Of germs, tod­dlers and tantrums

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Well, we sur­vived our first full-blown tod­dler tantrum. It wasn’t pretty, and I al­most cracked . . . but when the dust fi­nally set­tled on Mon­day evening, I felt stronger for it. Mostly.

Oliver is sud­denly 14 months go­ing on 4 years old. Now that he’s be­gin­ning to process ideas of cause and ef­fect, we can’t al­ways give in to his de­mands — es­pe­cially for off-lim­its ob­jects. Like the grimy TV re­mote, say. Even with all our con­stant hand-wash­ing, any­thing our paws fre­quently touch is go­ing to need dis­in­fect­ing. It takes re­lent­less ef­fort to clean every sur­face we touch: cell phones, door knobs, steer­ing wheels, com­puter key­boards. Work I don’t nec­es­sar­ily do daily. I’m a risk-taker, you know?

I’m not re­ally a germa­phobe. But given Oliver ex­plores ev­ery­thing by first try­ing to eat it, I’m leery of let­ting him have any­thing that could be gross. Or dan­ger­ous, ob­vi­ously. Or eas­ily bro­ken.

So . . . just about ev­ery­thing. Es­pe­cially all the stuff he ac­tu­ally wants.

Now that he’s on the move, all bets are off. I al­ready look back with bit­ter­sweet long­ing to the days we could sit Ol­lie on the floor with blocks, put on “The Mup­pets” and drink our much-needed cof­fee without a fear of third-de­gree burns.

Chil­dren’s toys are worth­less to him now. All those col­or­ful blocks, safe stuffed an­i­mals and tow­er­ing stacks of touch-and­feel books? Please. He wants the good stuff: the eas­ily-tipped-over chairs, the chok­ing-hazard bot­tle caps. And what­ever you’re hold­ing, of course.

Oliver has baby radar. If my hand is any­where near the TV re­mote, a pierc­ing shriek and lunge will fol­low. It doesn’t mat­ter if he’s on the other side of the room — or even has his back to me. Oliver seems to know when I’m even think­ing of press­ing a but­ton, and he wants that re­mote like he’s never wanted any­thing in his young life.

Af­ter many months of this daily fight, I fi­nally re­lented.

And knew im­me­di­ately made a mis­take.

Now that Ol­lie is older and the teething sit­u­a­tion seems to have I’d calmed down (for now), I’m less will­ing to let him gnaw on ran­dom ob­jects. But af­ter wip­ing it down, I let him have the re­mote be­cause I re­al­ized I could change a set­ting to keep him from ac­tu­ally con­trol­ling any­thing. He doesn’t want his toy re­mote, of course — just the “real” one. Let­ting Ol­lie hold it would make him happy, I rea­soned, and I could stop play­ing keep-away with some­thing I use all the time. Win-win.

And all was well in Ol­lie Land — un­til the bit­ing started. If I had any­thing re­sem­bling a de­cent singing voice, I think I’d have a hit with my new­est jam: “No Eat­ing, No Bit­ing.” No eat­ing, no bit­ing. No eat­ing, no bit­ing. No eat­ing, no bit­ing. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 87,000 times. And Oliver does not care. Like ev­ery­thing for tod­dlers, I sup­pose, it’s a game. We’re work­ing on “Ol­lie, no-no-no” and its more se­ri­ous vari­ant: a sin­gle “no.” But our stern ex­pres­sions seem to amuse him. The more I tell him not to bite some­thing (dis­in­fected or not), the more he wants to do it. I reach for the re­mote and he pulls back. I fi­nally take it away — and he screams. And screams.

In my calm, cool, pa­tient mo­ments, I think about how con­fus­ing this must be for a 1-year-old. He’s al­lowed to chomp on some things (toy rings, cups, blan­kets), but not oth­ers (lint, leaves, jew­elry, pool noo­dles). He doesn’t un­der­stand what is baby-ap­proved and what isn’t, you know? That’s our job to teach him.

Much of par­ent­ing to date has re­quired re­mind­ing my­self that it’s about do­ing what’s best for Oliver, not what’s easiest for us. It would be con­ve­nient to just hand him the ob­ject and bring the hys­ter­i­cal cry­ing to a stop, but that’s set­ting a dan­ger­ous prece­dent: the almighty cry-and­get-what-you-want.

But oh, how I des­per­ately wanted to give him that stupid re­mote.

In the midst of the en­su­ing melt­down, I dug deep for the pa­tience I don’t al­ways pos­sess. He was con­fused and an­gry; I was tired and frus­trated, too. But I com­forted my son even as he pushed me away. I guess that’s par­ent­ing, too. Ol­lie did even­tu­ally calm down . . . even though it took some dis­trac­tion — in the form of food — to soothe him. I might still be get­ting the hang of moth­er­hood, but I’m no stranger to snacks.

There isn’t much some choco­late — or Ger­ber Puffs — can’t cure.

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