Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green

For a toddler, being "green" is difficult. It can be adorable to watch this tiny little being figure out all this newness, but it can also be frustrating for all parties involved.

Green popped into my head when I tried to explain to my daughter why we don't throw all the garbage away in the blue pail, and that most of the yucky stuff goes in the black one. I explained that the blue one is for things that we can use again. It's hard to explain that the light she can reach and turn on herself shouldn't be on right now.

Yesterday when we walked by a few bright yellow flowers growing from the ground, she wanted to pick them. I had to figure out a way to explain that we don't pick flowers, we just buy the ones at the stores (that other people picked). No one is born with an instinct to conserve. She would start five different apples all day if I let her. Take a few bites, throw it away, then a few minutes later start another one. That marshmallow test, where they told the kids (sitting and salivating in front of a marshmallow) that if they could wait a few minutes they would get two. The youngest kid was four -- they wouldn't waste their time or marshmallows on a two year old.

In terms of the immaturity kind of green, kids minds can ripen so fast. What isn't fast is my ability to think on my toes when I try to explain new things. I often find myself trying to explain why something is the way it is, or works the way it does. My wide eyed little wonder looks up at me and asks me "why" countless times a day. She has a new fondness for throwing pennies into fountains. She stared by noticing a bunch sitting on the bottom of a fountain and wanting to pick them up. I explained that people put them there so we don't take them. "Why?" I start out and say things like "because, the people made a wish and then they tossed them in."

Immediately she had me emptying my pockets of all my hard earned pennies. Happily, she would throw them into the fountain. I would ask her if she had a wish and she would respond by saying she wished for water for the pennies. Okay so perhaps I didn't really explain it that well. I explain again that she could wish for something she really wanted. Yesterday, she said, "I wish for my friends." Now obviously, my two year old didn't have a falling out with her friends and wish for them back, but I do think she knows her friends make her happy, so I think she got it. It did pain me for a second, when I flashed forward to her at thirteen wishing for friends. Oh dear, I hope I have the strength to watch her go through junior high.

There is so much trial and error for me as a parent. That understanding of the wishes took a couple of weeks. I would explain things and find myself talking too much, or saying too little. I would say words she didn't know yet and then have to explain what the words meant. I would give some head heavy philosophical answer and she would furrow her brow. I also gave short answers which just lead to more questions. Yesterday (it was a full day between the fountain and now this), we were waiting to cross the street. The hand was red and she wanted to go. I explained that we have to wait until the hand is gone and the white man lights up. White man? Who thought to do that? I know I am being ridiculously sensitive to political correctness but saying "look for the white man to say go before you can walk" just doesn't feel right. Aren't there brown or yellow lights they could have used instead? This is Los Angeles and white is not the majority anyway so wouldn't a different color made more sense? I quickly said it again but left out the word "white." I said she had to wait for the man to light up. Or the person to light up. At that point I realized she isn't getting any of this, and saying less is more.

She has a book about Martin Luther King that we bought on his birthday. It is for young kids, but not quite as young as her. It explains that he stood up for what he believed in, and that blacks should have the same rights as whites. I didn't read all of that though. I just said that he and his friends wanted to ride the bus and go out to eat at restaurants, and that he spoke up so they could.

She doesn't notice people are different colors and I am not interested in pointing that out. People are born tolerant -- they just learn racism right? That night, she picked up the book and pointed to the man on the podium and said "That's Martin, mommy. He want to go out to eat." She will put it all together in her own time. It baffles me when I think about how much she observes and retains.

It might be tough to be green, but I find it's tougher trying to figure out how much water I need to help her grow.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who's The Boss?

Last week I got a wake-up call from a friend. I brought my sweet little munchkin to her house to play. Her daughter is four days older than mine. The girls wanted to do play doh so we set it up on a table and sat down. Almost instantly there was a shriek of whining. My daughter wanted to sit right next to me. There are days where I swear if she could get back into my uterus she would. My friend sat across from her daughter and I sat across from mine. The table only had four chairs around it but across wasn't close enough for her. I know as parents we need to pick our battles but I didn't want to budge on this one. Lately, I feel I take the easy way out too often and just give in just to prevent a tantrum.

Deep down I know I am doing a big disservice to my daughter, my husband and myself by not being firm with her. I know there is a whole movement of people who don't believe in saying "No" to their children. If I can't admit out load that I think I fell into that group I can at least write it here. I think I fell somehow strangely, unknowingly, and unwillingly into that group. The only difference is I don't believe in not saying no. I was just too scared to do it.

Holding my whining and crying girl in my arms, I said, "I am sorry you are sad. I know it's hard but mommy is going to sit right across from you. I am right here, it's okay." She cried louder and for dramatic effect threw in some screaming. My friend looked up at me and offered me some helping words. Very gently (since parenting advice is not always well received), she began to share how hard this same behavior was for her, and what she did. I told her, no begged her, to please give me advice. I knew I needed to make a change -- I just needed a little push.

She explained that there is a time and a place to protect little one's feelings but when it comes down to something that has to get done or a protest from a child that gets in the way of having to get out the door, you have to remind yourself of who's the boss.

Sounds simple, but don't get too sassy -- it isn't.

The definition of the word tantrum is a childish fit of rage; outburst of bad temper. So? No big deal, right? What is wrong with me that I am hesitating to assert my authority with my two-and-a-half year old? The word rage and the word bad. There you have it, ladies and gents (other than my dad, I suppose not a single man will read this -- but hey, it flows better). I don't like when anyone is angry. It unnerves me. It's uncomfortable and I tense up. I want to run away and avoid it. The word bad brings to mind naughty, disobedient, spoiled and even a little evil. So those two, in combination, make me self-conscious, and maybe even a bit embarrassed. What does it say about me that I can't calm my kid down? Apparently it says that I am forgetting that I have to say no sometimes. It also says my baby is sad, which in turn makes me want to rescue her. And then, I just want to check out. Neither is a very good option.

Thanks to my friend reminding me that she is two-and-a-half, and that's what their job is at that age. She needs to protest, to figure out her boundaries and my boundaries. Once I told her in the car (as if this awesome bit of communication was going to fix everything) that mommy and daddy are in charge, and she is our little girl. As such, she has to listen. Her response was as if she stuck her middle finger at me. She said, "No, mommy is a lady, daddy is a little boy and I am the boss." She had that all a little backwards, so I took it upon my self to change things a bit this past week. I stopped asking her to do everything. I told her when it was important and asked her when it didn't matter. The first few days were rough, but a change has been made. I have never seen one so drastic. Then she got sick and all rules went out the window and we had a few rough days again but now she is getting it, and I am getting it too, and it's working.

Now who's the boss? Me, that's right. Too sassy?