How does a child know the fine art of manipulation so aptly at a mere 2 years old? Theo has started this weird game that makes me want to drive blunt forks into my eyeballs. He wants something, but he won't tell me what it is and when I correctly guess, he pretends he doesn't want it. And I try to give it to him and he turns away and so I walk away and he screams for what I just offered....so I try to give it to him again and he turns away again. This is very frustrating for a number of reasons, and I'm sure the moms of toddlers totally get it, but it seriously awakens some weird rage in me that makes me happy that I have such great anger management skills. Because I KNOW what he wants. And HERE IT IS! Look!? I've got it! Right here! And you want it! So freakin take it, will you??? This has only been going on for about 3 days now, and I think I have figured out my strategy, it's just a matter of putting it into action. This morning made me see the light.
I try to give Theo choices, so he feels like he is involved in what happens to him. I ask him if he wants chicken nuggets or a quesadilla for lunch. Does he want to wear the jeans or the shorts? His crocs or his sandals? This book or that one? This morning, he didn't want to put on a shirt. I think this was because I was walking around in my bra because all my clean shirts were downstairs hanging in the laundry room (have I ever mentioned that when my mother in law watches him on Wednesday, she does ALL OF OUR LAUNDRY? It's the most amazing thing that's ever happened to me). Anyway, so I opened his closet to choose a shirt and he did that weird thing he's started doing where he kinda screws his face up and refuses to speak. I started to put on this terrible Mickey Mouse shirt that actually sings the Mickey Mouse Club song when you hit a button on the bottom hem (I obviously hate it, he obviously love it) and he refuses to put his arms through the holes and just starts wailing. So, hey, I'm flexible, I take it off and tell him we'll just get a shirt downstairs in the laundry room. All the way down the stairs he's crying and pointing with all his might (you know what I'm talking about here, right? When they put their WHOLE SOUL into pointing?). I take him into the laundry room and see a sure bet - his Spiderman shirt. Nope, he doesn't want that either. He is fighting me hard, kicking his legs (did I mention we are running late? Of course we are). So I threaten him with time out...he keeps being insane, so I put him in the spot for 2 minutes. I use the time to run around and get everything together for work and breakfast and daycare and lunch and the myriad of other shit I somehow need for a mere 10 hours away from the house. Once the 2 minutes are over, I kneel down and explain to him why I put him in time out (I resist gritting my teeth and telling him it's because "we don't act like assholes") and I try to put his shirt on again. He again starts pointing up the stairs with a huge bottom lip out and his eyes brimming with tears. Okay, you soulless mommy, go get his damn mickey mouse shirt. So I run upstairs to grab it and once he sees that shirt, the shit storm continues, because HOW DARE I GIVE HIM WHAT HE WANTS??? At this point, the running late has become running later and the low patience level has become a dire running on fumes - so I just pick him up screaming and bring him out to the car and somehow get his shirt on despite his flailing limbs and buckle him into his car seat. I keep my face calm (even though my evil eyes SO want to glare him down) and don't say a word (even though I SO want to scream louder than him) and shut the door behind me. I take a deep breath. I pull out of the driveway and into the neighborhood while Theo sniffles and avoids eye contact with me. As I merge into traffic outside my subdivision, I find myself behind someone who is ACTUALLY paying attention to the 25 MPH speed limit in the construction zone (the nerve!) and manages to go SO SLOW that we both get stopped at the stoplight that is on a timer which makes it so you are stuck for a minimum of 4 minutes even if there is not one other car for miles in any direction. My blood pressure is rising and my stress level is through the roof. Finally, once we get moving again and I manage to get through several green lights in a row, I start to breath normally and reach back and tickle Theo's legs...he lets the corners of his mouths turn up slightly. A couple of minutes later, he sees a tractor and breaks into a full smile and then all is right with the world. By the time we get to daycare, it's all good - I get the same smiles, hugs and kisses that I always get when I drop him off. My insensitive shirt wrangling is a thing of the past.
The lesson? I need to remember I'm in charge. I want to give him choices, but when he gives me the baby version of the finger, I need to stay on task and make the decision for him. It'll piss him off, obviously - but learning from the trends of the last couple of days, that's going to happen anyway, so I might as well get out of the house on time without road rage and know that it'll all be forgotten in a matter of moments. And next time? Maybe he'll tell me what he wants.
Does it ever get easier?