There’s our darling girl, Little Two Trails, grinning for the camera. What a doll. I love her so much. She turns two in a couple of weeks. It’s already so wonderful, and so hard.
I’m not a person who argues and gets stubborn when people think I should do something–not in the moment, anyway. I’ll hop up to do it, and rally my thoughts in the doing. This is not the way to parent a toddler. If you start to do something for them, you should be able to finish it cheerfully. If you don’t want to do it, you should have the presence of mind to say no from the start. If you’re unhappy while doing what they want, I suspect that they get the feeling that when they get something they want they should feel bad. Which is no good way to go through life.
We keep bashing ourselves up against this again and again and again. Dr. Brazelton says “the two year old even contradicts herself”, and yes, yes, yes! That is SO true! “Uppachair… no down! Mommy, uppachair!” “No walk! … WALK, mommy walk!” And yesterday’s epic waffling over what color of rubber ball to buy. I let her change her mind once and she’s been telling me what color she really wanted ever since (sometimes her abandoned first choice, sometimes another one out of the blue).
She has opinions but she can’t stick with them. It’s one of the first times in parenting that I really need to pull myself together, sit down and think out a plan, and discipline myself to stick to it. And what should that plan be? Never giving her choices seems obviously wrong. Always making her make the choice is wrong, too. I could wait until we encounter a choice she wants to make, but those are the choices that are hardest for her to make. Denying her the power to ever make choices that are important to her isn’t right either. Should I always stick with her first choice, then? Should I let her change her mind once (that caused big problems yesterday)?
How about this:
Occasionally present her with easy choices that make her feel pleased with things: goldfish crackers or whole wheat crackers? When I present easy binary choices between two things she likes, she usually does well.
When she wants to make a choice, stop. Don’t just go with it right away. Gently ask her if she’s sure. Once she’s made it, repeat her choice, and slowly explain that we’re sticking with that one. For example: she asked for the purple ball yesterday, and I popped it in the cart and moved along. Four aisles later she wanted the orange one instead… cue frustrating meltdown and mommy-quandary. We needed to have spent more time choosing in the first place, maybe.
And when we’ve made a choice (including when I decide that Mimi doesn’t get a choice)… mommy doesn’t get to give in to toddler changes of heart. It was her choice, she made it, and we both need to be content with that. Mommy shouldn’t let herself be pushed around. This is a boundary. Mimi is happier with it.
Sigh. So hard.