Here Be Dragons: The Toddlerhood Transition

One night, not too long ago, our little family was walking down Valencia St. and witnessed a common yet bone-chilling scene: a small child throwing such a fit that her parent had her in a football hold, as she bucked against his grip and screamed like a Ringwraith.  Joel grumbled, “Hmm… not looking forward to that.”  I guess I was in shock, because I simply answered, “There is no way Olive will ever be that bad.”  Joel just laughed at me, which was the best response, as I could not have accepted my fate graciously at that moment.

Olive has been an unusually sweet, cuddly baby, with a charming disposition who seldom cries unless she needs something.  But somehow, she woke up one day this week, transformed into Tantrum Tracey, Toddler edition.  A friend complimented my parenting the other week, noting that I am pretty permissive and laid back — if I know it’s not going to hurt her or someone else, I let Olive have a lot of choice about her actions.  That was, of course, until she decided that her newest obsession is a desire to lick the toilet plunger.

Whether it is a compulsion to find the grimiest thing in the house and ingest it, or the simple desire to tear apart my shoes like a tiny chupacabra, Olive is asserting her need for independence.  Loudly.  Joel was singing her a little song in the bath the other night, a jaunty tune with the lyrics “It’s the epic struggle between daughter and father/daughter is louder/but father is stronger!” as he tried to wash her fro.

The main problem is that she wants to do everything herself now… and she can’t.  I feel her pain — I wish she could wipe her own butt and feed herself peas and do all the crap I have to do for her every second she’s awake, but she can’t yet!  It takes a lot of energy to do all that stuff, but I don’t mind… as long as she doesn’t turn it into a battle of wills.  Yeah, good luck with that.  Olive of last week would eat her peanut butter & jelly sandwich gladly, happy to be eating food she could just feed herself, sitting at her little toddler table with her milk and a puzzle.  Tantrum Tracey, Toddler edition, laughs at my idea of a simple lunch, and takes to grinding the sandwich into the grooves of the couch, mashing it in for good measure.

So, how am I combating this?  Lots of deep breaths.  Raising my tolerance for a messy house and dirty child.  And, lowering my aversion to having children watch television.  20 minutes of downtime is necessary for both of us, and it sometimes can be the difference between letting Tantrum Tracey escalate to Terrible Twos edition, and getting my sweet babygirl Olive back.

Luckily for me, I don’t need to get cable & deal with fees and commercials, as Netflix streaming has a great selection of kids shows.  Olive’s current favorite is Yo Gabba Gabba, a total stoner show that features some great artists, musicians and guest stars like Mark Mothersbaugh, Biz Markee, and Jack Black.  Joel & I’s favorite character is Foofa, who is pretty cute but really I think we like her best because her voice is the least annoying, and she seems to be the most emotionally well-adjusted character.  We think Brobee really needs some child/monster therapy.

Also, did you know that Amy Poehler made a kids show, set in San Francisco, with Seonna Hong as art director?  If not, then, you’re welcome.  It’s called The Mighty B, and it’s pretty fricken rad.  We didn’t show Olive any TV her entire first year of life.  But Tantrum Tracey requires TV.  Her little toddler blood craves it like an adult needs coffee, and I’m going to moderate it like I limit myself — one a day, even if you want 6.  One.

Another thing I’ve never given Olive but am finding my way around now is processed snacks.  Since she’s now put herself on an all-carb diet, I need sneaky ways to get fruits & veggies in.  While at Bi-Rite the other day, using my awesome gift cert from a still-anonymous donor (thank you again, mystery giver!!), I saw an area of organic snacks for babies, and picked up some Plum Organics Fiddlesticks, Apple-Carrot-Grain flavor.  As soon as I brought them in, I saw Olive’s eyes gleam like a little demon, and her nanny said, “Oh, she likes those.  A friend of mine gave her some once and she liked them.”  Understatement of the year.  Olive went CRAZY for these things.  Her word for food is “Ah-boo”, and all I heard that night was “Ah-boo?  Ah-boo?”, pleading for more Fiddlesticks.  I hid the box, and the girl figured out where they were and started climbing to them!  I thought, “Uh oh.  I may need to ban these from the house.  OR BUY ALL OF THEM EVER MADE.”  I am nervous, though, because of this post from a fellow parent-blogger, that I may be setting myself up for a fall if I allow her to have frequent access to them.  Better stick to raisins.

