No. No. No. No. No.
Toddlers. I have heard the cliches.
In the spirit of this absolutely hilarious blog, I give you:
Dinner Last Night!
[Intro: Two nights ago, we had Mexican casserole with some salsa in it, which was apparently too spicy. Each girl took one bite and cried hysterically for several minutes. We tried putting the non-salsa filling between two tortillas and calling it “quesadilla,” but they wouldn’t buy it. The only thing they would eat after that was plain tortilla.
Keep in mind that these statements / actions are often happening simultaneously, which is hard to write in linear fashion.]
[They get to choose their chair and bib, and what spot they get at the table. We are excellent parents.
Dinner is hamburgers stuffed with cheese (as of today the only meat Theresa has ever eaten, except for chicken dunked in peanut sauce), roasted veggies (parsnips, carrots, brussels sprouts), and peas.]
Audrey: Carrots are so yesterday. I won’t eat carrots.
Alan: Try them with ketchup. [He pours a teaspoon of ketchup on each plate.]
Theresa: I will eat only ketchup. Sucked off the end of a carrot, or with my fingers if I have to. MORE KETCHUP!
Me: You will not have only ketchup for dinner. [I shove the plate to the far end of the table.]
Theresa has a full-blown grunting, red-faced meltdown.
Jamie proceeds to eat only peas for the rest of the meal, and throw his milk cup twice. Each meal or snack, he throws his milk cup and immediately says, “No throwing.” I am about to feed him liquid only through a tube.
Audrey: I will only eat peas. I will only eat peas with a spoon. I will only eat peas with a short yellow spoon, not a long-handled spoon. I will only eat peas with a short spoon if you help me scoop them up.
I try to get her to scoop by herself. She cries, as though I am starving her.
Final intake: Alan gets Theresa to eat some parsnips and carrots; Audrey finally eats a bit of burger and peas.
Theresa has a screaming meltdown and, other than one piece of parsnip, refuses to eat anything else after Jillian and I try all manner of different tactics (other than bringing out an almond butter sandwich, which I refuse to do and probably wouldn’t have helped anyway because she was so upset). In a classically toddler moment, she said through her tears, “More.” “More carrot, or more parsnip?” I asked. “More parsnip,” she managed. I offer the parsnips. She takes one, looks at it, then throws it on the tray and cries harder.
Audrey requests chicken and, since we have some left over in the fridge, Jillian gives her some. She eats happily until she also has a screaming meltdown, presumably because she ate a piece of pepper from the skin.
Jamie eats only peas and cries at the end of the meal, presumably because he feels left out.
Both girls end up crying themselves to sleep for nap, because nothing I do helps calm them down.
I end up eating the topping off the pizza I made and giving Theresa the remains, because she has her third epic tantrum in wanting “bread” (the crust) instead of the whole pizza piece. Audrey gets very upset when the chicken runs out and proclaims that she is “all done”–coming back after about five minutes because she wants to eat the “bread” that Theresa has.
Jamie eats at least two full slices of pizza and some broccoli with gusto.
Other Sources of Screaming!
Audrey wants to be naked most of the time. She only really gets upset when it’s time to change her clothes from pajamas to play clothes or the other way around. We have not been able to convince her that this is not healthy (at night) or socially acceptable (during the day). She cries, “Naked water!” or “Naked runner!”–we can’t figure out which.
Theresa says “no” a lot. As in, to answer pretty much every question. This morning as we headed west on our run, I told the girls, “Look at the mountains. Those are the Olympics.” Theresa: “No. No. No.” Me: “Okay…should they be called the Theresa Mountains?” T: [long pause] “Okay.”
Theresa spent the last half of the run and much of the rest of the day–when she was not screaming–saying “no” in a sad, whimpery tone. The only thing I could compare it to is if you had the stomach flu and someone offered you a platter of liverwurst. All you could probably muster would be a soft “no, no, no, no, no.”
Jamie fell off a play structure today at the park, through a gap in the stairs about 3.5 feet off the ground. He fell out backwards, and I had flash visions of him landing on his head or neck, but he landed on his upper back, thank God. I had a nightmare about a week ago of one of our kids falling out a window and becoming a vegetable, which disturbed me so much I woke up shaking, and sobbed out the story to Alan.
Putting shoes on. (Though, in Jamie’s defense, his reason for fighting shoes was legitimate: they were too small. I spend part of the last day of our trip to Seaside at the Carter’s outlet, buying him a size 6.)
Coming in the house from being outside or from the car. They love climbing the stairs by themselves, but do not love actually going in the front door. Mostly they want to turn around on the porch and go back down the stairs to climb again, and protest loudly when we carry / gently guide them over the threshold and close the door behind them. Their reactions make us seem like jailers.
Generally telling them they can’t do something they want. Theresa refuses to hold our hand crossing the street and goes boneless, protesting when we carry her. When we try to get her to go in a particular direction on a walk around the block, she sits down on the sidewalk. She has started lying facedown on the floor and crying when she’s really upset–the other day, she was upset in the basement, and started to lie down on the linoleum. Apparently that was too uncomfortable, because she stood up, walked to the carpet, lay facedown on it and continued her crying.
Jamie says, “Mad” several times per day, even when we cannot fathom what he could possibly be mad about. He is really good at stomping his feet or yelling indecipherably to communicate his anger, though.
Audrey hits me or her siblings when I tell her she has to take a turn or that she can’t take someone else’s toy.
They all have meltdowns when they want me to pick them up RIGHT NOW and I am washing my hands/carrying another child/eating/carrying dishes/changing a diaper/putting on my jacket. All of them have recently been experiencing anxiety of some sort, and when they want comfort, they cling like baby koalas. Jamie did not like the train going by the playground today (we couldn’t even really see it, as it was down a hill, but we could hear it). Audrey hates loud noises: the stand mixer, a neighbor’s lawnmower, the dryer. Theresa’s causes of clinginess are sometimes inexplicable, but she buries her head on my chest in a way that is endearing even when two other children are jockeying for position on my lap.
All of this–especially the mealtimes–makes me want to alternatively rip my hair out, consume copious amounts of wine, or take long walks by myself. I realized today that I might as well expect massive tantrums at every meal; that way, I can be pleasantly surprised if a mealtime does not contain one. I will not be the parent who only serves them the ravioli, almond butter sandwich, or refried-bean-and-cheese-with-finely-chopped-veggies quesadillas that they will usually readily eat.
I came to realize this afternoon that this is not about me. It is not directed at me. I am not a participant in these tantrums. Really, they are among the first behaviors that my children experience as independent individuals. I can witness it (I actually took a 20-second video of the girls’ tantrums at lunch and played it back for them, on the rumor that this would get the tantrums to stop. It didn’t work.). I don’t have to get myself emotionally invested in stopping, redirecting, or manipulating them. My job is to tell them that I will be happy to help when they calm down and can tell me what they want.