Toddler at the DMV

So, I procrastinate. Not all the time. Not horribly, but sometimes I put off needed things because I find the idea of them daunting. I know, who does that? Right?

See, I know I’m not alone.

I also know that everyone can understand how I would put off getting my car smog checked and going to the DMV to get California plates, given that (a) it’s the DMV, and (b) I’m bringing Fiona with me on all these adventures.

My temporary drive permit expired today. So, I did what everyone does, I sucked it up and got it over with. I took Fiona with me into the DMV. My bravery deserves a metal.

So, does my planning. Before we went to the DMV, I took her to the park to feed the geese, to the playground with her best friend, and to Burger King for a hamburger with nothing on it and fries.

She was an angel. She sat next to me. She played with my phone. She talked to everyone and charmed them all.

She was her usual self. She got way to close to everyone. She told everyone that she loved them. She was way to interested in people to sit still. She about had a temper tantrum when I told her she had to stay by me.

There is a vast difference between those two descriptions, but they’re both true. As we were leaving I was wondering why sometimes she’s so good and sometimes she’s so frustrating and defiant, and I realized that, for the most part, she’s the same. My expectations and mood change and so does the way I describe stuff to myself.

If I focus on the outcomes of our visit, we get the first paragraph. If I focus on the process, we get the second.  It’s all a matter of how I tell the story.

I think a lot of parents learn that, when we’re talking to each other, we’re supposed to describe the second way to each other. We’re not supposed to say when our kids rocked something, we’re only supposed to describe being driven nuts. And, I know, we’re not supposed to pretend to be perfect.

But, I’m having trouble with the fact that when we describe parenting as frustrating and upsetting, we actually cause ourselves to be more frustrated and annoyed. When we focus on the negative in our kids, that’s what we record as our memory.

That’s not what I want.  I want to remember this DMV visit as the one where three different people told me how nice Fiona was and one person told me that she had made the trip to the DMV fun.  I want to remember that, just being herself, Fiona rocked the DMV and made people feel happy.

It’s a conundrum. Do I tell people how awesome she was at the DMV? Do I tell them how much work it was to keep her near me at the DMV?

It makes me sad that if I tell people she was great, that I’m considered to be bragging or pretending, but if I tell them how much work it was it hurts my heart a little bit, because she was so amazing and what I want to share is how great she was.  Sometimes, I just want to look at the DMV through rose-colored glasses. Sometimes, I just want to only remember the positive. Sometimes, I think it’s healthy to pretend that the hard stuff wasn’t so bad, just as natural as breathing.

So, today, I took my toddler to the Department of Motor Vehicles. While we were there, she was wonderful. She listened and stayed close to me, she made friends, and she basically impressed and charmed everyone. Fiona rocked the DMV.

(And my car is now officially Californian.)

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B Is For Yellow

“A is for apple, ah-ah-ah,” She sings from the backseat.  I smile because she really is learning the letter sounds so fast.

She continues, “B is for yellow, like banana’s, Yuh, yuh, yuh, C is for cat, ss, ss ss,  D is for boy. buh buh boy….”

Okay. So, really, she is learning the letter sounds. I swear this is part of the learning process. It sounds demented though. I think maybe a five of the letters actually matched up to their sounds in her little song. Cute, but demented.

I think a lot of her antics meet that definition.  I think that a lot of parents feel that way about our kids. We’re fascinated by other people’s complete conviction that our children are utterly adorable. I think a lot of us want to point out to people the amount of work it takes to get a toddler or preschooler to sit singing in the grocery cart when they’re cooing over our kid.

Yes. My kid is cute. She’s also a completely demented dictator who is being polite because she doesn’t know you. If she knew you, then the conversation you’re having would be different.

Polite conversation with Fiona:

Fiona: Hi. I Fiona. I two. What’s your name?
Stranger: Oh! Hi Sweetie! I’m Clara. Aren’t you just the cutest thing. Are you helping mommy grocery shop?
Fiona: Yes! We bought banana’s and Cheerios

Normal conversation with Fiona:

Fiona: Hi!
Auntie: Hi Fiona! I love you!
Fiona: I love you, too!
Auntie: Are you having fun playing today?
Fiona: No. I scream. I cry. I go poop! It was a big worm! You come play with me now!

See, cute, but demented. Not terribly polite.  It’s a lot of work and it doesn’t always work.

