Walk in the Park

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”  I’ve been saying that to myself, under my breath, for the past week. It’s one of my favorite quotes from the movie Airplane and is totally apropos of the past seven days.  The big girl was sick, then I was sick, then I thought the little one had an ear infection, yada yada yada. This morning I slammed my hand in a mother fucking door.
Luckily, I didn’t do any serious damage, but for a second I thought I had broken the middle knuckle and the bones running down from there atop my hand.  In the moments before I mustered up the courage to try to make a fist and assess what damage I had done, everything I had to do flashed before my eyes. How was I going to do the big girl’s hair for school?  How was I going to make her lunch?  How was I going to wrangle the little one in her jacket? How was I going to have an IV in my hand for my surgery?  Yes, I jumped ahead a little too much.  Other than some residual pain (which I will bitch and moan about to my husband and ask him to do lots of things for me “because I’m injured”), it’s really fine.
This weekend, we watched the newest Spider Man movie (my review: eh, ok, not “amazing”). The antagonist had lost his right arm.  After watching the film and hurting my hand this morning, it made me think about all those people in real life who have had to learn to compensate for body parts they no longer have.  There are so many amazing stories of individuals who have overcome such obstacles in extraordinary ways: the young surfer girl who survived and then thrived after a shark attack, the Olympic athlete who ran with artificial legs (we don’t have to discuss his legal troubles, but I hope he’s innocent), or the soldier who lost limbs in battle and came home to try to lead a normal life.  They are all inspirational and have all shown perseverance in the face of great adversity.  It makes preventatively chopping off my boobs feel like a leisurely stroll in the Jardins de Luxembourg, for crying out loud.

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MadLibs

The big girl is 3.  And she’s good at it.  I’ve been feeling ill-equipped at handling her totally appropriate behavior.  (Again, my engineering degree has failed me. A child psychology major would have been far more useful for my current line of work). My mother, the wise 11-time parent (4 of us, 7 grandkids), suggested I talk to someone to gain some knowledge and acquire some tools for how to deal with this age in the best way. Better to do it now, before there’s an irreparable strain on our relationship.
As firm believers in preventative action (duh!), we headed to the child psychologist that I had seen before my surgery when I wanted to ensure a smooth transition for my girls during my recovery.  This was the first time my husband met her and he was just as impressed as I was.  She really shed some light as to what was appropriate behavior and what was not.   What we should address and what we should ignore.  What’s a big deal and what’s not.  It was exactly what I needed, because as I had suspected: the big girl is just fine, it’s my expectations and reactions that need fine tuning. I get incredibly frustrated when this little person is defying me all day long. Why must she disrespect me and be non-compliant?
Turns out, this is all developmentally on target. In fact, that was the best guideline the doctor gave us for understanding her behavior.  “Always start with development.”  Knowing what’s appropriate for your child’s age and if it’s simply a phase of development that she’s going through is important.  I imagine if it’s not a typical pattern for the age, then a more serious conversation needs to happen between therapist and parents.  She said that her desire to defy me is completely normal (it is also the time for my 18 month old to go through a similar phase. Her favorite word is now “NO!”  Fabulous!).  At 15 months, babies tend to go through a clingy/separation anxiety phase.  Then at about 18 months, they go through a period where they need to separate.  You can see how this would be a natural survival instinct.  The same separation happens at ages 3, 8-9 and then again as teenagers (that’s a generalized guideline for girls, in particular).  They have to know that they can stand on their own a little bit.  That they can make their own decisions and still get by.  It makes sense. Now that I know there is an underlying reason that she tells me that she doesn’t like me, I feel a little bit better about it.
When she says, “I don’t like you”, I simply finish the rest of the sentence for her.  It’s a coping mechanism that’s working for me.  “I don’t like you…” and then instead of feeling like I’ve been dumped, I just add on whatever action she doesn’t want me doing at that time.  “I don’t like you…” + “… to comb my hair. I love being knotty/naughty.”, “… to put my pajamas on.  Being naked is much more fun.”  “… to feed me.  I’m trying out for America’s Next Top Model.”  I just add in whatever makes me feel better.  It’s like MadLibs for Parents of 3 Year Olds.