Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Creating a Monster or Taming a Beast?

Just before Rebecca turned two, she began to exhibit the qualities of the dreaded Terrible Twos, nice and early - as was her way with most milestones. A sudden independent, demanding and more and more often as the next two years went by, downright mean nature overtook my sweet, calm, go-with-the-flow little girl. Usually directed at my husband and me, we often threw up our hands, exasperated and at our wit's end with this precocious daughter of ours.

I counted while I made her breakfast yesterday, and I asked her a total of 11 questions throughout the process. ELEVEN.

  1. What do you think you want for breakfast?
  2. Pancakes, great - chocolate chips or syrup?
  3. Chocolate chips, yum. Just put on the pancakes, or spread after they melt?
  4. Whole pancakes or cut into bites?
  5. What color plate?
  6. Would you like water or orange juice?
  7. Which kind of cup - big girl or sippy?
  8. Big girl cup - awesome! With a straw or without?
  9. The straw is sometimes tall - do you want me to cut it a bit?
  10. What color straw?
  11. Which table would you like to eat at - your little table or the big one?
I realize this seems extreme. I have realized this for quite some time. And yes, we use the mantra, "you get what you get and you don't get upset" very often - sometimes even successfully - but it doesn't always work. And Rebecca has become quite picky in her four-and-a-half years, and likes things just so. Or else...

Now, I don't think I have to ask every single one of these questions - if I just gave her pancakes on a yellow plate and OJ with a red straw in a blue cup she may eat them just the same. 

BUT - if she wanted syrup and not chocolate chips? Or wanted them whole and I had ripped them into bites (I mean cut them - who would just rip apart mini pancakes instead of using a utensil? Certainly not me...)? Or wanted the chips just placed on and oozy vs. my smearing them after they melted? Meltdown city. She'd refuse to eat them, and I promise you that girl's will is stronger than anyone I've ever met (except maybe her father). This is the girl who wouldn't potty train until she was just over 3 1/2, and prior to that would sit on the plastic bowl for twenty minutes, not let out a drop, then stand and pee next to it when we let her get up. Seriously, she's got some willpower.

So to head these tantrums off at the pass, especially once her sister was born, I got used to asking Rebecca the questions I needed answers to in order to get things done smoothly. I'd rather ask and do it her way than need to remake her breakfast or have her not eat anything. Because the only thing worse than a vindictive Rebecca, is a HANGRY one. For real.

So what I wondered yesterday is - is it better to ask these questions, ensure a smooth road and tame the beast that she can become, or am I in fact creating a monster?! I fear I know the answer here... but I have seen what comes when I assume the answers, so for now will not attempt to do so. 

Oh, and lest you think this is just about breakfast, I assure you it is not. In each scenario below, making the choice for her has resulted in a tantrum that it is just not worth it to have, in my opinion, when she will quite happily answer...
  • Which stuffed animal friend is coming to preschool with you today?
  • Which toothbrush do you want to use? Which toothpaste? 
  • What do you want to wear today? Which Frozen one - the Olaf tank? The Anna and Elsa tee? The longsleeve one? The Elsa dress? The Anna dress? The Elsa and Anna and Olaf and Kristoff tutu dress? Siiiiiiiiigh....
  • What movie should we watch?
  • What pajamas do you want to wear?
  • Which underpants are you going to wear?
  • Do you want to drive, scoot or walk to school?
  • Where should we go to dinner tonight? (On this one, Evan and I often override her decision. Don't come between us and our food, Bex...)
The past couple of weeks, though, I have noticed we are starting to potentially turn a corner (I won't say more - and wait for my next post, on jinxing things, to find out why). Recently she has been more easygoing, letting down her Terrible Twos / Terrifying Threes / F&%$ing Fours armor and even being... nice!!! It's so wonderful to see this girl again, and I think I can see a light at the end of this tunnel - one not filled with questions and tantrums, but amazing fun times with my big girl, and her little sister who - dammit - turns two in a little over a year.

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