Friday, May 21, 2010

hanging on

So Claire is a lovely girl. She really is.

But last weekend a friend of mine was talking about her little girl, also a toddler, and how emotional this age is. Think about it: in the course of an afternoon, Claire might cry once or twice or five times. How exhausting that must be, to confront frustration and "no"s and bumping your head. She doesn't have the vocabulary or emotional understanding to articulate or explain why she feels what she feels, so she cries.

Right now we are learning to obey. We have been learning to obey Mama and Papa for a little while now and usually all goes well and I say, "Thank you, Claire" and "Good girl, Claire!" Sometimes, like this afternoon, learning to obey looks more like tears and snot and heaving sobs because putting the book back on the shelf is just too much to bear. Sometimes learning to obey looks like me checking my watch and thinking of bedtime.

I am not always emotionally rational myself (re: Spanglish Stove Meltdown, Paperwork Couscous Coup), but I keep thinking that if I continue to speak in a calm, even voice, Claire will be a calm, even toddler. I really don't know why I expect this.

At dinner Claire was still in fit mode. Back arching, angry that we wouldn't let her stand in her high chair. She got worked up. Hysterical. I tried ignoring. I couldn't. Snot and spit all over the tray. So I leaned over and gently took her shoulders in my hands. "Claire," I said firmly, our faces inches apart, "Calm down. Be calm. Stop." She looked at me and then I bent over, let her head rest on my shoulder and we stayed like that, she holding onto my shirt and arm, me rubbing her shoulder with my thumb. She ate her apple slices like that, and a couple of grapes. Just hanging on.

So I've had days like that, when I just needed a day-long hug. When eating dinner or picking up my socks seemed impossible to do all by myself. I read about parenting and I ask about parenting and I watch others parent. Today at dinner part of me thought: well, that book said to let her calm herself down and then she may finish eating. But my instinct said, just let her hang on. She'll finish a lot of dinners on her own.

4 comments:

Angela and David Kidd said...

It does get a little better as their communication skills get better. Zach is basically at the point where he can always tell us what he wants or doesn't want. The problem being now is that we can understand him but still don't think it's okay for him to play with the toilet brush. When will his little tears stop breaking my heart?

Glad you were there for Claire to hang on and didn't go by the books and make her eat on her own. I think our instincts are almost always right in such situations.

Anonymous said...

you're a good mom.
i love you!
your good mom.

Anonymous said...

Sarah,
I must say I like the links back to Spanglish Stove and Paperwork. I've felt much the same things over differing events. I think when moms read your blog they must identify with these kinds of days. Very good writing.
Love,
Dad

DC Running Mama said...

Ahhh, I have been feeling lately that living with a 1.5 year old is like living with a manic depressive (no offense to any), but the mood swings are tremendous, ranging from elated glee at the joy of "goggie! goggie!" to the fist chomping quasi-epilectic seizures when mommy won't let wee one have a popsicle for breakfast. I try not to get involved or take it personally, but sometimes I let myself get wrapped up in his emotions and have to remove myself from the situation. I have been trying to be more emphatetic and realize that this is more emotionally draining for him to be unable to communicate or effect his situation. Great post. I feel like I've been needed a day-long hug to make it through my days recently.