If anyone ever idealized the relationship between mother and child, it was me. I always envisioned that my existence as a mother would be full of warmth and light. Many days it is! However, there are those few exceptions that happen more frequently than I would expect. These situations currently revolve around Sean because he can walk and talk, and I'm sure once Audrey is able to think for herself, she'll present her own moments where I want to pull my hair out. For now, I give you, these shining examples of my exemplary mothering skills.
Dreams of Autonomy #1
Sean wakes up in the middle of the night screaming. I stumble into his room, hoping he doesn't wake up Audrey, and also wanting Tom to get some sleep before he has to teach in the morning. When I approach him to wrap him up in my arms and tell him it's okay, it must have been a bad dream, that he is safe and can go back to sleep, he shouts in my face, "No, Mama, I want to close the garage door myself!"
The garage door. A frequent obstacle in our day. Whether coming or going, Sean is focused on - dare I say, obsessed with? - opening and closing the garage door. Many times, he will insist - by way of a tantrum - that the door be retracted from its current position, so that he may push the button causing it to open or close. Where other children might dream of scary monsters or vicious animals, Sean is dreaming of his mother closing the garage door before he can get to it. I'm sure in this horrendous nightmare of his I'm also cackling maniacally, wringing my hands, and saying, "I did it first, ha ha!"
Dreams of Autonomy #2
Sean wakes up in the middle of the night screaming. I stumble into his room, hoping he doesn't wake up Audrey, and also wanting Tom to get some sleep before he has to teach in the morning. When I approach him to wrap him up in my arms and tell him it's okay, it must have been a bad dream, that he is safe and can go back to sleep, (is this starting to sound familiar??) he shouts in my face, "No, Mama, I want to put the water in the cup myself!"
The water cup. I must say, I didn't see that one coming. The garage door, I understand, this is something we deal with everyday, but the water cup? This is not usually an issue! Clearly, the dreams are progressing from me just laughing maniacally and taking away his most precious joys in life to me refusing to let him even get his own water.
Dreams of Autonomy #3
Sean wakes up in the middle of the night screaming. I stumble into his room, hoping he doesn't wake up Audrey, and also wanting Tom to get some sleep before he has to teach in the morning. When I approach him to wrap him up in my arms and tell him it's okay, it must have been a bad dream, that he is safe and can go back to sleep, (if you feel like you know where this is headed, still read on:) he shouts in my face, "No, Mama, I don't want you, I want Dada!"
What are you, a dummy?
The other day we were at the library in downtown Minneapolis. Sean loves it at the library. In the lobby area, you can sit and watch the elevators go up and down to all four levels, because the elevator shafts are exposed, and the walls of the elevators are all glass. I think this is the number 1 reason Sean likes going to the library downtown. Sure, there are books, and sure there's a great children's section, but really he's there for the elevators. After watching the elevators go up and down 6 or 7 times, we then proceed inside to RIDE the elevators for a while. We make lots of friends with strangers while we do this, most of whom smile at Sean while he asks me, "going up?" while we go down and "going down?" while we go up. Though I try to correct him each time and explain the sensation he's experiencing is actually is going down while we go down or going up while we go up, he insists it's the other way around. No matter!
After finding children's books that we like and checking out, we move across the lobby of the library to the coffee shop where we can take a rest. We purchase a muffin, a cup of coffee and a cheese stick (the latter for Sean, of course), and sit watching all the people coming and going downtown. I feel totally content in this moment, because I love our adventures downtown, and I love being around a diverse population and exposing our kids to that. I love coming to the library, and reading books together. I love seeing Sean's face light up as he watches the elevators, and I love getting to spend this time with these two precious kids. Born out of this moment of gratitude and contentment, I look at my son who is people-watching quietly.
me: Seancito, do you love coming to the library? Isn't this so much fun?
Sean: Actually Mama, this isn't the library, this is a cafe.
The way I make it through the day is by staying one step ahead of the 2 year old. This I learned from my mother and my sister-in-law, Susie. If I can somehow foresee what his needs might be throughout the day, I can avoid a tantrum. If I can keep Seancito well fed with snacks and water, he is much more amenable to running errands. If I can foresee those things he likes to do himself (re: garage door, water, etc) and just factor in the extra time it will take for him to accomplish these tasks rather than me do it for him, we usually have good days. This requires a lot more energy from me, because instead of me just unscrewing the lid off the milk by myself, I ask him if he would like to do it ("yes!"). Instead of opening the drawer where his toothbrush lies, I ask him if he would please get his toothbrush out ("yes!"). One of these would-be tantrums turned Seancito likes to "do it the self" moments surrounds his stepstool in the kitchen. This small wooden, two staired step stool is perfect for him getting up to the sink to wash his hands, standing up at the counter to help with his cereal and various and sundry other "do it the self" moments that he insists upon participating in. This morning, trying to avoid one of these usual tantrums, I stopped before moving the step stool myself, I thought twice before just picking it up, adjusting it to where I needed it to go, and I quickly formulated a question that would make Sean believe he was "doing it the self" instead of me doing it for him.
me: Sean, will you please help me move your step stool over to the sink so you can wash your hands?
Sean: Oh. Sure. (and then under his breath) It's too hard for mama to do it yourself.