Friday, September 21, 2007

Parental training

Just when I was so sure I had the perfect child, Ladybug pulls a fast one on me.

In a matter of 24 hours, she went from the sweetest toddler who’d share her cookies and distribute hugs for no apparent reason to a nightmare on chubby legs.

It’s really not that bad, but compared to her previous easy-going personality, Ladybug’s new attempts at testing her independence are a bit frustrating at times. And of course they involve the three most common daily activities: diaper changes, meals and teeth brushings.

Whenever I try to pick her up to carry her to the high chair or changing table, Ladybug throws herself onto the floor in a limp blob so that I can’t get my hands under her arms. If by some chance I do succeed in lifting her, she goes straight as a board and pushes herself away so hard (using my boobs as a springboard, mind you) that I’m forced to put her down to avoid dropping her as she twists and turns.

My husband and I have learned to adapt to this new behavior by asking her to meet us in the nursery for a diaper change or to pick something normally off-limits she wants to examine – like an emery board or tube of lipstick – while we brush her teeth. But sometimes those distraction techniques just don’t work, like when you’re in a store full of shelves overflowing with shiny and interesting objects. And sometimes there’s just no room for negotiation, like when you’re in a parking lot.

We all learned the latter the hard way when we went to a local shopping center to look for a roasting pan. Ladybug’s stroller was tucked away in the trunk behind bags of groceries, so I decided to carry her. Ladybug decided she did not want to be carried. She kicked and pushed and screamed at the top of her lungs. She made such a fuss that people stopped to stare.

“Sorry, Ladybug. You’re not walking where all these cars are. You can walk when we get to the sidewalk but only if you hold Mommy and Daddy’s hands,” we told her.

You think it worked in calming her down? Of course not. All she saw was a large open space great for playing hide and seek, and we were holding her back from her fun. But we saw it another way – from the parental point of view of danger everywhere. There was no room for compromise.

That routine outing was strange in a way. It brought out another side of our parenting that we hadn’t had to use up to that point – putting our foot down and not budging.

Ladybug has long since forgotten the incident, but it’s still a topic of conversation for my husband and me. We use these situations as learning experiences and take advantage of hindsight to discuss what might have been a better way to handle the scenario. The goal of these post-incident analyses is to better prepare us for next time.

And if this past week is any indication, we'll be putting our revised techniques to work sooner rather than later.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is so great that you and your husband discuss these things. Even at your daughters young age she will know if you two are not a united front. Stand firm with your decisions. She will figure out that on some things mommy and daddy just will not budge on although if she is thick headed like my kids it may take awhile for it to sink in.

September 21, 2007 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Michelle Mahfoufi said...

Yeah, sometimes it seems like she really enjoys fighting us. My husband jokingly refers to these efforts to assert herself as "Independence Day."

September 25, 2007 at 9:44 AM  

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