Put a Bib on It

My Emotional Intelligence Could Use Some Work

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Infants and toddlers have the right to be selfish. Even if it makes their parents crazy.“She’s kind of selfish.”

This isn’t something you hear about a 13-month-old too often, but I needed to hear it. Having my feelings validated by my husband after a day of no naps, food thrown willfully on the floor, glasses wrenched multiple times off of my face, crabbing and crying and screeching and demanding, it was like he’d stuck a pin in my tense, super-inflated moodiness and everything just went whistling out.

Along with lots of angry, ugly crying.

That being said, it’s Miss E’s prerogative to be selfish. She is an infant on the verge: Of becoming a toddler. Of becoming a skillful verbal communicator. Of mastering self-feeding and the snaps on her diapers and two-block towers. If an experience overwhelms her, she can’t yet tell me why, or even recognize that what she’s feeling has a name, that it will pass, that she’s not alone.

Sometimes when we’ve had a particularly challenging day and I’m remembering the sweet-tempered gal I knew just a few short months ago (and hoping that it isn’t something I’ve done to make her into this occasional monster), I have to remember that every day the world becomes bigger and more daunting for her. What she wants to do and what she can do are quite different things. And when she’s feeling scared or unsure (or excited or hungry or tired), she tests me. She tries me. She crawls into my lap for a cuddle that sometimes ends in confirming that yes, for the fourteenth time, smacking my face will result in a stern word and having to sit by herself on the floor.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Is it wrong that I didn’t expect this so soon?

I feel terribly when after an hour and a half of fighting and fussing over a nap, I get her out of her crib and she smiles big because she thinks, we’re playing now! Only I’m so upset I can’t even appreciate her. I just want her to leave me alone, just for a little while. But she won’t.

She can’t.

“It’s really hard to be an adult, to deal with somebody so irrational,” I say to my husband, when I tell him that I’m writing this. “It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just hard. She has a lot of feelings.”

“So you’re saying you’ve learned to control your emotions.” He’s smiling. “You’re a Vulcan. She’s just a human.”

I’m smiling now, too. My daughter is not a monster, and neither, I hope, am I (even if I feel like it some days). And my husband is wrong: I’m not a Vulcan. Miss E and I are both humans, and we’re teaching each other how to be better.

Author: Jillian Kuhlmann

Mama. Nerd. Writer.

One thought on “My Emotional Intelligence Could Use Some Work

  1. Pingback: Sometimes we need to be selfish | Growing Children

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