Fiona was rather convinced that she should compliment a woman in the YMCA’s locker room by telling her she was very, very big. She insisted that she must have eaten all of her dinner. Always. Loudly.

The matter wasn’t helped by the two twiggy teenage girls who giggled at her words.  I tried explaining that women don’t like to be called big, so it wasn’t a nice thing to say. She really didn’t understand.

I apologized to the woman. I don’t think she really understood either.

Sometimes though, no matter how hard I try to explain polite and nice, she doesn’t always grasp it. Sometimes it’s a little like the alphabet, she starts to get it, but not all of the connections are there yet.

Sometimes, B is for yellow.

Defiance, Argument, and Humor

So, we’re at that stage. You know, the one where children realize that they are separate from their parents and begin to not want to follow instructions because they were given by parents. Defiance. I’ve been told that this stage lasts about twenty years or so.

Fiona, being the sweetheart that she is, has her own unique twist on classic defiance. She flat-out wants to argue with you. And by you, I mean me.

She will grab an object, like a blanket, and say, “My blanket.”

Typically, I thwart her argumentative nature the same way I thwart my husbands. I say, “Okay. It’s a very nice blanket.”

She will get frustrated with me, put the end of the blanket in my hand and say, “No. You say, My Blanket.”

If I’m feeling cooperative, we will then have a little bickering match over the blanket, pulling it back and forth between us and claiming possession of it. About half the time she gets very upset a few minutes into this and drops the blanket and runs off crying that it, “Is Fiona’s Blanket!”

My kid likes to argue. She also likes to win.

She also likes to be defiant. Her favorite responses to things are ‘no’ and ‘never’.  So, I’ve taken to repeating them back to her. Conversations go something like this:

“Fiona, do you want a sandwich or humus and pita bread for lunch,” I ask, in a nice reasonable Mommy voice.

“No. I don’t want sandwich. I don’t want humus. I don’t. I never.” She says back, in a snotty, frustrated (ie totally toddler normal) voice.

“Well, I never, too!” I say back, trying to diffuse her.

“No!” She screams. “It my never!”

Then I make her a sandwich while she cries in a corner. She eats the sandwich happily enough, though, so I’m not such a horrible mother.

The humor goes both ways though. The other day I asked her to stay off the kitchen floor until it dried. She edged toward it.

I asked her again to stay off the kitchen.

She reached out a toe to try to put it in the kitchen. I said, “Fiona, please! Stop testing me!”

She looked me straight in the eye, put a foot in the kitchen, smiled and said, “Testing. Testing 1-2-3.”

Then she freaked out because her foot was wet. Natural consequences. I was less than sympathetic.

So, this will probably last for a while. Arguing, testing, defiance. Part of it is a stage. A process of convincing her that I mean what I say and have the power to back it up. With a little persistence on my part, that phase will be fairly short.

The other part of it is personality. That’s not going away. She likes to argue. So does her Daddy, though. She comes by it honestly.  So, while I will occasionally drive them both nuts by being completely agreeable, I will also occasionally indulge their penchant for argument. Most of the time though, I just give them leave them together when they get in that mood.

Crash!

So, I feel like I’m dropping all the spinning plates today. Lifting weights with my husband on Tuesday has left me too sore to walk right for the last two days. I think I overworked myself a little.

Yesterday, was our weekly volunteer session at the YMCA and Fiona was a wreck for the first hour. So, I went ahead and took on another shift today, so that we would have coverage for when we get visitors at the end of June.

She did better today, but we followed it up with time at the playground with her “very best friend”, and then more time in the garden watering before I finally had lunch at around 2 p.m.

Fiona is at a super defiant, test-everything-I-say stage. She’s cutting her upper two-year-old molars. She hasn’t slept well for days and I can’t give her pain killers for her poor baby teeth because she’s allergic to the God-damned corn-syrup.

I’m so tired, and worn out, and sick of trying, that I’m all teary just writing this.

I’m running on empty. Every time I blink my eyes want to stay shut and my husband wants to lift (upper body instead of lower) again today.  I went ahead and let myself snack on a banana, pop some aspirin, and am typing this over a cup of coffee.

All I want in the whole world is a slice of lemon meringue pie and a 12 hour nap. I think I’m going to take a four-day weekend and get back to you all feeling fresh and cheery on Tuesday, because otherwise you’re going to be hearing a very emo version of Unhappy Mommy in these parts.

