One of the things that we've been working on with LC is not to have a total meltdown when something doesn't go her way. Granted, part of it is that we are just at "that age" but I know a lot of her frustration comes from having a will/opinion now that she can't seem to communicate accurately. For instance, yesterday for lunch I put chicken on her plate and she's gotten to the point where she doesn't want to eat chicken without ketchup (thanks, Dad!). In fact, if I'd let her, I'm pretty sure the child would drink ketchup, a quality I totally understand because I love the stuff.
When I handed her the plate of food, she started saying, "Catchu? Catchu?" and I had absolutely NO idea what she was trying to say initially.
Chicken? I asked, trying to decipher the message.
Her eyebrows furrowed in frustration and in her sing-song voice, she said, "Noooo!"
Cheese? I try again.
Grunt and whine combo followed by another emphatic "No!"
Catchu? she says again, as if I should understand simply because she repeated the word.
Finally, it dawned on me. Ketchup? I asked and I knew the second her eyes lit up that I'd cracked the code.
Catchu! she exclaimed again, as if CLEARLY that was what she had been saying all along.
How frustrating... I caught myself thinking. No wonder toddlers spend the better part of their twos and threes in tears. If you had the mind to know what you wanted but lacked the verbal capacity to speak it or, in many instances, lack the physical ability to either do it for yourself or be reasoned with about why your choice isn't making sense...ummmmm, yea. I'd be really, really frustrated myself.
In fact, Mother-of-the-Year here finds that I get frustrated sometimes with LC for wanting something so strongly but I lack the super-sleuth ability to figure it out. It's hard both ways...to not be able to speak your wants but also to not understand what's wanted. I can see why the toddler years are painful for both sides now.
Motherhood, I'm finding, should come with extra credit job titles. Like, forget telling people I'm a Mom. Instead, I'm going to put on my resume, when the time comes, that I've most recently had the role of Language Interpreter, Private Detective (where IS that stinkin paci?), Mental Healthcare Provider, Travel Coordinator, Conflict Resolutioner and Communications Director.
I'm a little ashamed to admit this but I was talking to my mom the other day on the phone and I was explaining to her about how LC could be playing and smiling at me one second and then the very next second might look at me and suddenly burst into tears of frustration. The mood swings happen so fast and seem so extreme lately it can make my head spin.
"It's way too early to diagnose mental illness, isn't it?" I asked her. I'm not making a joke at the expense of those who have struggled with or have family who struggles with mental illness. I really meant it. There are moments when having a toddler feels like that. Yes, honey, it's way too early...she replied. That's called, being a toddler. I mean, I know that...but...
I severely underestimated Motherhood as a job. I used to think that it would be like taking time off from the stressful workforce to smell the roses with some perfect sidekick/fashion accessory. BAHhahahaha! is all I have to say about that.
I'm not elevating my status of being a full-time mom over working mothers because I honestly have no idea how they keep all those balls in the air. But what I am trying to say is that motherhood itself, is surprisingly hard in its own, unexpected way for me personally. Every morning now, I wake up to a new job, a new challenge, new expectations but also, blessedly, new joys and discoveries.
Beyond the meltdowns caused from our communication misfires, I find myself laughing at the things that LC can communicate now. Recently, I've been trying to tell her how to express when she does or doesn't want something.
Do you want such-and-such? I ask
To which LC replies with grunting or whining.
Ok, no whining. I say... If you want it you need to use your words and tell Mommy "Yes, please..."
Yessssh...she will reply, adding an adorable "sh" sound on the end of the word.
Please? I say. Use your manners.
Yessssh, PEAS. she replies and I hand over whatever we might be talking about, praising for her use of manners.
No thank you, however, is much harder. Why use words when crying or throwing yourself on the floor gets the point across one little person might ask?
But yesterday afternoon, we had a "click" moment. I was holding LC at her request as we were leaving the gym and I said to her, "Can Mommy have a kiss?" Her forehead immediately pinched and she started whining, making it obvious that idea didn't sound like something she was interested in.
Ok, I reply, you don't have to give Mommy a kiss but you can't whine about it. Just say, "No, thank you..."
No! she says and then signs "Thank you".
Close, I think. I'll take it...and so I didn't press her again for affection.
Later, as I was hanging LC's laundry in her bedroom, I could overhear DW talking to her in the kitchen.
Can Daddy have a kiss? I hear him ask.
No! LC replies and I have to admit I caught myself laughing when I heard him respond with:
Please? Can Daddy have a kiss, please? Guess he thought "using his manners" might score him one.
No! LC replies again.
And then she added for good measure:
DW started laughing. "Did you hear that?" he calls to me from the kitchen.
What? I say, wanting to hear it from him because I wasn't sure I heard the whole thing.
Sure enough, LC had said to him: No kiss.
We laughed together pretty hard about it, as we do many things LC says or does lately. But it's also weird to realize the process of "letting go" really started the day she came into our lives. Our job, I'm realizing, is more than teaching her and loving her. It's about preparing her. This is just the beginning of LC finding her own way in life and the wanting us less and less has begun.
Good thing I have about 16.4 more years to get used to that idea.