The 25 steps from the sidewalk to our apartment are fraught with tantrum triggers, from my toddler’s desire to leap-frog down stone steps to merely passing through the front door, thus denying her access to the playground. This is our daily test. But really, everything’s fair game.
It starts with a stare, shaking, a deep growl that rises up from her toes pushing words through clenched teeth. It ends in earsplitting screams, defiant marches in the opposite direction and the spaghetti maneuver – going limp as I attempt to forcibly remove her from the battleground.
Some days she walks past her temptations with nary a glance.
Some days, the tantrum surfaces and I have patience and creativity that surprise even me. I see a meltdown approaching and entice it away with a promise of pasta lunch, a charade game of marching band. There are days where nothing matters. The barrage of bullets will fly, my efforts be damned.
Then there are the other days. The days I wake up on the wrong side of the bed … five times between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. to tend to the baby’s night feedings or the toddler’s cries for the orange ball she just remembered she’d put under the bed.
On these days, I just want to get where we’re going. I don’t care about a 2-year-old’s absolutely-must-have-five-seconds-agos. I need, please GOD, to get everyone fed and down for a nap. My head screams: “Please give me five minutes of quiet!”
Surprise, surprise. My push toward peace gives me just the opposite.
These rushed moments turn a hungry, sleepy or just plain toddler into my worst enemy. My frustration leads to her frustration leads to my frustration.
After a particularly rough afternoon that had me, for a good few seconds, questioning my ability to parent, I acknowledged my role in our shared misery. I vowed to do better.
I honed in on a familiar demon — sleep deprivation. My early morning (about 4 a.m. to 7 a.m.) consists of just a few short naps. When the girls call out to start their day, I feel every minute of deprived sleep. I’m aggravated. I thunder out of bed with a chip on my shoulder and move somewhat thoughtlessly through the rest of the day.
So I started an experiment I’ve dubbed The Great Get-Out-of-Bed Plan. I’ll write about it in more detail another time, but the idea is to try to face the day with a new attitude.
Even when I’m beat, I’ve been getting out of bed just a few minutes before I expect the girls to wake. I stretch, wash up and acknowledge the day.
Simple, really, but when I take these few minutes in the morning, not begrudging the babes for the sleep I’ve missed, I can carry more patience throughout the day. Not perfect patience. I don’t expect that. I’m sure I’ll yell and she’ll yell. It’s inevitable.
But when I have patience, chances are better that I will make Sophie laugh instead of scream, make her think she wants to play with her puzzle instead of play on the swings in a thunder storm. If tantrums ensue, even after I’ve brought my best, I can more calmly deal with the fallout.
Maybe then I can drive her (and me) crazy a little less.