Parenting For Dummies

The following is a PSA to all toddlers. A great way to get unceremoniously dumped into your crib for nap time is to do the following things to your mother:

1. Dump the lovely lunch she just made you all over the floor.

2. Scream at her when she puts you in time out for flinging your mac and cheese, broccoli and pig in a blanket all over the floor she just washed.

3. Rock your chair until it almost falls over.

4. Try to bite your mama when she steadies the chair and tells you "NO."

5. Smack your mama in the face. With cheese all over your hand.


I'm sure by the list you can tell that I'm at my wit's end. I'm feeling the Terrible Twos creep up on me. From the time she gets up from the time she goes to bed, my daughter is doing the opposite of what I want her to do. The last few weeks have been tough between she and I. I mentioned that she's bossing me … and that's only the tip of the iceberg it seems. For whatever reason my daughter is clinging to me and warring against me. If I try to change her diaper in the morning when I get her up she writhes and screams until I let her go. She charges into the front room and demands her show (Sesame Street) and if I say "no" she has an EPIC temper tantrum and will not eat her breakfast. If I leave her sight to get a cup of coffee in the kitchen for one minutes she screams "MAWMAH!!!!!" and throws a fit (even if she is not alone). If I try to switch over a load of laundry in the garage (which I only do when someone else is around, namely Daddy) she throws herself against the front door and wails until I come back.

This is in total opposition her her calm, chilled-out, devil-may-care attitude around other people when I am not there. On the days when John gets her up in the morning she tweets along with him as he sings to her and changes her diaper – no fight. They go out to the front room and he makes coffee without protest. They listen to music and color and eat breakfast and when she asks to watch a show and he says "no" and suggests something else she willingly complies. Without a fit. No tantrum.

But the second I get up and walk out? All hell breaks loose! Some mornings she's happy to see me and runs to me for hugs, but then the litany begins. I try to schlep to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and she's wailing and hanging on my leg as if I just told her I'm going to Europe for the rest of the year. John almost comments "woah, she was perfectly happy before you got up. I don't know what happened!" (which of course makes me want to punch him in his tenders). Most always, she's very content with Daddy. She doesn't claw anyone else or cry and scream for 20 minutes when other people tell her "no." It's me.

Which of course makes me totally analyze everything. I wonder if it's those two days in a row when I heard her wake up and it took me 20 minutes to shake the sleep off and get to her. I wonder if she has no confidence in me and is afraid I am going to leave her and not come back. I wonder if she suspects that I'm pregnant and has some sense that life is about to majorly change (but honestly, can a 21-month-old really truly understand that? I really don't think so). Maybe she has figured out that I'm physically weaker than I used to be. Maybe it's just a phase where she just needs mama. Maybe she has figured out that I'm a total and complete pushover and all she has to do is work me over and she'll get what she want. Maybe she's frustrated by her limited communication skills and is upset that she can't say what she wants to when she wants …

I DON'T KNOW. I have tried EVERYTHING. I literally wear myself out every day trying to approach her differently, trying to figure out how to help her, wondering what I'm doing wrong. Nothing works. I am tearing my hair out. I waffle between frustrated and sad and totally defeated. Cookies help. The fact that it looks like she's back to a daily nap (fingers crossed) helps. I still fall asleep on the couch at 7 pm every night in sheer exhaustion and pregnancy.

We still have plenty of wonderful moments: Just a few days ago my daughter looked at me and told me – totally unprompted – "I love you." I cried. She climbs up into my lap and touches my face and whispers "mama" as we read a book together. While we are walking somewhere and her daddy is carrying her she reaches out her hand to me to "old ands" (hold hands). We sing the song "Bushel and a Peck" together which has the appropriate line "I love you a bushel and a peck! A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck! A hug around the neck and you make my life a wreck!" When she falls down and gets hurt all I have to do is scoop her up in my arms and she is cured. She is still perfectly my Sydney.

I have moments when I cannot wait for her to be able to communicate to me verbally what's going on inside her. Then I buck … that will mean that she's growing up. Needing me less. Beginning that inevitable separation. NO! I TAKE IT BACK! CLAW ME TO DEATH! SMACK ME WITH YOUR CHEESE HANDS JUST DON'T LEAVE ME!!!

What a strange, humbling thing parenting is. You think you're all smart and have life figured out (or at least the floor clean) and BAM! You're on your butt starting from scratch.


