“Rapunzel dollie!” = Kill me now.

My long-haired, sweet nemesis

To tell the story I want to tell, I have to backtrack a little in order to provide context. So bear with me.

Lily is just now getting her first experiences with money. At a neighbor’s suggestion, we recently encouraged her to help us pick up sticks in the yard, and we gave her a penny for each stick. After a while, she’d earned $3, so we took her to the nearby CVS and told her she could pick out something that cost that much or less. (She chose glittery gold nail polish, naturally.)

Plus, a couple of weekends ago, I took her to Toys R Us to pick out a present for a preschool friend who was having a birthday party. In the past, in similar circumstances, Joe had also let her choose something small for herself, so I did the same. But the first thing she gravitated to was a Rapunzel doll that costs $20 (“Tangled” is probably her favorite movie). I told her it was too much money, and she didn’t cry, she didn’t throw a fit. She found other things, and each time, when I explained they were too much money, she put them back without a fight and looked for something more appropriate. We finally settled on a lower-key doll that was $8 – more than I initially intended to spend on her thing, but she’d been so good about all the “nos” that preceded it that I cut her some extra slack – and I told her that Hanukkah and Christmas were coming up, so maybe she’d get the Rapunzel dollie then.

“Rapunzel was too much money,” she said several times on the drive home, lovingly stroking the red hair of the doll we actually purchased. “But maybe I can get it for Hanukkah. When is Hanukkah?”

“Well, it’s several weeks away yet,” I said, looking at her in the reariew mirror. “But if you’re a good girl, like you usually are, I think you’re chances of getting a Rapunzel dollie are good, sweetie.”

OK. A lovely experience, generally, and I was proud of Lily. She hadn’t acted like an entitled brat in the store, and she seemed to be in the early stages of learning the value of money. All good.

Then, last Wednesday night, I’d wished I’d never had this conversation with her. Continue reading

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Mommy’s got something to prove – to whom?

When Lily was a newborn, one of the only things that consistently soothed her was being toted around in a sling – so we walked around town with our “baby in a bag” quite a bit.

On one occasion, a neighbor, after peeking inside the sling to see our then-sleeping new addition, admonished me and Joe to “cherish this time,” because we’d never get it back, and it would all go so fast.

We nodded gravely, but Joe and I exchanged subtle glances that conveyed that we were both mentally circling a pointed finger aside our heads in a “cuckoo” gesture. Was this guy meshugge? Having your sleep constantly and randomly interrupted; being screamed at for long stretches, and feeling absolutely helpless to soothe your child; being shat and spit up upon regularly; and not being able to eat a meal together in peace (let alone eat a meal, or take a shower, when flying solo with the baby) – this was the apex of parenthood? Seriously?

Joe and I shook our heads while walking back to our house, agreeing that, from what we could tell so far, the baby phase was something to be endured rather than “cherished.”

Now, of course, our family lineup has changed, and we have a boundary-pushing 3 year old as well as a newborn in the house. And this long-past, casual conversation with a neighbor has come to have far more resonance for me.

This is partly due, surely, to the fact that Neve is a low-key, sleepy, easily comforted baby, and I’ve enjoyed the baby phase much more the second time around (when the anxiety is generally lower, anyway). But I think the primary reason I’m recalling this exchange lately is because I’m realizing that handling a newborn, despite its challenges, is relatively simple when compared to the self-doubt/guilt/misery spiral involved in disciplining your average, volatile 3 year old, who’s prone to operatic, irrational tirades. Continue reading

Discipline: When “the small stuff” has enormous consequences

While picking up around the house a few days ago, I finally grabbed at a ripped-off piece of pink Pull-up that was on the living room floor – the detritus of a recent battle with Lily.

On this particular occasion, Lily had a poop-filled Pull-up on, yet she was ardently resisting being changed. (She’s pretty much got the whole peeing-in-the-toilet thing down, but for some reason, we’re really, really struggling to get the #2 piece of the puzzle in place.) We tried to reason with her, but in the end, she fought and kicked while Joe forcibly changed her; and as soon as she was back on the floor, she yanked at the Pull-up, trying to take it off while insisting that she wanted her poopy diaper back on, and, in a rage, tried to hit one of us – I don’t even remember who. (Again, all sense goes out the window when kids get worked up. I mean, really. What’s the appeal of putting a poop-filled diaper back ON, exactly?)

Joe swept her up and took her up to her room, which is where Lily’s “time outs” occur. The screaming escalated; Joe removed an item from her room each time Lily opened her door to try to leave (a new and effective method coined by Joe); and eventually, she yelled and cried herself out and became calm, if a bit whiny, once more, and apologized. (Though, maddeningly, at this stage, we always ask her, “Do you know what you’re sorry for?” and inevitably, she’ll be struck dumb or say, quite earnestly, “No.” Her rages and tantrums take her so far away from their point of origin that she completely forgets what they’re even about.)

A similar huge-tantrum scenario played out a few nights ago, when Lily, after requesting something specific for dinner, complained and whined about not wanting to eat it the minute we sat down to eat (that time, I took her up to her room); and last night, yet another battle over a seemingly microscopic matter resulted in Lily screaming in her room.

Oof. Continue reading