Sunday, June 8, 2008

dun dah, dun dah dun dah dun dah DUNDAHDAH!

That was the theme music from Jaws, if you couldn't tell. It's up there to express the sneaking realization that the Terrible Twos are upon us.

It's so strange, the process of adapting to toddlerhood. I'm moving from the belief that my baby is an essentially helpless being who needs help to do everything to understanding that he is an essentially powerful being who is capable of doing things himself (or getting me to do it for him.) The first belief results in my making decisions out of pity for his helplessness, while the second results in decisions about how to support his developing independence. And obviously it's not that I feel only one of these things to the exclusion of the other - the new understanding of his abilities is phasing in as my belief in his helplessness phases out - but I think the toddler tantrums serve to mark the tipping point between which of these beliefs is dominant. When he starts thrashing and wailing because I'm not intuiting his needs quickly enough - and his sudden "needs" are now more along the lines of wanting a popsicle or some particular thing on a shelf - then I realize that he isn't crying from pain, hunger or fear, but from momentary impotence. From shortness and from motor control that works pretty well, but not yet perfectly. Wanting but not getting these things won't hurt him - it probably benefits him, really, to some extent. What would life be like without a few unsatisfied desires? If the popsicle doesn't appear until tomorrow night, isn't it all the sweeter?

Anyway, this is a challenging period but full of the learning for both of us. He's learning more about consequences and how asking calmly generally works better than crying for something. (I'm trying to push the "please" too, to create another marker separating a good request for something from wailing/grabbing/thrashing around for it. Also, who can say no to a polite kid? Useful life skill, there.) I'm learning how to detach emotionally, a little, when necessary. The nice thing about loving a baby is that there are basically no boundaries - if a baby wants something badly, it's almost certainly good for them - food, milk, being held. This really isn't the case with toddlers. There are lots of things toddlers want badly which aren't necessarily good for them. However, it's kind of difficult to make this emotional transition from being all Yes to being mostly No, with some Yes and some Later.

None of this has been helped by the terrible early morning wake up time. 5:15. 3:45. 4:45. It's like a parade of bleary moments that you remember from the other side of the evening in your early 20s. Basically, that sums it up. Having a toddler is like peering through a dark window at your teens/early twenties. It's not quite the same thing -- we'll be getting that in 13-14 years or so -- but it is kind of an early run-through. Toddlers are apparently just teenagers without acne.

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