I will thank you in advance for not sending messages regarding how much more “fun” (ie impossible) parenting gets…
The other day, I gave Hazel a peeled banana, which she dug into. As she got near the end, I reached over to pull off the yucky brown end of it.
Oh. My. God.
She absolutely erupted in enraged screams of indignation. She went rigid in her high chair, eyes squeezed shut, tears flowing, lips curled, with this horrible screaming “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” coming out of her mouth between desperate gasps of oxygen.
I picked her up with apologies.
She tried to cling to my shirt with both hands, but she wouldn’t let go of the damn banana, which was tightly squished in her little fist, and as she tried to grasp me with that hand (further enraged because she couldn’t have her banana AND grab me with both hands), she repeatedly mashed the banana into my hair, neck, chest, and shirt. All while wailing at top volume.
I mean, at that point, I was ready to glue that little brown banana bit back onto her fruit, but she was clearly past all reason.
The next time I gave her a banana, I just let her have the whole thing. She ended up with a whole strip of peel in her mouth, which she actually chewed on for a minute or two, but it was better than 10 minutes of inconsolability because I dare suggest she only eat the inside of the fruit. (For the record, she won’t eat a banana or any other fruit if it’s chopped up into pieces. I mean, give me some credit for thinking of that.)
Honestly, you’d think I’d learn, but not a week later, I was again holding a tearful, shuddering, fruit-flavored near-toddler in my lap after a nectarine incident. We both got a shower after that meal.
I can’t say I’m thrilled to be entering the tantrum zone, but it’s the flip side of all these amazing, awesome feats of discovery and awareness that my little girl is experiencing.
She has discovered OUT! And IN! “In” is kind of fun for her, but “Out” is ever so much better. And so our days are spent with me packing the diaper bag, her unpacking it, me repacking it. Same goes for her box of toys, the bookshelf, Dad’s computer bag, and the laundry basket. One in a hundred items she pulls out goes back in. At this point, though, I am so intrigued by watching her explore everything she finds (even if she just “found” it again for the millionth time today) that I am willing to play her little games.
She has progressed past the compulsion to immediately shove everything into her mouth. So I just watch her as she pulls something out of my bag – a tube of Starbucks Via, for example – and see what she does. She looks at it carefully, pondering what fabulous thing this might be. She shakes it. She scratches her index finger along the crimped end. She bangs it on the floor. She pinches at the contrasting colors of the logo. Then she looks at it again, clenched in her fist, and looks back at the diaper bag. She pauses. Then, still clutching the tube in one hand, she digs in the bag with her other. And finds something even more fascinating. She drops the tube of coffee crystals and triumphantly holds a maxi pad in both hands, raises it in the air, and stares at it with a giant grin, as if to say, “AHA! THIS is the wonderful prize they have been withholding from me all this time!” And the process repeats.
Really, she imbues every mundane object in my life with a shiny glamour of exotic potential I never before considered possible.
I see her making decisions now. She knows she isn’t supposed to put driveway gravel in her mouth. She plays happily with the rocks for awhile, then, holding a rock in her hand, she looks at me to see if I am watching. Smiling, she slooooooowly brings it to her open mouth. “Ah ah ah,” I say, shaking my head, and she actually laughs as she drops the rock back to the ground. She isn’t even disappointed. She can play that game over and over. Of course, I totally lose if I’m not paying attention at the critical moment, because, oh yes, she will put it in her mouth if I don’t play my part according to the script.
(On the other hand, her response totally varies by mood. “Ah ah ah,” I said today as she reached for an outlet. She stopped immediately. She paused a moment. Then she collapsed in a wailing heap of devastated hope that today would be the day she finally got to play with that wonderful anomaly in our otherwise very dull wall.)
Every single minute of the day – even the sticky, fruit-covered, tear-filled minutes – I am stunned by the beauty of this little girl who is figuring out how to navigate this crazy world I brought her into. My thoughts are something along the lines of “Oh, my god, you are doing it! You are becoming a person! I can see it happening!” Which is, first of all, an understatement, and second of all, kind of obvious. But it’s my daily miracle, because this isn’t just a baby turning into a kid, this is MY baby turning into MY kid. It still blows my mind.
And, so it goes. With the happy, inquisitive almost-one-year-old comes the fiercely stubborn and independent almost-one-year-old, and, really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s my baby, and if she wants to eat the nasty brown end of a banana, I’m going to let her. And if she wants to play with the outlets, you’re probably going to hear her screams of determination from two states away. And when she’s two? I’m really curious to see what all she will have learned and who she will have become… and as far as the tantrums go? Well, let’s face it. I’m probably fucked.