Yesterday evening, My Husband looked at me while wrangling Mac over the kitchen sink to wash his hands and said, “Have you noticed he’s becoming harder to control?”
No. No. Not at all. What would give you that impression?
Harder to Control?!
He’s becoming nearly impossible to control.
In fact, he LOVES being completely OUT OF CONTROL.
Nothing makes him happier than crashing his ride-along truck pedicure death machine into the brand new radiator cover. He positively squeals in delight.
And yes, I haven’t painted my toenails in at least 6 weeks. Also, yes, the radiator cover is taking the beatings like a champ.
He knows what he wants.
And he knows a minor outburst has the potential to get it for him. . .fast.
Welcome to 15 months. . .
By my best estimates, this stage lasts until approximately age 24 (years).
I lie in bed at night wondering not only if we have the stamina needed to keep up, but also if we have the wisdom necessary to know how to address the little guy’s impulses, needs, and desires in a balanced and appropriate manner.
No parent wants to see their child act like he’s possessed by a demonic spirit in the middle of the grocery or restaurant. And I think most parents know you shouldn’t continually indulge a child’s desires lest they grow up to be self-centered, fire-breathing, class A asshole adults.
But where’s the balance?
I can’t seem to find any magical answers. . .Seems it all depends.
Yeah. That’s annoying.
So here’s my completely unscientific approach to determining when I let the little guy go wild with reckless toddler abandon and when I need to be the “bad guy.”
Here are Mommy’s crazy rules for making sure you reach adult-hood with all your limbs and nearly psychologically intact. Someday you’ll thank me.
1. If there’s threat of serious bodily injury, forget it. Running with a fork? Jumping off the 5th stair? Scaling yet another unstable vertical surface? Sorry. Protest all you want. Game over. And yes, I’ll attempt to explain to you why I’m being such a dictator despite the fact that you are writhing around on the ground with your fingers jammed in your ears.
2. If a mess involved, my decision is going to be guided by the situation. But I’ll strive to be consistent. That cute little thing you used to do trying to fish the ice cubes out of a glass of water? Well, now that you’re older and have decided you’d rather just dump the glass all over yourself? That’s not so adorable. So we have to stop. I’m sorry I ever allowed it to begin with. Mommy made a mistake. To make things more equitable, I’ll never never never ever consume another beverage in your presence. However, if you want to throw your melamine dishes all over the floor just before the dinner guests arrive? I’ll allow it – at least for now.
3. Your adorable little fingers do not belong in electrical outlets (see also 1). They also do not belong in your nose or down your pants. Unless you are in the bathroom, I’m going to remind you to keep your curiosity in check. If you’re lucky, I might just give you something good to distract you.
4. I understand how difficult it is for someone of your energy level to sit still for extended periods of time. And I promise your efforts to behave at the doctor’s, in church, on long car rides, and while dining in public will not go unnoticed. While I won’t necessarily bribe you to comply, I will always lavish you with praise for good behavior.
5. And speaking of bribes. . .I’m not above using them under extreme duress but I prefer to refer to this situation as a contractual obligation where you perform a service (i.e., exemplary behavior) and in return I provide you a “payment” (i.e., a cookie or similar treat). Please note, I get to determine what situations are appropriate for a contractual arrangement, you do not.
6. I hate whining. It won’t be tolerated. You are free to voice your opinion in a calm logical fashion. I promise I’ll listen. You might not always get what you want, but I’m willing to entertain all reasonable compromises so long as you STOP with the whining already!
7. Your Father and I don’t always agree. But rest assured we do no subscribe to your divide and conquer method of self-serving manipulation. If Mommy doesn’t allow you to crush a whole container of goldfish crackers on the floor, neither will Daddy. Not even while Mommy is taking a “spa” day (or 90) at the local mental hospital. . .
8. Certain things are not discussed in public – EVER. If you ever tell someone how hairy my legs are, how smooshy and pasty my stomach is, or how much wine I consume on a routine basis, there will be consequences. I. Am. Serious.
9. We will pick our battles wisely. If you are pitching a fit for a spatula while Mommy cooks your eggs, I’ll happily oblige. If you are freaking out because Mommy has turned down your repeated requests for a butcher’s knife, we’ll have to move on to a new activity.
10. I will do my best to avoid “tempting” you. That means I won’t eat, drink, or do anything else that looks remotely fun in your presence that you cannot also do. . .even if that means Mommy will be sneaking cookies only while you nap and spends the next 4 years reading board books and playing with non-toxic crayons and wood blocks.
11. Manners are important and your continued compliance will be lauded. Although, I have to admit those little piggy noises you make while eating are so darned cute right now, I can’t help but laugh. Just know, sooner or later, you’re going to have to stop doing that.
12. In the future, there will be an allowance or similar system of compensation for hard work and good behavior. Just know I’m not paying you for cleaning up after yourself. If you deem it necessary to cover yourself and the walls with Aquaphor (and I’ll try to keep it out of your reach, see also 10), you will not be compensated for your cleaning services. Should you happen to help me feed the dogs, cook dinner, or otherwise perform a predetermined agreed upon list of tasks, those efforts will be recognized.
13. No, you cannot have a cell phone.
14. Physical outbursts won’t be tolerated. No biting, kicking, hitting, or pinching. I know you’re frustrated. Biting won’t help the situation. I will do everything I can to help you express your feeling in a constructive manner. And I will also do all that I can to address the situation.
15. No matter what happens, no matter how bad it is, even if I threaten to ground you for life know that it’s coming from a place of love.