Parenting a Toddler: a Mommy’s Lament

I’m sitting here frustrated–both with myself and with Sophia… I’m thinking about how easy it is to parent without intention, say instead with reaction or instinct.  I’ve had a few “situations” with Sophia lately.  She’s long past entered the “no” phase, often shaking her head “no” when she knows she’s not supposed to do something.  Sometimes she’s been downright defiant.  She’s only 14-months old!  I didn’t know this would happen so quickly.

Our biggest struggles are the trashcan and food on the high chair.  Trashcan: Sophia loves to bang on it, reach in and get stuff out, and even eat leftover food out of it.  If we are watching her, she will look at us, shake her head “no,” and continue one of the aforementioned actions.  An easy solution to the trashcan would be to get one with a lid and a foot-lever, or it would be to store it in a child-proofed cabinet… Instead, we’re trying to teach her to listen and obey.  Is she too early to learn that mommy said “no?”  Daddy generally says a firm no and picks her up and moves her.  Often, I’m cooking though, and this isn’t an easy task for me.  I’m inconvenienced, right?  The battle of parenting. Maybe, we should get a new trashcan and pick a different battle?

Food: during meals where she’s not too excited about her food, she’s started dropping food onto the floor–what all babies do, right?  She’s done this for a long time, but she now knows that she’s not supposed to.  Two days ago she dropped onto the floor, plate and all, a fresh piece of Mommy-made french toast.  My reaction was to ignore her and finish my breakfast.  When she wanted what I was eating, I told her, “No, you had your breakfast, but you chose to put it on the floor.  Now you have to wait until I’m done.”  She actually waited fairly patiently–i.e., she didn’t scream and tantrum for the next 5 minutes.  I think that it may have worked.  But, then there was yesterday.  Yesterday my reaction wasn’t so thoughtful and intentional… it was more, well, reactional.  During a snack-time at the table, she proceeded to throw cereal all over the kitchen.  I patiently told her, “Cereal stays on your tray or goes in your mouth.”  She looked directly at me, shook her head “no,” swiped her arms across the tray and threw cereal all over the floor.  Now, I know she was hungry!  She didn’t have much lunch and had just gotten up from a nap. She didn’t want the CEREAL!  Well, I snapped.  I picked up the tray, took her hand and smacked it–voice raised saying something like “We do NOT throw our food on the floor!”  Woah, did she get upset.  And, I smacked her hand!  She was defiant.  But, I smacked her hand... and because I was angry.  I could have just taken it away, told her she was done and given her nothing else to eat… But, what should I have done?  Her defiance is partly to blame on her inability to communicate “Mommy, I don’t want this cereal.  May I please have something else?”  Or at least, “Blueberries, please?”  She can’t even communicate, “I DON’T WANT THIS!  I DON’T EVEN WANT TO LOOK AT THIS!  GET IT OFF MY PLATE!!!!”  So, what’s a mom to do?  Guess, use non-verbal clues and past evidence of behavior… but, beyond that?

Sophia gets so upset when I’m upset.  When she would bite me while nursing and I would yelp out in pain, she was horrified, unable to be consoled for minutes later.  This morning something else happened.  I have a stack of books on a bookshelf that I plan to take to Hastings to get some dollas for.  She took one of the books, opened it and ripped the first page.  I was so angry!  All I could think was how this book can no longer be sold, and there went $5!  I took the book out of her hand and barked, “No, Sophia!  That’s Mommy’s book!  You ripped Mommy’s book!”  She immediately wailed.  She walked up to me with the saddest cry.  Arms are out and tears are pouring down her face.  Pouring. Watching these tears, I realized I yelled.  I realized that she didn’t know the difference between Mommy’s magazine and Mommy’s book that she’s planning to sell any day now… I realized I reacted out of anger, frustration and inconvenience.  I picked her up, and she laid her head on me, communicating a real “I’m sorry I made you mad at me… though I don’t know why…” It broke my heart.  I guess I didn’t know that parenting would be so gut-wrenching at 14-months.  I’m seeing my lack of patience.  I’m seeing my short fuse.  I’m seeing my easily inconvenienced spirit.  I just wish we could talk it out, ya know.  Just talk it out.  😉

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