Four years ago, when I was a married girl, working full time who had lots of free time in my life, I often thought of all the ways I would handle conflict and tantrums with my yet unborn children. I assumed that because I had a Masters Degree in Social Work and had spent years working with children and families, I'd be able to 'handle' or 'redirect' a tantrum without becoming a crazy lady. I would never raise my voice. I would offer options to foster self independence. I would crouch down to remain at eye level and I would never ever make a 'threat' that I couldn't enforce.
Monday morning, reality crashed all over those obnoxious, child-free notions. It hit me in the form of a too-small, orange and white striped polo shirt.
Mr. T was out of town for a work function and it was Toddler T and I to face the Monday morning. We'd had a pretty busy weekend that involved a trip to Baltimore (for Mr. T and I) a sleepover at Mana and Grandaddy's (for Toddler T) and three days without a nap. Toddler T woke up in a great mood and announced that he was "getting ready for the day" at 7am. He set about getting pants, underwear, socks and his shirt (the aforementioned orange and white, almost a half shirt, summer polo.) I thought I could outsmart him and didn't say a word. I was going to let history be my guide. Ninety-nine percent of all shirts that he wears during breakfast end up with syrup, yogurt, orange juice, cream cheese, whatever all over the front of his shirt. This is why we usually eat breakfast in our jammies. So, my thought was go ahead... eat breakfast in the seasonally and fashionable inappropriate shirt. Something will spill on it, I'll get you a new shirt and off to nursery school we go.
I could not have been any more wrong if I planned it.
Yes, syrup was down the front of the shirt. But, the idea of replacing this shirt sent my child into a dark, tantrum filled place. I offered him two replacement shirts. Turns out that on Monday morning, Toddler T HATED 'soft' shirts as they were for babies. He did not like football shirts, either. He was so beside himself that he didn't know which one to pick because he ONLY liked orange and white striped shirts. He would not put on his Clemson shirt that was orange because it had a white tiger paw on it and NOT stripes. I attempted to wrangle him into his Eagles shirt and reminded him that it was just like Daddy's. But no, not having one.single.bit.of.it.
It got ugly. Reasoning wasn't working. My tone was getting a little louder. I was losing patience. He was hitting the point of no return. I walked out of his room and asked him to please pick any other shirt and come out. I informed him that he would need to call his teacher and tell her that he wasn't coming to Nursery School because he wouldn't pick out a shirt (empty threats anyone?). I may have pointed my finger. I may have said that the situation was ridiculous. He may have begun to scream and cry that much louder.
I then realized the situation was going to get uglier before it got better.
Time to wrestle the alligator.
Clemson shirt on. Toddler T in tears. I noticed the my heart was racing. I carried him to the car. Buckled him and off we went. I know many of you will read this and have your thoughts about what could have been done better. Or that a parent's job is to always keep their cool. Or a million other things. Four years ago, I had my own laundry list of how I would be perfect. But.. life isn't.
Two miles into our drive to school, I noticed that he was no longer crying and the lump in my throat was subsiding. I then took the opportunity to move forward. I told him that we got off to a bad start, but we were going to have a better day. I reminded him that I loved him very much, but was very disappointed in how he behaved. I then apologized for raising my voice and reminded him that we both need to remember that yelling isn't the way to go.
I carried him into school (20 minutes late) and explained to his teacher that we had a rough start to the morning but we were going to move past it and have a great day. She crouched down to Toddler T's level and said that she was sure he was going to have a great day.
I then left to run my errands, found myself in tears and called Mr. T.
This was all about control. I know that three year olds thrive on control and so does this mom. So many things were running through my mind. Like:
- Just let him wear the damn shirt.
- No, we don't wear t-shirts when its 47 degrees out.
- No, we don't wear dirty shirts out.
- I am the mother, I need to be listened too.
- Have him go to school without any shirt on.
- We are not going to school and he can cry it out in his room.
- and finally, Wow.. three days without a nap can do some awful things to this poor child.
Feeling so overwhelmed from this 25 minute tantrum, I decided it was time to implement a new routine here. I will select two shirts and two pants every night. Toddler T will get to pick from the selection and we will put the outfit on the other twin bed in his room. This is the second night doing it and I'm hopeful that we will have a better morning tomorrow. I will also admit it... I'm not sure I can do the whole "Yes, my child is wearing green pants, a too small t-shirt and snow boots. But its so great that he dressed himself and is expressing creativity." I'm not saying that's right or wrong. I'm just saying I can't do it, totally.
Let's just hope that our outfit selection process becomes a win-win situation for us all. Let's just hope that we don't have three straight days without a nap along with a traveling Mr. T anytime soon. And please let's just hope that I didn't have any other outlandish parenting ideologies prior to actually becoming a parent.
As caught my breath from Monday morning's antics, I opened up an email that reminded me that I am currently in my 3rd Trimester. Time for a whole new checklist.
- Baby's room needs to be painted
- Crib needs to be assembled
- Changing table needs to be assembled
- Nursery bedding needs to be purchased. (After a particularly rough patch last year, I examined Toddler T's set and declared that it was not clean enough - it was dingy, and I probably would not have use for a nursery bedding set again and promptly carted it off to Goodwill.)
- WE NEED A NAME
Third trimester... wow.