No, really. I spent nine plus months building her and didn’t even need to get struck by lightning or anything. I suppose it makes more sense to say I created a baby who became a toddler who is, on occasion, a monster. And by occasion I mean at least a dozen times a day.
With good intentions, I have reserved the word “no” for only the most dire of circumstances – or when she tears glasses off of her daddy’s face – which has left Miss E with no means of conveying her dissatisfaction. Or maybe she would’ve taken to smacking and pinching and shrieking anyway, but I’m trying to be logical.
“What’s wrong with her?” My husband asked after a particularly trying bedtime, when she decided she never wanted to read anything, ever, and she didn’t want to drink milk or give hugs, either, what on earth were we thinking suggesting such things.
“She’s a toddler.”
I laughed, but it wasn’t funny. My pulse was still throbbing in my neck where she’d gripped me with both manic little hands. Not for the first time that day I’d asked her to use her gentle hands, told her she’d hurt mama, that feeling frustrated was okay but pinching was not. Also not for the first time she ignored me.
So now I’m in the position of doing the unthinkable, which is trying to teach my toddler how to say “no.” When she’s hungry she doesn’t want a cheese stick or a zucchini muffin or raspberries (or really anything I might think to offer)? Swatting my hand away is not an acceptable response. Just say “no,” and we’ll work up to “no, thank you.” Does she want to read her favorite story? Tossing the book to the floor isn’t going to cut it. She never wants a diaper change, but that one’s not negotiable.
I know this isn’t going to solve all our problems, or even most of them. Being able to articulate her feelings will help, but her feelings are still huge and overwhelming and sudden, and she needs me to be patient, to repeat myself, to take deep breaths and remember that she still loves me.
Even when she smacks me in the face without batting an eye, because she’s got both trained on me to see what I intend to do about it.