All of this is occurring at a particularly sleep-deprived moment in our lives, because ever since Daylight Savings, Olive wakes up insanely early.  We used to get to sleep in until the luxurious hour of 6:30, but now Olive is up at 5:45am, guns blazing, bouncing in her crib and using her little lungs to let us know how very awake she is.  After months of this, I realized we are simply not going to survive it, so I suggested to Joel that we switch off, one sleeping in until 6:45 one day while the other gets up with Olive, the other the next.  The first day we tried it, Joel got Olive up, gave her a glass of milk, then brought her right back to bed with me!  “I thought she’d calm down” was his explanation for why she was tapping my face insistently saying “Mama!  Na na?  Mama!!!”  However, this morning he tried again, taking her out at 5:30 and allowing me to sleep an extra hour, and I swear to God I’m a new person.  I plan on returning the favor tomorrow morning, however, so we’ll see how that goes.

Anyways, if anyone has some favorite tips for entering Toddler Land, please comment.  She’s still adorable and hilarious, it’s just like she’s been turned up to 11 and I’m working on minus 15.

7 thoughts on “Here Be Dragons: The Toddlerhood Transition

  1. It is so tempting to want to give advice. I think I parented like you Rhea—handing myself a compliment there. The only feedback I have from my kids is that they wish they had had more boundaries. As adults they have had to learn how to set their own boundaries when they realized the world would not allow them to wake everyone up when they woke up—-and now my one son has two boys who can’t put a toe on the floor until 7 am. Or it used to be that way—now they are pretty old and I’m not sure what they are dong. And I don’t remember how I survived with three. I do remember equating creativity with permissiveness and I also spent most waking hours with my kids and sent them to alternative schools etc. I put my kids first and then me and I am not sure that is the best way to go. I did not put my marriage first and my first marriage didn’t make it—-not because of the kids exactly or even me exactly but I did not allow my husband as much leeway as the kids and I think he noticed.
    The twos are very tricky for intelligent kids. Our society treats all ages of kids like they are unable to think, create, set their own pace, plan ahead, etc. I loved for my kids to have freedom. Do you know the book Summerhill from the 60’s. A real radical schooling method—-no boundaries at all. And I and some other parents started a Free School in Woodstock that was a rousing success because the kids were so smart and learned on their own level and did a field trip to Mexico in a painted van. I could go on but you get the idea. And Olive seems like a great and disciplined child to me. Church is not the best measuring stick for child behavior—my thought. My kids were PK kids—priest’s kids and they thought I worked too hard and always was the last one in the potluck buffett line. Last week when Chris brought me to the potluck on my birthday he said he thought he had spent his childhood in the church basement. He said it was a great place to be and fun. He doesn’t go to church now—but the oter two, who have kids, do go to church with their kids. Then they will know what they are rebeling from if they choose that route.
    Got to go. The sleep part never seems to go away. I was the most tired when they were teenagers, I think. But I think I was tired from the time they were born. I will hold the image of you and Olive dancing to the Beatles while Joel played the guitar in my head for a long while. Hallejulia! Sounds like fun. Love, Genie

  2. My first kid never had a tantrum. Which is why God gave me the other kids. I’m more humble now. I’ve learned to never say “My kid won’t ever do that,” because it’s an engraved invitation to trouble.

