January 17, 2011

Waving the white flag

          I've discovered something disconcerting - I'm not cut out for toddlerhood. I know what you're probably thinking. Isn't it a little late for this kind of discovery, given that a) I have a toddler living in my house and b) I am responsible for her 24/7?
          Here's the thing. I was prepared for defiance. For battles of will. For SB to assert her independence as she works to develop her sense of identity. I knew we would go through the "NO!" and "MINE!" phases. I was even prepared for tantrums (although thankfully they are few and far between). I'm good with all that. I feel I deal with it pretty well.
          SB constantly tests the boundaries, and me, to see where what she can and can't get away with. And she is supposed to. It's my responsibility to be consistent and fair and clear with her about what is acceptable behavior and what is not. I am up to that challenge.
          She tests her friends, too. She has had full on tug of wars with them over toys during play dates. Pushes them out of the way to do something out of turn. Kids usually seem to work those issues out pretty well on their own, if you let them.  It is all part of the learning process SB and her peers are going through. (Though I do believe there comes a time when the parent(s) needs to step in.)
          What I was not the least bit prepared for was my sweet little girl morphing into a monster. That part I am distraught over. She can be really nasty at times, and I don't always know how to handle it. Just yesterday she slapped me across the face, because I closed the door to the garage and she wanted to go outside with Daddy.
          I told her calmly we do not hit. Ever. That even when she is mad or frustrated, it is not OK to hit someone. I told her Mommy will never hit her and she should never hit Mommy. Her reaction? To hit me again and laugh.
          Late last week, we were stuck at the pediatrician's for TWO HOURS for SB's 2 year check up. (Which had been scheduled for six months; I'm not even going to get started on that). At one point, SB went over to a little girl who was playing quietly in the waiting room and deliberately pushed her over. And appeared to delight in it.
          I immediately put her in time out, and when it was over I made her apologize to the little girl. The mom told me, and SB as she was standing right there, it was no big deal. Which made me even more upset. I do not like seeing my child be mean. I was trying to teach her something about how to treat others, which should have been obvious. Why couldn't that mom have had my back?
          Actually, I find people constantly shrug SB's behavior off. They tell me it is normal. She's just being a toddler. That may be true, but I don't think it means I should ignore what is happening. I prefer to use those as learning opportunities. Where is the line? And who decides?
          I don't want to be the "helicopter mom" people talk about. I want SB to be able to interact with peers on her own and figure things out without Mommy stepping in all the time. But I don't want to ignore this behavior, either. To me, that sends the message it is OK. How will she learn otherwise?
          I spend a great deal of my time these days feeling off balance. Vulnerable. Unsure of myself. And I don't like how that feels one bit. These are not the times you imagine as you hold your precious little newborn in your arms. Parents, how do you get through it? 'Cause right now? I'm not sure I will.
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