Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It helps to have had a great role model

He's still a few months away from the official start date, but I do believe that Zeke has entered the Terrible Twos. 

All of a sudden, every source of frustration that might have been cause for some mild fussing is now the impetus for despondent, arching-the-back, throwing-himself-on-the-floor, hard crying. Not being allowed to jump up and down on his booster seat when he's supposed to be sitting at the table to eat.  Not being given a cup of water without a sippy-cup top, when, if I give him a regular cup, he takes a sip, pours it out on the floor, and then says, "more water?" as if the disappearance of the water from his cup were some big mystery.  Having to come in from playing outside because it's getting dark and starting to rain.  

He'll stand at the door and plead, "outside?"

"No.  It's time to get ready for bath.  Plus it's raining."






"No.  Stop asking."

"Outside?"  The lower lip is quivering and he's starting to whine.

"No.  It's late and time to start getting ready for bed."

And this will go on until he hurls himself, crying, onto the floor.  

"Well, that's an unfortunate reaction.  That floor is hard.  Seems kind of dumb to be throwing yourself down on it."  And I'll walk into the other room.

When he follows me into the other room so that he can once again throw himself down, quite dramatically, I'll hold a magazine in front of my face and pretend to read so that, a) he sees that I'm ignoring the behavior, and, b) he can't see me laughing.

But there are times when I don't find it funny, and it takes all of my will power to not yell, "Jesus CHRIST, Zeke, it's enough!"

In the end, though, he'll calm down, and I'll give him a hug and wipe his tears and tell him I love him, and we'll snuggle up and read a book or play with trucks or something.

Maintaining that balance between calm, tough love and nurturing is hard.  I'm not always as successful at it as I'd like to be.  And I wonder how parents do it when they grew up in households in which annoying behavior was met with screaming or even violence.  When they never saw conflict that was dealt with constructively.

Jason grew up like that, and I think it's a testament to his incredibly even temperament that he's such a wonderful, patient dad.  

I'm not quite as blessed.  I don't have a bad temper (a sharp tongue, yes, but I'm not a hot-head), but I do find myself having to take deep breaths to calm myself down when Zeke is being particularly trying.  

But I also had a great role model in my own mother.  Who also was able to combine unconditional love and nurturing with a certain "no bullshit" attitude.  

It sometimes resulted in her challenging us on things we didn't need to be challenged on.

The winter break of my first year in college, when my folks were still stationed in India, we went to Thailand for Christmas vacation.  We were on the island of Phuket, and my mom and I were in the hotel gift shop looking for a bathing suit for me because I had left mine hanging on the back of the bathroom door in the hotel in Bangkok.  My brother Sam, who was 10 at the time, was with us.

"I don't feel good," he said.

"Mmmm-hmmm," my mother replied.

"My stomach hurts."

"Wendy, what do you think of this suit?  It looks like it will fit you."

"I have to throw up."

"Then go outside."  I guess she thought he was just being whiny because he was bored of shopping with us.

He went outside and puked on the sidewalk in front of the store.


Chagrined, she went outside and tended to him.

When I was five, I started first grade.  I knew my letters and some short sight words, but it hadn't really progressed into full-on reading yet.  Then I went to my first day of first grade, and something clicked.

When I came home, I told my mother, "I know how to read."

"No, you don't."

"Yes, I do!"

"You do not."

"Do too!!"

"Prove it."

"Fine!  I will!"

And I sat down and read her a book.  Much chastened, she congratulated me and showered me with kudos.

I find myself making similarly argumentative pronouncements at my own child.  For example, I'll take a book away from Zeke because he's ripped one of the pages (which drives me INSANE).

"Mine!" he yells.

"No, actually, it's mine.  I paid for it."

This is an absurd thing to say to a 22-month-old.  But hell, I come by it honestly.

Thanks, Mom.  


  1. 1) Who knew that he was really sick. Remember that he retired the Wally Whiner Award.
    2) Who learns how to read in one day?

  2. I'm with you. Most of Walt's tantrums are easy enough to ignore, with the biggest challenge being not letting him see me laugh. (Their little mad faces are so freakin' cute sometimes!)

    But the other day he had a record tantrum-it lasted for at least 20 minutes. He was totally sweaty afterwards. I was soooo tempted to lock him in his room and go out for a coffee.

  3. Mom -- Sam definitely had a history of playing the sick card, so I don't really blame you. Plus it came out of nowhere. He had been fine 5 minutes earlier. It will never top his dramatic collapse at the botanical gardens in Florida, in any event.

    Anne -- I can totally sympathize with that urge. I'll just walk from room to room to get away from him, while he follows me crying, "maaaamaaaa" in the most pathetic manner possible.

  4. Your mom cracks me up. She reminds me of someone.....sadly, not my own mother who's tight-lipped disapproval bordering on horror at how human her children are is not funny in real life, but will one day make a very amusing character in a book.

    You know - the terrible twos come and go. I would say "just wait until he hits 7th grade," but that would be too cruel.

    I think you're handling things beautifully.

  5. Lisa -- my mom is pretty funny. If I can be anything like her as a mom, I'll know I'm doing OK.