  3. Hi Rhea
    I always love hearing what is going on in your world! Here is my two cents, for what its worth: the best thing I ever did/do is to let my kids throw their tantrums…at home, on the sidewalk, in the store. I will not change my mind or succumb to their outbursts but i do believe they have the right to feel what they are feeling. For my daughter, she could scream and cry for an hour. Gus, the easy second child, it is possibly 30 seconds. Then it is over and we move on. Boundaries are equally important but so is allowing them to vent their frustrations. Even now when Anya is yelling and throwing a fit I send her to her room and give her time to scream and chill the f-out because I can’t talk rationally to her in her crazed state. Also, I don’t know how Olive is handling diaper changes but with Gus I’ve decided not to struggle. If he doesn’t want his diaper changed I place my hand on his tummy, let him scream, and ask paitently, “Are you ready now?” and within a minute he usually stops struggling. And finally, regarding the early wake up time…Gus’ waking hour since the time change is 5! I’ve tried everything! Let me know if you find the magic pill.
    I know you are a great mom. Our questioning, mulling over choices, and reaching out for clarity are what make us conscious parents and we just do the best we can and when we screw up, apologize and put a dollar in the therapy jar. There is no perfection…
    Love you much

  4. I’m just happy to hear we didn’t screw up Sully. He’s is amazingly strong willed, and the tantrums were so crazy. I vividly remember our first major battle of wills (didn’t want to wear his jacket on a crazy cold day). He was maybe 19 months old. So, I just couldn’t force it on him, and as I was pushing him to the park in the stroller, I saw visions of me putting a “Free” cardboard sign on him and the stroller, and just parking him there and walking away. We proceeded to have a lovely afternoon at the park however. Summer always reminds me that “this will change”, so the 5 min tantrum that seems like eternity, will for sure end.
    And I swear our kids are related, because Sully has always been an early riser (5am/5:30). If you’re ever on early duty Sunday mornings, that’s the day Wayne sleeps in. (I know you go to church, but just in case). Oh the joys of parenting! Hang in there girl!!

  5. my experience with luca is that he’ll be an absolute terror for, say, a week, then develop something and be cool for a week. it’s like a crazy rollercoaster, but i’ve finally figured out that as soon as i say, “man, he is just the sweestest kid in town,” the end is near… and then as soon as i say, “dear god, i cannot take this anymore, i am leaving him in the free box,” it gets better.

    i feel you on the tv thing. i grew up without one and i don’t know how my mom did it. netflix is a godsend. luca watches caillou, kipper, mighty machines (lots and lots of mighty machines) and a few others. i tried to set a limit on it but i’m not the most consistent person so there are some days when i’ll keep the mighty machines going all dang day if we both need it.

    however, and this pertains to processed foods too, i have found that if i trust him to have his own experience and learn from it, that he’ll glut out a bit and then ease back from it. he leaves his movie to go play, then decides he needs a little break and comes back. he eats veggie fries for breakfast lunch and dinner (though i always put a small variety of non processed foods on his plate) and then he’s over it. luca was on an all carb diet at that age too, and now it’s meat, cheese and milk. primarily meat. i just figure he’s craving what his body needs.

    gosh, tips? get out of the house, away from babyland, and hang out with other grownups and don’t talk about kids. make sure there is a safe zone in the house where she can hang out unsupervised for a bit if you need to take a time out for yourself. (i got some crazy anger issues so i need to be able to tell him, “i need to take a minute to get my shit together” and leave the room before dealing with things sometimes). lots of park/free play gymnastics stuff. when luca was this age we went to the park for a few hours before dinner and it was the best thing ever- wore him out, he slept longer, got all that buzzy energy out. luca started going to school 3 days a week when he was about 2 and on school days he’s way happier and calmer- and so am i. also having someone take him overnight sometimes has saved my life.

    this is such a hard age in part because they are frustrated with their communication skills- as soon as luca started talking it got WAY easier.

    also, massages. kabuki spa. ice cream sundaes.


  6. Pingback: My Blogiversary: One Year of Thirty Threadbare Mercies! « thirty threadbare mercies

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