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Friday, August 19, 2011

With Toddlers, Sweat the Small Stuff

Living with a toddler is like playing an intricate game of chess where at any time your opponent could render the entire game moot by throwing all the pieces in your face and tossing the board aside before stomping to her room. I admit, I spend a lot of time carefully determining where I put that pawn each day so that eventually my queen gets my toddlers' king in checkmate. Usually, I'm not careful enough and the pieces lie scattered around my feet as I look to the heavens and ask...why?

What I'm trying to say is that every tiny piece of every minor decision you make each day is of paramount importance to a toddler. A difference of 30 seconds, a slightly wrong shade of pink, the lack of or addition of ice to a drink, can throw your whole day out of whack. There is no reasoning here.

And seemingly innocuous decisions I make at the time cause this landslide effect, the worst part of it being that I'll look back on it, see where I went wrong, and understand deep within myself that I never would have known to avoid that particular pitfall and I'll probably do it again.

I'd like to take you to a magical day full of tantrums and aggravation that we had a few weeks ago. We visited a friend of mine at the springs near here. She was camping with her lovely husband and well-behaved children.

In the three years the babies have been alive, I have never seen them so bad. It would have been mortifying, but I'm comfortable with my friend, and I know she cut me some slack out of the kindness of her heart. Looking back, I see three distinct areas where I when oh-so wrong. There was no way I could have seen these at the time, nor will I be able to prevent them in the future. These are the decisions that no adult could foresee would upset a toddler. These are the decisions that go right or wrong by mere luck.

Well, not the first one. That's my fault and I'll not be doing it again. We skipped nap. Cardinal toddler sin. Since I had just skipped nap with them a few weeks before that and everything was fine, I figured, pfffft, we've got this. We don't need a nap.

Yes, we do.

So, they were cranky the whole car ride over there, making the 40 minute drive seem to stretch all day, and setting us all up for the mood that would prevail throughout the event. I will never skip a nap again...until the next time I do, of course.

Next up: I told the babies we were going to the springs. Which was the truth. Of course, the springs we were going to were different from the springs that we usually go to, and in a toddler mind, the term 'the springs' can only apply to one specific place. When we arrived at a different place, it didn't matter that these were also springs. All that mattered was that mommy was a lying liar who lied to them. Blatantly lied to them about our location. Clearly, they couldn't trust this big person, and they would be taking no orders from her in the near future. They were too upset to learn about the concept that different places can have the same name. I still don't think they ever grasped that.

They fought me at every turn from that point out. Here's a great picture of them and my friend's kids. Natalina had been throwing a flopping tantrum in the sand, and she had convinced her kids that Lilly was making sand angels. So here are her kids making sand angels and my kids wondering what just happened to their angsty tantrum time.

Just as the babies were beginning to forgive me for my lies, it was time to change them back into their regular clothes. The clothes they'd worn to the campsite were still at the trailer, so, feeling very accomplished and prepared, I took out their spare clothing.

Now, when we had driven down, Dulce had been wearing a red-checked shirt and jeans. Lilly had been wearing something else, I can't remember what. The important thing is that I had packed Lilly's dark-pink-checked dress as a back up and a flowery dress for Dulce.

Huge mistake. The pink-checked dress was too close to the red-checked shirt and Natalina was convinced I'd put her in Dulce's shirt just to be an extra big jerk. She never recovered from the betrayal that was not a betrayal and wailed away for the remainder of the short-lived trip.

Of course, after we got home, Natalina beamed at me. "Where are my friends, mama? That was really fun!"

Oh, okay. Perception is everything. Sweat the small stuff with a toddler. Not for them, for you.


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1 comment:

  1. Oh, this is a perfect description of how the small stuff can turn into a nuclear meltdown in the blink of an eye. I have to dress my kids the same, despite some reproving stares, but they just don't understand what would happen if I put lightin' MacQueen on one boy and Buzz Lightyear on the other.. or red on one and green on the other....ka-blam!!!!



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