenced some poor parenting decisions tonight.  I was so intent on not being had again by my not-even-two-year-old that I refused to see things for what they were.  Lila was being stubborn (ironically, it started with milk again) and I was being stubborner.

The short version is that I asked Lila if she wanted to shut her bedroom door (which is part of her little wind-down routine) and she wanted to get her milk out of the fridge first.  I told her I had already brought her milk into her room and that she needed to close the door or Mommy was going to.   She still persisted, so finally I shut the door for her.  What seemed like a natural consequence of her stalling and manipulation attempts backfired into a full out meltdown.  Lila ended up in complete hysterics as I calmly told her that she was wrong and I was right.  Which was true. However, that should have been neither here nor there.  The reality that should have most influenced my parenting choices was that my 22-month-old was exhausted and therefore out of her mind with her NEED to "shut da dowa! shut da dowa!"

Unfortunately, I'm still a rookie.  Even though I've been in this whole mommyhood thing for almost two years, this is still my first go-round with a toddler.  Poor Lila will always have to be my guinea pig for the challenges of each age.  So while I was so adamantly clinging to my pride and my desire to not let my child play me like a fool, I completely missed the fact that she was running on empty.

Which is a mistake I should really know to avoid.  After all, some of my favorite parenting advice is to always ask yourself if your child's "tank" is full before you require something of them*.  Is she hungry? Is she sick? Is she overwhelmed? Is she out of her element?  Is she tired?  If the answer is "yes" to any of those questions, then the expectations need to be altered.  Not thrown out the window, just altered.

Which brings us back to tonight.  After about 15 minutes of absolute hysterics, I finally realized my grave error: I had entered into a power struggle with a child who had lost all control of what little emotional stability she had to begin with.  I realized I had two options:

1. Stick to my guns and fight this power struggle to the end - the end being a child who would surely wail/cry herself to sleep and potentially cause herself to vomit in the meantime.
2. Swallow my pride, admit that I entered into an unwise battle and give my kid what she wanted.

I chose option number 2.  Because a) we've already had our share of vomit recently and b) it seemed like the most loving thing to do.  You can judge me if you want.  I don't care.  I feel like I did the loving thing for my kid in the moment.  Sometimes the loving thing is a firm, authoritative voice to teach them that there are consequences to their behaviors.  But sometimes the loving thing is to get them in bed ASAP and not waste any more time on character building and good precedents.  There's plenty of time for that tomorrow.  After they've had a good night's sleep.

I remind myself over and over in this whole parenting thing: it's not about being right, it's about showing them you'll meet their needs.

Even if this particular need is to "shut da dowa" all by themselves.

(By the way, option number 2 worked like a charm.  She stopped crying immediately and I was left with a snuffling, gasping, exhausted and snuggly baby to rock to sleep.  So there.)

*It should also be noted, that it is important to ask yourself the same question in regards to your own tank.  Yet another reason I should have avoided the emotional battle was that this introverted mama was toast after a day of corralling rowdy 1st graders :)


Katy said...

You are a good mommy and yes you just have to pick your battles. I remember certain incidents like the one you described with Tony.

annaelyse said...

you are an incredible mom! watching you parent/love/pray for/pray with/encourage/cheer-on/discipline little lila jo is sooo encouraging. and exciting. and beautiful. keep going. keep going. :)