Saturday, September 24, 2011

Yes Problem!

Where to begin? My toddler roller coaster is finally in full effect. I've spent so much time the past two years gushing about how much I love being a dad that I actually started toning it down because I'm certain it's annoying. It's probably like listening to your serial dating college roommate talk about how amazing their new  boy/girlfriend is, and then going into excruciatingly boring detail about how they finish each others...yup sentences and how they would totally date the same character on Friends. For reals.

So convinced my unadulterated joy was annoying, I sometimes resorted to exaggeration or straight up fiction so I could relate to random parents I'd meet throughout my day. "Yeah, totally, Amari only napped for like an hour today," or "I know, Amari never cleans up her toys either," or "I keep telling her she can only smoke light cigarettes or menthols" (when bonding at the Giggly Wiggly).

Much like everything else, parenting is relative to whatever we've experienced up to that point. That being said, to some the beginning of my week might have felt like a vacation from the norm, but to me it felt like the end of the honeymoon. I was exhausted from working late nights and Amari was intense and demanding. With Hunter she was bossy and when she didn't get her way she dramatically whined and even produced the old insta-tears. By Tuesday afternoon, I found myself muttering "Wait 'til we get to Carla's this afternoon, then you'll have something to cry about," referring to our booster vaccine appointment.

Language development is a double-edged sword. While Amari was on the brink, she would demonstrate her needs with whines and pantomime. I always interrupted saying, "Stop. What do you want? Do you want up? Then say, 'Up Dada.'" It's behaviorism 101. Identify the need being expressed and teach the kid a more appropriate way to ask that it be met.
"Up Dada," she'd whimper, and with time and repetition she said it more confidently and without prompting. We did that routine a hundred times and whenever she managed to express her needs with words, I obliged immediately and said "No problem."
"No trouble," she mimicked, and I'm not sure how that happened, but I like the way she says it better.

The double edge, however, now that she knows what she wants and knows how to say it is that I don't always want to oblige. For example, "Outside, Dada," Okay. Pack up towel, sippy cup, sunblock, Popsicle, etc., and outside we go. No problem. No trouble. Five minutes later, "Inside Dada." Fuck. Really? "No. Outside," I'd argue, then start pointing out all the advantages.
"Inside Dada. Inside Dada. Inside Dada, waaaaaah" and it's my own damn fault for being so freakin' responsive in the first place. It's probably confusing as hell to her. What happened to Dada? Is he broken? I say what I want, he says no problem, I say no trouble, and everyone's happy.

All the way through Wednesday I wanted to pull what's left of my hair out, and just when I thought it couldn't get worse, it mercifully didn't. It got better. I got more sleep. I had some deep, meaningful talks with Amari and pretended she understood everything I had to say. I like to think the latter had something to do with it, but I'm pretty sure it was the former coupled with the ebb and flow that is parenting a blossoming toddler.

Who could stay mad at a face like this?

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