Thursday, January 8, 2009

toddler autonomy

As I was trying to simultaneously find my keys and wrestle Clark into his bunting this morning, already close to late for school, Frances dropped her zippy bag of cereal on the floor. She was already coated and hatted, ready to go, and she stood there in the living room beside the bag of cereal and said, "Mommy, I can't pick it up!"

"Yes you can. Bend down and get it."

"No! I can't DO it. Mommy do."

What is this "I can't do it myself" stuff? I mean, I get it, I really do--while the toddler wants autonomy and independence, she also craves to be taken care of (who doesn't?) and is torn between the two. But really? A plastic bag inches from her foot? I could understand if it were something that truly tried her abilities and she just didn't feel like exerting herself or risking bodily injury or something, like climbing up into her high chair or car seat. But picking up a plastic bag off the floor? Maybe it's a test. Maybe she's trying to see just how miniscule are the things I'm willing to do for her.

I didn't do it.

Last night Clark was up at 11 and was up at 3:15 and was up again at 3:40 and wouldn't go back to sleep, so he and I came downstairs. He played and complained while I was irritated and ate cereal and checked my email and waited for the Tylenol to kick in. (Maybe his teeth? The cold he's had forever? General cantankerousness?) This morning my patience cup was a little less than full.

So instead of picking up the bag for her, I mucked through the family room looking for my keys under scarves and hats and fleeces, digging down in the bottom of my bag, searching yesterdays coat pockets. She came and stood in the hallway.

"Mommy! I can't pick it up!"

I stopped the search and faced her. "Frances, you don't have to pick it up. You can leave it there and not have any more cereal. But I have other things to do. I'm trying to find my keys and trying to get us in the car to go to school, and I'm not going to pick it up for you."

She disappeared, then moments later reappeared in the hallway with the bag. "Mommy I CAN pick it up! I DO it!" She sounded truly proud of herself, as if she were actually surprised at her abilities.


As for the rest, the tantrums have mostly stopped. There's one every once in awhile when she's very tired or very hungry or out of sorts (she is still a toddler...) but they're not all day long anymore. She's actually been quite agreeable lately. I'll ask her to bring me something or to put something back and she'll say, "Sure!" Because everyone's been sick she's taken to asking frequently, "You feeling better, Mommy? You feeling better?" She asks me and Daddy and Clark and the dog too. She's also been telling me about her crying. Like day before yesterday when I picked her up from school she said, "I cry."

"When did you cry?" I asked.

"When change my diaper. I cry."

"Why did you cry?"

"Cause I needed you Mommy."

Or the other day when I had a sitter here and was leaving to run some errands. As I said goodbye to her she said, "I no cry when you go." It's pretty cute.

There is, this minute, sideways snow out the big family room windows, great big flakes of it. I love how people in this town jusy go about their business as if it isn't happening.

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