“Sometimes,’ said Pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
― A.A. Milne
This quote is so quintessentially true about the love and joy instilled by children. Children are such little gigantic souls, brimming with energy, spices and emotions. They can be such a ray of sunshine to a doleful humdrum day. They can surprise you with their bliss or lift your spirits with their hope. A child’s smile can turn a stressful workday into such an inconsequential thing.
Conversely, they can also puzzle me with their litany of idiosyncrasies. When I became a new mother of a toddler, I was frankly unprepared for the many flavors of frustration, anger, and downright grumpiness that a bambino can unleash! The myriad of quirks displayed by little ones can be bamboozling to the unsuspecting parent. For instance, no amount of medical training ever prepared me for the terror of post-nap crankiness! Certainly this is not a medical terminology, but all four of my kids experienced it with the force of a hurricane during their toddler and preschool years. At times, it could be so torrential that I would much rather skip the nap than face the post-nap sequelae.
I also was initially unschooled by the concept of “redo’s” or “repeats.” Sometimes, when my toddler or preschooler was unsatisfied with the way events played out, they would frequently demand a “redo.” This meant several reproductions of original events until deemed satisfactory to my 2 or 3 year old at that time. When I first started parenting 8.5 years ago, I used to try my best to dissuade such replays to occur, thinking that I would be setting a pattern for bad behavior if I was lenient. However, with more experience and waning sanity, I learned to better choose my battles. Perhaps my little one needed to feel a sense of control in a world where someone bigger was always in charge. Perhaps they needed to assert their overflowing independence. Perhaps they needed to establish a place in our larger busy household.
Today, it is simply easier to advise my 3 older boys line up behind my current 2 year old so she could be the first to go through a door, get in the car, leave the house. The boys don’t mind appeasing this bossy little lady and we candidly do not have the time for a 30 minute temper tantrum before Taekwondo or rushing to the school bus stop! For a 3 month period, my 2 year old also demanded to be the sole person in our household to turn off the light to every room we exit. She currently needs me to stand in a specific spot every morning after brushing her teeth and curly Q hair so she can look in the mirror, fluff her hair and say, “Pretty!” She needs me to sit in a particular seat at the dinner table and recite a precise phrase after reading certain Pinkalicious books and sing her bedtime songs in a categorical order. If the ABC song comes before Itsy, Bitsy Spider, I will be on the receiving end of her self-riteous anger. I think she feels comfort and reassurance in order and decorum according to her 2 year old standards. As a mother, I need to sacrifice a slice of my own autonomy to placate her sour & salty quirks. I am constantly improvising and redirecting. Last night I had to bust out the “Santa Clause is coming to Town” song to curtail an impending tantrum and resort to scatologic humor to evaporate those tearful oak brown eyes. She had rewarded me with a giggle, ” You are so, so funny, Mommy!”
Honestly, it can be difficult to differentiate between what is typical for the idiosyncratic 2 or 3 year old, and what is pathological or developmentally abnormal. The navigation of this period can be overwhelming for many parents, especially a neophyte but also for a well-seasoned mother. When in doubt, it is always important to ask the child’s pediatrician.