Some whine to go with that (mac and) cheese? And, Just call me Jeeves!

We’ve spent much more time with Lily lately than we usually get to – at the end of last week, I minimized her time at daycare upon hearing that a nasty stomach thing appeared to be making the rounds, and we traveled to Pennsylvania with her during the first three weekdays of this week – and for the most part, it’s been really fun. Unlike when she was a baby, she can now engage with you while playing, tell you what books she wants to read, color with little supervision for stretches of time, etc. And she also often says some pretty hilarious things, which is fun.

But then, there’s the down-side of a two-and-a-half year old. You know what I’m talking about. The whining. The trumped up weeping over nothing. The repeated grunting while reaching toward something vague. It’s baffling. She’s a verbal kid, and she talks a blue streak quite often. Yet even so, she often lately reverts to this kind of whining.

I suppose it’s inevitable, but it’s no less annoying for being predictable.

We’re trying to nip it in the bud, naturally, insisting that she use her words, and that she stop (pretending to) cry while asking for something. But it’s hard to keep your patience when she seems stuck in that mode. Hearing it is the toddler equivalent of listening to fingernails scrape down a chalkboard. Wish we could skip this particular phase.

This is how Lily views us, currently.

And what’s also not helping is that Lily seems to also be going through this patch where she’s seeing precisely how much we will wait upon her like servants. (I think I surprised another daycare mom the other day as she went through the entryway: Lily dropped a couple of goldfish from her lunch bag onto the floor, and when she said, “Get it,” I coolly responded, “Your arms seem to work just fine, kiddo. Get them yourself.”)

This behavior has reared its head here and there along the way before – and Lily’s caretakers at daycare report that the kids are always seeing how much they can milk them as well – but the moment it really registered with me was when we were walking home and Lily was pushing her baby doll’s stroller on the sidewalk. She insisted on carrying her lunchbag, too, so she was pushing the stroller with one hand and thus couldn’t steer very well. Several times, the stroller ran into the sidewalk’s grass border and got stuck, and the first couple of times, I dislodged it for her, setting Lily back on course. 

Then, it started happening every few feet, and she started saying, “Get it, Mommy.” It was cold out, I wanted to get home, and I was in no mood to be ordered around by my two year old. So I said, “No, I’m not going to do this a million times. So here are your choices. You can let me carry your bag, so you can steer the stroller better. Or I can carry the stroller home. Which is it going to be?” After resisting and whining a minute or two, she finally handed over the bag.

This experience sharpened my sensitivity to her requests more generally, making me notice how often she asked me or Joe to do things that she was perfectly capable of doing herself (which was fairly often). And things came to a head one morning when – after Lily whined and cried about the breakfast we presented to her, and what I’d dressed her in, and how she wanted to push the buttons on the stereo near the kitchen table – I snapped.

I’d left the kitchen for a moment to gather myself, seeing red, but upon hearing her whining about the stereo still, I stomped back in and screamed, “If you want to press the buttons, move the chair, which I know you can do, climb up, which I also know you can do, and JUST. DO. IT!!” With this last command, I jammed the chair into position and walked out of the kitchen again.

Lily’s cries suddenly sounded a bit more genuine, and I took a seat in the living room armchair. After a minute of self-pity, Lily appeared in the doorway, red-faced, puffing her lip in and out. I made no move, letting her come to me, which she did, arms out for a hug. I scooped her up and we snuggled for a few minutes. “I love you, sweetie. But this whining thing has got to stop. And when you can do something yourself, don’t cry at Daddy and me to do it for you. You’re getting to be a big girl.”

She whimpered but soon recovered, assured that we were good again – as will always be the case, of course.

It’s so strange. We recently visited a toy store that she never wanted to leave, but not only did she finally do so without fuss, she also accepted it when I told her we were there to buy a gift for another child, not for her that day. No whining, no crying, no tantrum. So a lot seems to depend on myriad factors that change from day-to-day.

And I understand that this manipulative, bossy period of her development is probably even evolutionary. I mean, why wouldn’t you try to see exactly how much you could get from everyone around you right from the get-go? It just makes sense.

Yet this doesn’t make the whining and entitled sense of bossiness easy to swallow. Waaaaaaaaaahhhhhh. (You can’t see me, but I’m now reaching vaguely toward the future, toward a time when Lily is over this particular hump.)

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