When Daddy Works Late

My husband has the kind of job where there’s quite a bit of working from home and there are often overtime hours. This complicates dinner time.

See, toddlers are a little notorious around dinner time for a reason. They haven’t eaten. They have played hard all day. They are worn out. They are all out of cope. They need stability, routine, food, and bed. All of which get thrown off, when my husband gets home late.

So, we have to cope. We have to get dinner as far done as we can without spoiling it and then play a waiting game. Something that allows us to pass the time without requiring patience or skills, both of which are in short supply by the dinner hour. Something that doesn’t involve cuddling, because cuddling leads to ill-timed napping.

Fiona and I? We dance. Which turns into tag which turns back into dancing.

It wouldn’t work if we were any faster than we are, but we run circles around our living room, into the dining room around the table and back to the living room, where, arms out, we turn into spinning, dancing diving airplanes.The last couple times we’ve mostly played this song:

Somehow, we seem to find our balance in the twirling dance and joyous release of playing together. And, oddly, that makes the time of day when we’re just so done with everything, that witching hour of not-quite-dinner-time, that time where daddy-works-late, one of my favorite times of day.

Truths that I know

Joy is beautiful. More than any other single thing you can do to appear lovely, living life joyfully will make you a beautiful person. There is nothing more beautiful than joy that radiates.

Love heals. When you stop trying to control and just love, unequivocally and undeniably, you heal hurts. Usually your own. Love freely. Love passionately. Love everyone. Including you.

Pain remains. Every act matters. Even when pain caused is truly forgiven, it leaves a mark.

Guilt and regret are wasted emotions. You cannot change the past, you can only acknowledge your mistakes and move forward. All the feeling bad in the world never changes anything.

Most people are good people. The average person, if you give them the chance to be good to you, will. We do not need to live in fear of each other.

People who are acting bad have been hurt. You may not be able to see it, but they are damaged.

If you have a choice to make between the “right thing” and the loving thing, then you are confused. The loving thing is the right thing.

Even people you dislike and disagree with sometimes have truth to tell.

Children are born innocent and loving. All of them.

You are capable of doing more and withstanding more than you give yourself credit for. We are, all of us, human and that is a very powerful and amazing thing to be. If you want to, you can climb mountains and change the world.

Now, I have to go. I need to go love with wild abandon, dance joyfully in the face of apathy, give what I have to give into this world, and change my little corner of the world.

Leaving you today in perfect love and trust. Have a great day.

 

A First Birthday Party

Only not. Fiona got to attend her first birthday party for a friend on Saturday. Her friend was turning three. We’ve never done this before, partially because she didn’t have friends her own age and partially because with the food allergies, I have to be pretty good friends with the mother hosting the event or else things, like cake/ice cream/goody-bags, become issues.

In this case, we were able to go. Yay!

Her little friend is adorable and as Fiona says, “My very best friend!” Her mother (my friend – Hi!) was fantastic and the whole thing was very laid back.

Fiona actually did better than I expected. I anticipated that the present part of the party would be traumatic. I mean, after all, she’s only ever been to parties where the presents were for her. I thought that she was going to lose it over not getting presents.

So, I coached her. And coached her. And coached her. I told her the order things would happen in. I told her that it was her friend’s birthday, not hers and that hers would come in July. I told her that there would presents, but that they were ALL for her friend. And that it was our job to be happy for her friend and wish her Happy Birthday.

And when the time came? She did great! I was so proud of her.

On the other hand, later when a little boy took a toy from her, she tried to bite him. More coaching is needed for that…

It was so much stimulation for her, though. There were toys, a bouncy house, an enchanted forest, and tons of new people and kids. I’m so surprised that she didn’t lose it while we were there. She didn’t, but it was a near thing. She lost it one foot outside of the front door as we were leaving. For the entire trip home she cried.

Then she sat in my lap and cried for another twenty minutes. When I tried to figure out why she was crying she just told me she wanted to play with her friend “for always never.”  Which I think roughly translates out of toddler to “forever”.

I asked her some questions about the party. Did she have fun in the bouncy house? Did she have fun in the enchanted forest? Did she have fun at the party? All of which had the answer of yes.

Then she started laughing, hysterically, mixed with a little crying, for another ten minutes.

So, so, so tired and over-stimulated. But really, that’s all the world requires of us. It’s not that we can’t lose it. We just have to wait until we’re alone, or at home, to lose our stuffing.

She did good.