11 thoughts on “Parenting For Dummies

  1. Lily says:

    Oye. My dear, my friend Manda. I sympathize. This may not be altogether comforting. But, her terrible-two phase WILL END. It may take awhile though and extend past the birth of the baby. Transitions, whether having desires beyond one’s language abilities or living with a new member of the family, are super hard and especially hard on little tots. You are NOT doing anything to prompt Syd’s behavior. Things, like letting her stay in her crib for some 20 minutes whilst you attempt to stir from slumber, are not responsible for her rowdy behavior; in fact, that may teach her that things don’t come ready made and instantly. That’s a long response for you; sorry. In summary, Syd’s terrible two’s behavior is NOT your fault and dealing with such behavior is exhausting, frustrating, and trying.

  2. Ritzy says:

    Since Syd is so super smart, I think she is ready for this:

    Appeal to her compassion. When she does something unacceptable, say firmly and sadly yet convincingly” that hurts Mama’s heart when Sydney _____s”.

    My boys loathed getting the disappointed, hurt mom routine (only it is not a routine).

    Try it?

  3. sally says:

    Your mother is sorry for your distress, really I am, yet karma ain’t all bad. I am grateful to have lived for this moment:)))) My daughters love and understand me so much more !!!!!!

  4. anne nahm says:

    Oh hugs! All I can think is that 1) kids do this stuff, and it’s really a miracle most parents do not eat their young, and 2) at least she is getting this out of her system before the baby gets here.

  5. Cara says:

    I feel your pain. Sounds like your daughter is as desperate for control as you are to get her under control. Though you’ve undoubtedly thought of this and tried it to no avail, I’d recommend letting her have as much control over the things that could care less to you. i.e. Which plate would you like to have your sandwich on – pink or purple? Would you like to sit here or there? We need to get dressed…do you want to wear this or that? Should we read a book now or color? Giving her two options makes it less overwhelming. I know this can work wonders for my girls most days (though admittedly not on really, really bad days.).

    You shouldn’t be taking any advice from me though. I just came back from the library with an armload of parenting discipline books! 🙂

  6. Rachel says:

    Hang in there! LG’s tantrums started around 18 months and now a year later are finally slowing down. Our life sounded so much like yours does right now.

    Here is what helped most of the time:
    *Daily cuddle time
    *Limiting TV to 30-45 minutes total for the entire day
    *Warning before transitions, for instance if it was nearly lunch time telling him that in 5 minutes he had to wash his hands. He can’t tell time but the warnings helped
    *Giving choices, but no more than 2. For example: do you want to walk backwards or jump to the changing table. The sillier the choices the better.
    *Being consistent. If I told him no and he threw a tantrum resulting in him getting his way, I was guaranteed more tantrums that were even worse later on.

    Also be really careful not to let Syd see that the tantrums unnerve you. It is really hard to stay calm and appear unaffected, but it does help cut down on the tantrums just to get a reaction.

    They won’t last forever, I promise!

  7. A'Dell says:

    Um, yeahhhhh. This sounds just like Claire these days. It’s exhausting having to fight with someone like this all the time.

  8. Sara says:

    I have no advice at all. I just wanted to mention that ‘punch him in his tenders’ made oj try to come out of my nose.

  9. Kathy says:

    I am a mom of 4 boys. The youngest are twins that are just a couple weeks shy of two. And while we don’t have your degree of… insubordination, we do have plenty of trials as well. I don’t want to dish out a lot of advice but one thing to remember – YOU are the parent. You have a strong willed child and she may always be that way even when she outgrows the terrible twos. Remember to be firm and consistent. I know books are not an overnight answer, but “The Strong Willed Child” and “Raising Up Girls” might be a good resource for you. Both are Tyndale Publishing. Will pray for your fam!

  10. lisa says:

    hey, not sure if this is much consolation, but both of mine have been the most difficult from 18-24 months. and i think it’s not that the two’s aren’t trying, but maybe we just figure out how to handle them a little better?

  11. seekingclarav says:

    Well, we have the same exact child. Same food on the floor, same abuse, same husband scenario, same amount of hair falling out. Some days I feel like a psycho with all the ups and downs of the day.

    But like you said, those sweet little moments make it all better.

    And p to the s: I think mine is a few months older than yours and the clingy is a phase. It will pass, for a month or two, and then start up again with a vengeance. It’s awesome.

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