* When I get home from work, I don’t drop everything and run to the daycare center to get Lily. (Shocking!) Instead, I often take 20-30 minutes for myself. It’s a small slice of time I reserve every day for mental maintenance. Depending on the day, I might read the paper, take a “disco nap,” read a chapter of the book I’m currently reading, or watch a few minutes of “Glee” or “30 Rock” on the DVR. (And yes, I’m pathetic enough that sometimes, the very thing that will make me feel better is to fold a basket of laundry, or catch up on dishes or bills.) What I do with that time doesn’t really matter. But having that little daily window that I can count on provides me with a good foundation for “the second shift.” And since Lily is the Norm Peterson of Sunny Day Care, wanting to stay until the place closes every day, regardless of whether I arrive at 4:30 or just before it closes at 6 p.m., I feel pretty guiltless about this bit of daily self-indulgence. I’m unbelievably grateful for it, and feel lucky to have it.
* I’ve come to realize that most toddlers have a weirdly selective OCD streak (we call Lily “Little Monk” at these times) while also having zero sense of cleanliness in other ways. Example: we were sitting near the entryway of her daycare center, sharing a snack (as we often do – one of Lily’s OCD things is routine), when she spilled her cup of Cheerios through the gate and onto the ground, around some bushes. She insisted on going around to pick them up herself, which was wonderful. But then she wanted to eat them, dirt and all. She also gets upset when there’s a little visible dirt on her feet or sandals, but then, after I clean them as best as I can, she stomps around a muddy puddle. Two year olds are walking contradictions.
* One of the tough things about two year olds is they change their little minds approximately every 1.2 seconds, and they’re adamant about each seismic shift in thought. Lily literally brought me to my knees on a recent morning with this. “I wan’t water” – I get her some ice water in a sippy cup – “No, milk” – I dump the water and get milk – then, in a panicked voice, Lily waves her arm at me and says, “No! In the green sippy cup!!” Kill me, I thought. Just kill me now. (I really did collapse on the kitchen floor after about 45 minutes of this toddler whining and crying, and in that moment, I let out a scream – which was a necessary release for me, but Lily immediately bent over to pull me up, and she looked pretty scared and worried. I pulled her to me and held her as we both cried for a few minutes. You never see these moments on Hallmark ads.)
Part of the trouble is that toddlers don’t really know what they want, or consider the consequences of what they think they want. Since Joe has been staying home in the mornings more often recently (thank you, Joe!), when he gets ready to leave the house, Lily will say she wants to go with Daddy, and wants Daddy to take her to daycare. Fine by us. We pack ourselves in the car, take her over, and when she’s in her room and we’re kissing her goodbye, every time, she has a look on her face like, “Wait – is this what I wanted? What the hell was I thinking about?”
* Lily has two lives: her daycare life, and her home life. At daycare, she’ll eat various hot lunches that I purchase for her – chicken nuggets, quesadillas, pizza, pancakes, sausages, fish – while at home, she stubbornly, vehemently restricts her eating to mac and cheese, hot dogs, yogurt and fruit. That’s pretty much it. Don’t know why this is, exactly. I’ve told Joe that at daycare, she got the positive peer pressure of other kids eating the different stuff around her, and we can’t duplicate that. But what gives? Why does she turn her little nose up at chicken nuggets at home and not at daycare?
We also have this issue regarding naps. She never fights them at daycare, but now, it’s this terrible, “oh, God, I know a fight is coming” thing every Saturday and Sunday for Joe and me. She cries and says, ‘No bed! No nap!” when personally, both of us could think of nothing so inviting and wonderful.
This last weekend, though, I had a bit of a breakthrough on this front. Yes, Lily still threw everything she could at us at naptime and raged without pause, but I managed it, and she took her nap both days. What changed? Well, I confess, the Supernanny is a person of interest for me. Before I was a parent, I’d occasionally watch her with wonder, trying to soak in the lessons that seemed reasonable and valuable. And at a recent Mom2Mom sale, I picked up one of her books for a buck. So in dipping into it recently, I read about a method she’d established for children who wouldn’t go to sleep unless a parent stayed with them in the room. The idea is that you appear to “shut down,” so you’re not responding to her and her demands (and you’re out of arm’s reach), but you’re still in the room with the child as a comfort.
I tried a slight variation on this – I occasionally opened my eyes and told her “I’m resting” in a quiet voice so she wouldn’t think something was wrong with me and get scared – and it pretty much worked. Her screaming escalated into a high-pitched fit on the first try, and thus got worse before it got better, but eventually, when she realized I wasn’t changing course, she got tired, flopped onto her pillow, and fell asleep. The next day went better. I think I drive her a little crazy by not responding, but I like the fact that I’m not giving in to her while showing her I’m there for her, too.
And weirdly, it was easier to take her yelling when I closed my eyes and tried to zone out. Projecting a sense of zen seemed to actually result in that state a bit, so that I could hold on and not lose patience. Weird, but true.
* Another new shift of late is resistance to going to daycare generally. Once Lily’s there and I leave, her caregivers report, she’s fine and happy. But getting her there – especially on Mondays – has been increasingly painful. In a way, I view this as being like a long-distance relationship. When you only see your significant other once every several weeks or so, every minute together is a special occasion of going out to eat and doing fun things – not the drudgery of doing dishes and taking out the garbage. Lily has this impression of life at home, I think, where every day would be trips to the zoo, the park, and the library. It wouldn’t, of course; and she’d miss playing with the other kids. But she doesn’t know that (see “Two year olds don’t really know what they want” note above.)
* I know a lot of items on this blog are about the difficult parts of parenting, but of course, there are also wonderful moments. We just had a lovely weekend with Lily while the Farmington Founders Festival was happening. We spent Friday night and all of Saturday out with her, listening to bands, getting a flower painted on her cheek, and playing in all the inflatable contraptions. Here’s one highlight: Lily urged us to let her go on an enormous, inflatable slide, but we thought she might be too little (we watched as older kids scaled the climb, but then got scared and had to be helped down). Finally, we let her try it, and she not only got all the way up by herself, with a little coaching; she then glided down the slide without the slightest hesitation. (She’s often a little thrill-seeking daredevil, but then she’ll surprise you with a totally unexpected fear in another moment.) So wowed and proud were we that I ran to get my FlipCam so we could share our wonder with the world. She may have a future in rock-climbing, the crazy little monkey…
(Pardon the smudge on the lens! Didn’t see it until after I took the footage.)
* One thing that makes training for a triathlon difficult when you have a two year old is the whole dinner question. Lily’s pretty ravenous when I get her from daycare, so often, she’s eating before, or when, Joe gets home. This means Joe and I often eat after she goes to bed, which, by definition, puts dinner past 9 p.m. But because this is also the only time we have to exercise during the week, one of us will go out for a run, or to the nearby gym, thereby pushing dinner back to 10 p.m. or later. Not ideal for a number of reasons – but that’s the reality we’re living just now.