Today, we crossed over.
Not the lovely kind of “let’s cross over,” though, Liz Gilbert-style. There was no “attraversiamo” here, no “let’s.” I had no say in the matter.
No–the crossing over I experienced today landed me right smack dab in uncharted territory. And it has definitely not been lovely.
Today, my two-year-old-in-one-week cherub and I took a parenting turn for the worse.
We boldly entered the Land of NO.
And so far, it is terrifying.
Terrifying–because today; in one crazy, irrational display of toddler manipulation, that adorable little cherub figured out that he doesn’t HAVE to do what mama says.
He figured out that he can, in fact, do the exact opposite if he wants to. And all he has to do is say NO.
But here’s what really gets me. He could already say no! And it was so cute–those first few weeks–whenever he used his new word!
Me: Do you want some more strawberries, Hank?
Hank: (in precious singsong) Umm, no-oh!
Me: (still in new-parent la-la-land) Awwwww! Isn’t that cute? He said “No!” He is so SMART! Another real WORD! And look how he makes his mouth into that round little “o” shape! Goodness, that’s just adorable!
What happened to THAT no? How did we morph from darling baby no to demon-child banshee-screaming NO!?
Whatever it was, it flipped like a switch in that smart little brain this morning. On the stairs. In “time-out.” (Another relatively new concept.)
It went like this:
Me: Hank, please. Mama needs to go to work, so I need you to be a good boy and let me change your diaper so we can get you dressed.
Me: You don’t tell mama NO. We are changing your pants whether you want to or not!
Hank: *rolls eyes*
Me: Don’t you roll your eyes at mama!
Hank: *scrunches both eyes shut. Juts chin out defiantly *
Me: (inner monologue) God, help me. I am clearly not qualified to raise this child.
Hank: *eyes still closed*
The rest of our day brought more refusals, more time-outs, more counting-down-from-fives and a lot more NO. The demon-child version. I have never heard so much unexplained screaming. I have never done so much daytime praying. Or counting to ten. Or taking deep breaths.
All I could think about, all day, was how right all those people were about the “Terrible Twos.” Apparently, we have entered them. Exactly one week early.
I get it, now–all those toddler tantrum jokes and memes. I get the meltdown over not getting “the blue cup.” We had one today because Hank wanted the BLUE paci.
(But not THAT blue paci.)
I see why cutting the sandwich bread the wrong way can cause a full-on come-apart. Hank came-apart over mandarin oranges because the sections had already, (thanks to mommy) come apart.
(Which HE had wanted to do. Himself.)
Drew Barrymore’s picture of her daughter, sprawled across the Disneyland concrete, in full-on kid-fit, makes so much more sense to me now. Because now, I have seen my own child, spread eagle on the kitchen floor, kicking and screaming, for who-knows-why, exactly.
I tried to channel Drew’s cool, collected calm all day while my toddler’s world crashed down all around us. But it is harder than I thought.
Just ignore it.
Just forge ahead, go on with your day.
He will eventually get over it.
How on earth, a small, hardly-speaking toddler can out-wit and out-stubborn a grown adult with a Masters in Education is beyond me. (And more than a little embarrassing.)
Today–in all of its glory–left me wishing for my baby back. The baby who didn’t argue; the one who laid there, cooing and smiling as I changed his diapers, whenever I damn well pleased.
The baby who weighed nine manageable pounds, not the thirty-plus of rough-and-tumble I can hardly hold onto, kicking and bucking on the carpet, dirty diaper dangling perilously by one tab.
The baby who never told me NO.
I would do anything to swap him out, for one of those again. Maybe just for a few days, just until I can figure out how to handle this new, scary world we just landed in. I would gladly rock the baby keeping some new tired mama up around the clock. That–I was great at. Those days, I knew what I was doing. Because whatever I did, always seemed to work.
Today–nothing seemed to work–except my smart little boy’s brain as it filed away notes on how to outsmart his mama.
I don’t know if I am cut out for this. I need an emergency crash course in Toddler.
Smile, Hank! (Now doesn’t that just look like the face of an angel?)